Of the new priorities Bozeman city commissioners added to their strategic plan recently, perhaps none will prove to be more consequential than declaring broadband internet service to be essential infrastructure – just as important as streets, bridges and water and sewer systems.

It was a logical next step in the city’s broadband policy evolution. It started six years ago with the formation of committee of professionals and business owners that identified a demand for high-speed internet service in the city. That was followed by the creation of Bozeman Fiber, a non-profit organization tasked with constructing a broadband network.

The basic mid-city network has been completed and connects the city, county and the Bozeman School District with high-speed service. The city has spent a little over $1 million on this project so far. The county and school district pay about $50,000 a year for access to the network. The city should be able to recoup its investment through those fees and fees paid by future users.

The city’s involvement in this venture has been forward thinking.

Advocates for free-market capitalism argue the private-sector can build, produce and provide products and services more efficiently and effectively than government can. And in many cases that’s true. But when it comes to the things that allow commerce between private-sector businesses and with consumers, government should get involved. Only government entities are positioned to establish the rights of way and provide maintenance for streets, roads and water and sewer systems.

In the 21st century it has become clear that adequate internet service qualifies as another essential component of infrastructure. Designating broadband internet as essential infrastructure means that, as new housing and commercial developments are built, the extension of broadband internet into those areas will receive equal consideration with streets, water and sewer systems and other essential services. All types of businesses use the internet to some extent. High-tech businesses rely heavily on high-speed internet. And reliable internet service is rapidly becoming a necessity for consumers.

As the community continues to grow, reliable high-speed internet will be essential for attracting the right kinds of clean industry jobs. And putting it on a par with other vital infrastructure will make certain that will be available throughout the city in the future.

Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Don Beeman, community member
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Sarabeth Rees, community member
  • David Swingle, community member

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