EDISON – The township is moving forward with plans for municipal broadband by authorizing competitive bids for a consulting service to create a business plan, more than a year after several council members campaigned on the issue, and months after a study on the issue was completed.
The Township Council on Wednesday approved a resolution for the bids. Councilman Richard Brescher, who had questions about the success rate of broadband in other communities as well as maintenance, abstained from voting and Councilwoman Joyce Ship-Freeman, who wanted to table the issue until the council had more information, voted no.
The idea of high-speed municipal broadband in Edison has grown from the quest for faster, reliable and more affordable internet service in town, where Optimum has been the major provider. Comcast will now be constructing its own fiber network in town, and Brescher said internet service has improved for residents who have Optimum’s newer fiber optic cable system.
Councilman Nishith Patel, who was one of the most vocal advocates for broadband this week, said he thinks of it as a utility.
“I think we need to own these lines. We need more competition. The majority of people are not happy with what they have,” said Patel who estimates the town could be looking at millions of dollars in surplus in 10 years with broadband. “I think this is a great investment for the long term and for the future,”
Patel also believes the town will be eligible for grants and other funding from the state.
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Council members this week had two lengthy discussions about broadband. On Monday, much of the discussion was centered on why a broadband study was completed in October but the results were released to the Council just in the last week, a decision by the administration that left Council Vice President Margot Harris “miffed and bewildered.”
Councilman Ajay Patil said he, too, expected the release of the results a while back and since the township started looking at broadband, the technology has evolved, and the town will have to determine if it is a viable project for the long term.
Business Administrator Sonia Alves-Viveiros said at Major Sam Joshi’s administration’s direction, the township is on to the next steps of creating a business plan, which is why a request for proposals is out for the broadband and the 41-page study report was released.
Council President John Poyner said the business plan would look at the strengths and weaknesses of municipal broadband and determine market competition. He said the consultant would analyze the best approach for Edison.
“I do believe municipal broadband is the way for the township to go. We have increases in technology and advancements in technology that are going to require additional bandwidth, not just from the sense of the capacity of upload and download speeds, but eventually we’ we are going to have to look at our electrical infrastructure because the more computing that is done, the more energy that is used,” Poyer said.
Ship-Freeman questioned if the township is truly serious about municipal broadband because the issue only seems to come out at election time.
“We’ve got to do better than what we are doing,” she said. “Don’t bring it out every time there is an election and tease people like we’re getting something that we’re not getting.”
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Suzanne Russell is a breaking news reporter for MyCentralJersey.com covering crime, courts and other mayhem. To get unlimited access, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: Edison NJ moves forward with municipal broadband plan