Voters in Fort Dodge, Iowa will consider whether or not to establish a municipal telecommunications utility in November. Fort Dodge will be the 88th Iowa community to vote on a municipal telecommunications referendum since the early 1990's. 73 communities have approved these referenda with an average 78% yes vote.
Monday evening the Fort Dodge City Council adopted a resolution placing the issue on the November general election ballot. In June, the city hired SmartSource Consulting of Grimes, Iowa to conduct a community broadband pre-feasibility study. The first phase of the study has focused on gathering community feedback on satisfaction with existing providers and gauging the level of interest in a new option for internet, TV, and phone services.
At the city council's workshop before the council vote, Curtis Dean with SmartSource Consulting provided preliminary results of a community survey and broadband assessment. The survey indicates that Fort Dodge residents are not happy with current providers Frontier and Mediacom and would be very interested in switching to a new fibe-based provider, whether publicly or privately owned.
At this point, a municipal fiber network is just one of three options the city plans to pursue. They will also seek commitments from current providers to improve service and work to identify other companies that might be interested in serving the Fort Dodge market.
In addition to the 72 Iowa towns that have approved a municipal telecommunications utility, another 15 have rejected such referenda. Most of those no votes came in 2005 as part of a statewide "Opportunity Iowa" initiative when 30 communities considered the issue on the same date. That generated a great deal of opposition from incumbent operators who poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into "vote no" campaigns that led to the defeat of the ballot issue in 13 of the 30 communities.
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