City Council makes field trips to similar cities

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    By Anne-Marie Mickelsen

    Provo City Council members don’t just want to hear about it. They want to see it for themselves.

    Council members are taking field trips to various cities that have already implemented a telecommunications network similar to what Provo is considering.

    At a previous Council meeting, Council members discussed hiring a consultant to get further information. Councilman Dennis Poulsen said the trips are better than hiring a consultant or commissioning a $10,000 study.

    “All that will do is give us someone else’s opinion, this way we can see it first-hand,” Poulsen said.

    Poulsen and Kevin Garlick, the city’s energy department director, visited Ashland, Ore., on Oct. 27 – 28, Poulsen said.

    Garlick said Ashland and Provo are similar because both are college towns, both own their own power companies, and both have had similar battles with AT&T before the network’s implementation.

    Poulsen said the visit was beneficial.

    “It took a lot of big questions I had and gave me answers,” he said.

    Poulsen has teetered back and forth on the project, even changing his mind in the middle of Council meetings. He said he is in favor of the project now because he believes the city’s role is to be a facilitator.

    “A lot of companies have promised to make us wired, but they haven’t come through,” Poulsen said.

    He said the city’s network would provide the infrastructure, but private companies would provide the services.

    “The truth is, we will help a lot of people become competitive,” Poulsen said.

    Businesses will flock to cities because of the telecommunications network if the city implements it, he said.

    An example of this is the city of Newnan, Ga.

    “It has changed the quality of life for us,” said Ellis Cadenhead, assistant general manager of Newnan Utilities.

    A major telecommunications firm moved to Newnan because of the network they implemented. The firm created 150 jobs for the city. People are also starting to work at home and create small businesses, Cadenhead said.

    Garlick said the telecommunications network has also had economic benefits for Ashland, Ore. Ashland residents consider themselves the “Silicon Orchard” because the network has invited a lot of high-tech firms.

    The other council members are planning to visit other cities later in the month. Gregory Hudnall and Mark Hathaway will visit Cedar Rapids, Iowa, this weekend, Garlick said.

    Even though Poulsen has said he is now in favor of the project, there are still Council members against it.

    Council member Paul Warner is against the proposal for two reasons. He said government should not be involved in this because it is a business.

    “Cities should not be a competing force,” Warner said. He continues to question if this will be the technology of the future and plans to visit Tacoma, Wash., later this month.

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