A feasibility study says Carl Junction would reap several benefits if the city builds a $4.2 million fiber-optic network, and several residents and council members are in favor of the plan. But a few question the necessity and cost of the proposed network.
TSI Global, based in St. Charles, Mo., was contracted by the city to conduct the study for $130,000. Representatives Nathan Vineyard and Bill Mueller presented their findings to council members and the public at a work session Tuesday night.
TSI representatives told the council the study was about 75 percent complete. The council took no action on the matter Tuesday night.
The study examined services provided to Carl Junction by three broadband providers, and found that a city-owned fiber-optic network connected to homes and businesses would present the fastest upload and download times for digital information.
Mediacom users can download data at 20 megabits per second and upload at 2 megabits per second for $30 a month. AT&T users can download at 6 megabits per second and upload at 1 megabit per second for $20 a month. Zing fixed wireless users can download 3 megabits per second and upload at 1.5 megabits per second for $99 a month.
A fiber-optic network with dedicated service to each home or business would allow users to download and upload at 1,000 megabits per second. City Administrator Steve Lawver said he saw a demonstration on such a network in which the 162-minute movie “Avatar” was downloaded in four seconds.
Vineyard and Lawver said it also could create growth, as it would be attractive to new and existing businesses that depend on data transmission.
The network would make Carl Junction unique, according to J. Pendergraft, a local consultant who met earlier this year with council members about the details of such a system and spoke in favor of it Tuesday night. His figures show that there are 120 municipally owned networks across the U.S., and of those “only three or four” follow the model being suggested in Carl Junction.
If the city were to build the network, service providers could enter a contractual agreement to use it to offer digital services — Internet, cable and phone, for example — to subscribers. State statute requires municipalities operating networks to make them open to all service providers.
The city would receive approximately 20 to 30 percent of subscriber fees, and in about three years would break even on the bond taken out to pay for the network.
Subscribers would have the option to purchase Internet, cable or phone — or all three. In addition, the network also could be used for telemedicine, utilities management, a community channel on which to broadcast civic meetings, school media such as football games and theater productions, enhanced home security and church services.
Using case studies of similar-sized towns, Vineyard estimated that 45 percent of Carl Junction residents would subscribe at an estimated $130 a month and 50 percent of businesses would subscribe for $140 a month.
But Councilman Bob Cook noted that Carl Junction homes weren’t canvassed to determine how many residents would subscribe, and is skeptical about the value of such a network.
Resident Josh Hoover told the council he depends on a reliable Internet connection because he works from home.
“My Internet access is very shaky, to say the least,” Hoover said. “It has made me consider at times moving out of Carl Junction.”
Mayor Mike Moss, who works at Missouri Southern State University, said he hears complaints from MSSU teachers, as well as employees of Leggett & Platt, TAMKO Building Products, hospitals and Pittsburg State University, who live in Carl Junction, and rely on Internet to do work at home after hours.
Resident Toby Teeter said he was excited and fascinated by the prospect of such a network, and encouraged the council to consider the possibility of what technology will allow in the future.
Teeter said there are “huge holes all over town” with current service providers. As a Mediacom subscriber, he has been without service for six weeks.
Manfred Riem, a Carl Junction resident who also works from home and subscribes to Mediacom, told the council he has had no problems.
“I am now cheaper and I get good enough service,” Riem said. “So what would the benefit be for me?”
Councilman Steve Daniels told fellow council members he supports pursuing such a network.
“This is the future. I’ve lived in Carl Junction for 35 years, and I’ve tried them all, and I’ve had terrible experiences with all of them. We need to think forward, not back.”
“If you don’t subscribe, you don’t pay,” City Administrator Steve Lawver said. “It’s strictly a subscription-based revenue model.”