According to a newly formed group of local residents, community leaders, and business owners, Gainesville currently has the most expensive rates for broadband internet access in the state of Florida. And the group, Connected Gainesville, has plans to do something about it.
The initiative, launched on the steps of City Hall the afternoon of February 1, is an effort to expand affordable high-speed broadband internet access to homes and businesses in the area in and around Gainesville.
Currently, Cox Communications, AT&T and GRU are the main providers of internet service in the area. Connected Gainesville first came together after Cox announced in the fall of 2016 that internet service rates would increase for the second time in the year. Cox informed customers these increases were necessary due to “product and technology investments and increases in business costs.”
But some suggest the increase is more likely a reflection of the lack of competition in the area.
“Gainesville has the highest broadband internet rates in Florida and lags behind the rest of the country in connectivity,” said Bryan Eastman, one of the founders of the group. “At some point our community has to decide, are we going to compete in the 21st century or are we going to be left behind?”
According to Eastman, increasing competition may be one of the paths for Gainesville’s growth. “Studies clearly show that bringing in competition lowers rates and increases speed across the board.”
The backbone of Connected Gainesville’s agenda can be found largely based on the results of Next Century Cities Local Policy Agenda for Broadband Stakeholders published in July 2015. Next Century Cities describes itself as a nonpartisan group supporting community leaders across the country as they seek to ensure that all have access to fast, affordable, and reliable internet.
According to the policy agenda, “In the 21st century, broadband internet access has emerged as more than just an information superhighway – it has become critical infrastructure to connect citizens, businesses and communities alike to new opportunities.”
It is the open availability of that access that is at the heart of Connected Gainesville and its goals. According to the FCC, 15 percent of Alachua County residents can’t access broadband internet. The state average is 7 percent. And according to Pew Research conducted in 2016, 52 percent of Americans view lack of home broadband as a “major disadvantage” to finding a job.
“Essentially, there is no reason all members of our community should not have access to this necessity simply because they cannot afford it,” said Eastman.
Eastman went on to say that the expansion of quality internet access can bring many benefits to Gainesville. Studies have shown increased internet access provides greater opportunities for small business, easier access to online education, and improved access to health services, all leading to increased property values and proven, and stronger local economies.
|Port St. Lucie||$923.40||14.33%|
Table courtesy of Connected Gainesville
Prices of residential access to broadband internet for all cities above 100,000 in Florida as of the 2010 Census. Yearly prices calculated by standard rate + modem rental cost.
By Kathryn Pizzurro