Council approves ordinances to establish Downtown Fiber Optic Network

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Council approves ordinances to establish Downtown Fiber Optic Network

By Christine Holmes, News Director

Despite testimony from local communications representatives opposing the legislation, City Council members voted to move forward with plans to establish the City’s own private fiber optic and public wireless network in Downtown Zanesville.

After several years of planning, council members voted to approve three ordinances Monday night create the network.

After 30 days, the ordinances go into effect and the City can officially sign a contract with CompuCorp to bring its own internet services to the area.

Under the plans, the City will own the equipment necessary to connect fiber lines to City Hall, Secrest Auditorium, the Public Safety Building and the police annex building, as well as a connection to Zane’s Landing Park.

The project, which is being funded in part by an Appalachian Regional Commission grant, will also bring Wi-Fi services to Downtown Zanesville for the public to use for free.

“The community came together in 2016 and said, ‘we would love to have this for our city,’” said Jay Bennett, who previously served as Community Development Director for the COZ as the project first developed.

While Wi-Fi services will be available to the Downtown community for free, usage will be monitored and slowed down should users stream or download in excess.

At past meetings, Zanesville Downtown Association manager Dana Matz has spoken in support of the effort, citing the successes other small communities have seen with wireless networks of their own.

Monday night, representatives from AT&T, Charter Communications and the local Communications Workers of America union spoke with council members and questioned the need to establish the network.

Barrett Tamasavich, representing the CWA, said the need for a Wi-Fi network Downtown was prevalent several years ago, but the technology associated with mobile phones now makes it possible to achieve high speeds on the phone’s own, private network.

“So, we’re trying to understand, why do we need a Wi-Fi network when we get speeds just as fast that you already own,” said Tamasavich.

B.J. Smith, representing AT&T, questioned the security associated with the proposed fiber network, especially concerning confidential information shared between attorneys, police and city officials.

Following the meeting, Bennett explained that security is always a concern, regardless of the internet provider.

When it came time to vote, all council members voted in favor of the three ordinances, except for Joey Osborn, who voted no each time.

“My main concern with all of these pieces of legislation from the very beginning has been that I don’t think that the City has any business competing with private sector,” said Osborn.

She added that even though council opted not to treat the Wi-Fi network as a public utility, the stipulations of the ARC grant requires the City to offer some form of public access to the network.

“Do I think that our city needs a network, a secure network? Do I think that, is what we have outdated? All of those answers are yes,” said Osborn. “By no means was my no vote a reflection of that, it was simply I don’t think that we should be in the business of competing with our taxpayers.”

Since the majority ruled in favor of the legislation, work will soon move forward to finish laying conduit throughout Downtown Zanesville in preparation for the network.

“Once we’re able to sign an agreement, we’ll sign the agreement with CompuCorp because they’re the ones that’s going to be ordering the materials and constructing the network for us,” said Bennett.

The timeline for the project is still unknown.