Village of Jackson plans to create its own fiber optic utility


Village of Jackson officials are planning to establish a fiber optic utility in hopes of attracting high tech businesses to their community.
The village has hired Brunetti DEC, a division of Denver-based Intercell International Corp., to provide a feasibility study and create a preliminary design for the utility. Village President Scott Mittelsteadt said the study is expected to be completed in the next two months.
The fiber optic utility would be capable of delivering voice and high-speed wireless Internet service to the village.
In addition, Jackson is creating a 50-acre high-tech business park on the west end of the village near County Highway P and U.S. Highway 45.
Aurora Health Care plans to build a clinic near the high-tech park. Medic Group, a biotechnology firm in Jackson, is thinking about moving into the business park, Mittelsteadt said. Officials with Medic Group could not be reached for comment.
Jackson officials began making plans to create a fiber optic utility because they were frustrated that no private sector firms were providing service to the small village. Some businesses already in the village, including Medic Group and Universal Strap, have asked village officials for the service.
Mittelsteadt said village officials were contacted by telecommunications companies after the village began making plans to create its own fiber optic utility.
"Now we’re hearing from SBC, and other companies are calling," he said. "I think they’re more afraid of having us do it ourselves."
Tom Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Universal Strap, said he would rather deal with local government officials than a large telecommunications company’s massive bureaucracy when problems with the fiber optic service arise.
"We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve," Mittelsteadt said. "We’ve got a couple of companies that have requested better service. We’re trying to make sure that we’re able to do that."
Plans for the fiber optic utility and the business park are part of a concerted effort by Jackson officials to attract more high-tech businesses to the village, Mittelsteadt said. The village also has an incubator building, located near the high tech business park, to nurture high-tech startup businesses. Village officials know they cannot rely on manufacturing jobs alone to sustain their community’s future economy, he said.
"Manufacturing will still be here, but not as dominant as it once was," Mittelsteadt said. "(The fiber optic utility) could be a real shot in the arm for us."
Some businesses that are thinking about relocating to Jackson say a fiber optic utility would make the community more attractive, Mittelsteadt said.
"It’s one more edge that we’ve got," he said. "I think it’s a good start. There’s not a lot of places that offer (fiber optic service)."
"I don’t think it would be the main driver (to attract business to the village), but it would play a role," Johnson said.
The utility would be intended to provide a service to its users, not to make a profit. Mittelsteadt said he is unsure if the cost of the service will be higher or lower than what private telecommunications firms would charge.
June 25, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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