City Council to discuss broadband project

The Austin City Council is set to learn more about local broadband options.

Vision 2020 officials will discuss Gig Austin, a $32.9 million proposal to create a community-wide data fiber network with high-speed Internet, during the council’s work session on Monday.

Vision 2020’s Community Wide Technology committee released the results of a feasibility study in July 2014 that shows a high-speed fiber network throughout the city of Austin is a sustainable venture.

That high-speed data network could provide Internet speeds of up to 1 Gig per second, or hundreds of times faster than normal Internet speeds.

The project, dubbed Gig Austin, was estimated at that time to cost about $35 million to build. The committee also hopes to use state and federal grants, and funding from other partners and nonprofits, to pay for the project.

Yet Vision 2020 Director of Vision Creation Laura Helle said earlier this month the committee hasn’t found many private funding opportunities for broadband projects on Gig Austin’s scale.

Minnesota lawmakers created the Office of Broadband Technology in 2014, but the state only dedicated about $20 million in potential grants across the state this year and $10 million for 2016.

“It was kind of a blow, the way the state system treated broadband in terms of funding,” Helle said. “It just isn’t a significant grant pool for what we want to do.”

The council will also discuss Austin Utilities operations, grant applications for police portable radios and other issues at its meeting.

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