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What’s the next step?

Several weeks ago in an op-ed piece in this newspaper regarding the importance of ultra high-speed fiber optic service to the future economic development of Brookhaven and Lincoln County, I raised a question to the City of Brookhaven on the importance of such to our community.

The piece looked back at the historical significance of decisions in 1850 by Samuel Jayne and Milton Whitworth that resulted in the site of the original Brookhaven becoming a historic marker and the thriving city we have today located a few miles north. We suggested a comparison of that 1850 decision to one made last September by the Brookhaven City Board in which they rejected C Spire’s ultra fast fiber optic service for residential areas of the city.

In a response last week the Mayor and Board of Aldermen laid out their reasons behind the decision last September.

Our city fathers and mothers in their response are correctly focusing their responsibility on the issue from a statutory standpoint; as the city’s governing body they must oversee the city’s public way infrastructure. However, so too do they have the responsibility to look to the future of our community and find creative ways to position the city to take advantage of economic opportunities.

At this juncture we now understand that 18 city boards in Mississippi – nine more boards in just the last few months – have become creative and signed the same exact contract Brookhaven rejected! Quitman and Starkville now have 1G-fiber optic service in their residential neighborhoods. The remaining communities will be connected sometime in the future.

There is a second high speed fiber option; abet an expensive one for our city.

You seeing running through the center of Brookhaven, along those same railroad lines that Milton Whitworth helped establish back in 1850, is a backbone fiber optic cable running from Chicago to New Orleans. The line is owned by Sprint and laid in the late 1990s. It is the Interstate 55 of fiber optics passing through Brookhaven but without the exit ramps. The City of Brookhaven could purchase the necessary switches; lay the necessary fiber optic lines throughout residential neighborhoods, connecting the entire city.

Lafayette, Louisiana and Wilson, North Carolina have done just that, creating their own fiber optic utility systems operated by their city water departments. Both Lafayette and Wilson city boards took the initiative because they were frustrated over the lack of interest by private industry to connect their communities and residential neighborhood homes to 1G-fiber optic service. They understood the importance to future economic development of their cities and took an aggressive stand.

Going on our own is an expensive option for Brookhaven taxpayers. One that would involve certain taxpayer risk, but one that would allow the same high-speed connectivity C Spire is currently installing in select communities across the state.

The city does have a third option, which is to do nothing and hope for the best!

So, the question now is, what is Brookhaven’s next step?