Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ketchum forms Internet committee

Goal is to plan broadband infrastructure development

Express Staff Writer

The Ketchum City Council has established a Broadband Strategic Plan Committee that will begin meeting in December to plan the future of the city’s Internet infrastructure.

During a meeting Monday, Nov. 19, the council members voted unanimously to establish the committee. It will have a kickoff meeting in December to establish the committee’s goals, followed by monthly meetings beginning in January until the plan is completed. Councilwoman Nina Jonas said in an interview Tuesday that there was not yet a firm deadline for completion of the plan, but its development was one of the council’s goals for this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2013.

“It would be nice to have the broadband plan expedited,” she said.

At the meeting, Lisa Horowitz, Ketchum’s director of community and economic development, said it is necessary to treat high-speed broadband infrastructure like any other infrastructure that the city plans to ensure that it is not developed “haphazardly.”

“We’re now starting to recognize that it’s a city planning issue just like cities plan roads,” she said. “It’s necessary for both the city’s economy and the residents’ lifestyle.”

Committee member Aaron Pearson, the Community Library’s information systems director, said the city should develop its broadband strategic plan around fiber optic technology. He said fiber optic connectivity would be the best option because it’s fast and already available in certain Ketchum locations, such as the Community Library.

However, fiber optic connections are not yet accessible throughout the city’s entire downtown core, let alone the rest of the city. But that’s what the committee’s for.

A staff report included in the meeting packet states that one of the committee’s primary objectives will be to establish short- (three-year), mid- (seven-year) and long-term (10-year) “policies and initiatives” to ensure that the development of the infrastructure is as “unified” as possible.

“I plan to throw significant resources at this so [the committee’s] time isn’t wasted,” Mayor Randy Hall said. “We need to create the foundation for innovation.”

So far, the council has approved $20,000 from the Community and Economic Development Department’s fiscal 2013 budget for development of the broadband strategic plan.

The council members—particularly Nina Jonas—agreed with Hall that investing in high-speed Internet infrastructure is important and would boost the city’s economy.

“I’m really excited about this,” Jonas said. “I think it will lead to economic diversity. We need more fiber in our diet!”

Brennan Rego:

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