Internet services disruptions are taking a toll on businesses in Bend. One of the proposed solutions at the forefront of many conversations in town, is making the City of Bend the new Internet service provider.
“It’s not just the tech companies in our community, or the largest users such as our medical industry, it’s our small-to medium-sized businesses that count on Internet service,” said Jamie Christman, director of government affairs for the Bend Chamber. “Right now businesses are having to pay for the hiccups of their Internet service providers in loss of business, loss of potential business and out-of-pocket expenses.”
Bend can’t be a ‘tech town’ if it doesn’t address tech. Bandwidth usage in Bend has doubled in the last year alone. Video is 70 percent of all Internet traffic and is projected to be at 90 percent within the next couple of years.
But if the City were to take over Internet service, the cost would be passed to all taxpayers.
Christman said it’s really about the value system of Bend; what the community wants to be investing in.
“Does the taxpayer pay for transit or Internet?” she said. “If taxpayers are all paying the same amount for Internet service, will they all receive the same amount of benefit and level of service by the City?”
In addition, Christman said there’s no guarantee that the service the City could provide would be any better.
Bend Business Advocate Ben Hemson, who will co-moderate the April 5 What’s Brewing event “Bend’s Bandwidth” with Christman, said when other cities have set up their own utilities, it hasn’t been very successful.
“It gets at the question of, are your putting the burden on citizens that don’t even want broadband service?” Hemson said.
The current model for Internet service is based on a user fee, Hemson said. Private providers like BendBroadband, CenturyLink, Yellowknife and Webformix charge individuals and companies based on their usage.
Hemson did add that other cities have explored public/private partnerships in order to provide more robust high-speed offerings from private providers.
“There are people who are unhappy with the service they are being provided, so they’re asking the City to do something about it,” Hemson said. “The real city staff position is, they’re waiting to get feedback from the business community about what they want from the City in order to assist the providers.”
Join the discussion and share your feedback to the Bend Chamber and City of Bend on Tuesday, April 5, at the Dechutes Brewery Tap Room during the Bend Chamber What’s Brewing? Bend’s Bandwidth event. Register now: http://business.bendchamber.org/events/details/what-s-brewing-bend-s-bandwidth-2458 .