The Door County Board of Supervisors may find they have a full house at their monthly meeting on Sept. 29 due to a proposed ordinance that some are saying will put a damper on expanding broadband service in underserved areas of the county.
The Door County Economic Development Corporation (DCEDC) and its Technology Council, along with the Door County Board of Realtors have come out against the proposed ordinance because, as Bill Chaudoir, executive director of the DCEDC, said in a letter to Mariah Goode, director of the county Planning Department, “The proposed ordinance would raise licensing fees for towers from $500 up to $3,000, a 6x jump in cost. For many small broadband vendors or cash-strapped municipalities looking to partner with a provider to reach an underserved area of the county, this increase could potentially represent the difference between a broadband tower project going forward or not.”
In his letter, Chaudoir also asked, “Why would the county, at this critical juncture, enact an ordinance that would make it more difficult for local residents and businesses to gain access to high-speed broadband communications?”
The Door County Board of Realtors, representing 200 active real estate agents in Door and Kewaunee counties, also wrote a letter in opposition to the ordinance.
“Studies have shown that in today’s real estate marketplace, slow or nonexistent internet access is a major detriment to home buyers, and can have an adverse impact on property values to the tune of several thousand dollars for each sale. Most businesses cannot do without broadband, so the lack of good coverage will have an adverse impact on Door County’s business climate as well.”
In a recent discussion of the subject conducted by Access Door County, Sam Perlman of the DCEDC said providing broadband service throughout the county is essential.
“It is as important for the 21st century as rural electrification was 100 years ago,” he said.
Also in on the conversation were Kevin Voss, owner of DC Broadband, and David Studebaker, who serves on Liberty Grove’s Technology and Economic Development Committees.
“Our goal at Door County Broadband is to bring internet to anybody and everybody we can,” Voss said.
Studebaker said better internet service is needed in Liberty Grove to improve economic development, and “The only provider that’s been able to step up to the plate for us is Door County Broadband.”
Voss said he has asked the ordinance drafters in the Planning Department who will benefit from the changes.
“I’ve never gotten an answer,” he said, adding that if it is enacted, “It literally stops us cold.”
He estimates that the cost of putting up one of Door County Broadband’s towers would go from $5,200 to possibly $9,000 per tower under the ordinance, and that would have to be passed on to the customer.
Studebaker showed photos that he brought to the Resource Planning Committee, which approved the plan and forwarded it to the full county board. The photos showed the difference between the small, slim towers of DC Broadband compared to the massive cell phone towers in the county
“In the past, small internet towers were excluded from the most onerous parts of the permitting process,” he said. “There were no problems in the past. I see it as a solution in search of a problem.”
“We think it’s a mistake for the county to enact an ordinance that’s going to make it more difficult for residents and businesses to get access to the high speed internet they need.”
The Door County Board of Supervisors meets at 9 am on Sept. 29. You can view the Access Door County discussion on the topic at http://doorbell.net/video.