Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard will has called for a special meeting of the city council in an effort to take the next step toward providing broadband service to all residents.
Ezard said during a phone interview on What’s On Your Mind Wednesday, that in working with area residents, council members, and organizations like the Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation, he feels it is time to make a decision on the I3 Broadband proposal.
He says a special meeting of the city council will be held Monday to decide if the city should move forward with the I3 plan, or consider other options.
“We just feel it’s time to decide. If we are not, then it’s time to move on to the next project. But I really feel if we are going to move Jacksonville forward and be progressive in becoming one of the cities in the United States to have full coverage of that ability to have fiber to the door, I think we need to vote this up. I know this will put us on the map so to speak and be another attractive economic development option.”
Ezard says providing fiber service to the door for all Jacksonville residents is another step in attracting business development to the city, just as the downtown renovations and new municipal water plant have been in years past.
He says the need for high speed service to every Jacksonville address has been made more apparent than ever this year.
“We’ve seen it through this pandemic how important it is to have quality as far as speed. A lot of people are working out of their home and a lot of kids are going to be eLearing, or have eLearned and they are probably going to go down that path too. It’s just very important we get this moving, and that will be the agenda item on Monday. Are we going to do it or are we not?”
He says the $2.5 million the city would need to invest would be on top of the more that $13 million I3 would be spending on providing the broadband infrastructure.
Not everyone on the council is completely behind the I3 project however. During the July 13th council meeting discussion on the proposal, Ward 3 Alderman Brandon Adams asked that the item be removed from the consent agenda for further discussion during the meeting, asking for other options be presented.
And, Ward 1 Alderman Jeff Hopkins proposed that the city bring in a 3rd party consultant to give everyone a better idea of what citywide broadband would look like and to give an opinion on the I3 Memorandum of Understanding the council was asked to consider on the meeting’s consent agenda.
Ezard said Wednesday that the service capability along with the timeliness of the proposal by I3, makes the plan an attractive option, citing the one year to 15 month estimate by I3 to complete the project.
He says he would like for the council to make a decision Monday on which direction to take the next step, in order to move broadband service for everyone in the city, closer to reality.
The Special Meeting of the City Counsel will be held Monday, August 3rd at 6:00 pm in the council chamber at the Jacksonville Municipal Building located at 200 West Douglas Avenue.