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Ask The Mayor: Hamilton On New Broadband Service

122016-Hamilton

New broadband competition, Switchyard Park developments, new firefighter contract, response to change of holiday names and the year in review.

On this week's installment of Ask The Mayor, Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton addresses these issues and more. Listen to the full conversation with Indiana Newsdesk anchor Joe Hren by clicking on the play button above, or read some of the questions and answers below. A portion of this segment airs 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. Wednesday on WFIU.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Hren: What is the bottom line to residents of the Axia broadband deal? Does this mean free downtown Wi-Fi or are they just paving the way to high speed internet access?

Hamilton: The bottom line is we're trying to create infrastructure, someone to build it so that every premise in Bloomington, a house, an apartment, a business have access to gigabit speed internet. AT&T, Comcast and Smithville really don't provide it, Smithville is looking at it. So for a household, it's not free. It's internet that will promote competition. High speed internet is really how more and more content is going to be delivered. In fact, it's the backbone for the mobile system.

Hren: Part of the concern I'm reading about is a private for-profit company having a monopoly over a community infrastructure need. Is that a valid concern?

Hamilton: It's an appropriate question. It's why some cities build this themselves and we looked at that. It's hard from my perspective to justify tens and tens of millions of dollars publicly if a private company can meet our objectives. It is important if this network that gets built, is accessible to others. Some models, some companies wanted to build that kind of monopoly, but in the Axia model the whole design is that network is available to others to use. Smithville can use the Axia fiber that gets built to sell to more customers.

Hren: Smithville Communications responded in the Herald-Time that this deal is "unnecessarily disruptive." Have you spoken to them about their concerns?

Hamilton: I'm in regular communication with Smithville and worked closely with them in this process. I think the short answer is, local business if they have a direct competitor come in... Bloomingfoods and Lucky's Market... that's tough, that's hard. So it's not unnatural that a company that's here will be a little disappointed that a new company is coming to compete for the same thing. My belief is if and when this system gets built by Axia, on the end Smithville will look at that and say I now have 20,000 more customers that I couldn't reach before.

Hren: So people will finally see bulldozers and physical work being done on Switchyard Park, how much is funded?

Hamilton: It's a great new park for the city. We tweaked the plans some, like burying the electric lines that were going to be big lines across the park, we wanted to change that. In 2017, we'll start building the infrastructure. A big sewer line has to go in. The plan is to have the park open as quickly as possible in 2019. It's going to be a whole new neighborhood a new part of town.

The community is going to put about $25 million into this park. We bonded for that before I got into office. And we're trying to raise $5 million from the private sector.

Hren: I had to ask, were you surprised at the response the city received after you changed the name of the city holidays from Columbus Day and Good Friday to Fall Holiday and Spring Holiday?

Hamilton: I was surprised. We got a lot of response from around the country as stuff hits the social media. I grew up in the church, I attend, I certainly feel the importance of religion in my life and others, but I don't think that's the government's role and I think it was the right thing to do. I think with the timing of the election some people got very exercised, but our country is great because we're diverse.

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