What is Internet Freedom for McHenry County?
A. We are a non-profit (501c4) organization of community volunteers from McHenry County, Illinois that is dedicated to providing better broadband access and Internet development in McHenry County, ensuring freedom of information, right to privacy, and Net Neutrality. We unite around the idea that to together, we can build a better future for ourselves and our children.
What exactly are you advocating for?
A. We are advocating for a community-owned fiber-optic network with many benefits.
- Fiber-optics to everyone. The best there is. The backbone of the Internet to your house. Instant uploads and downloads.
- Competition on that line. Multiple providers fighting for your business.
- Designed to keep costs low by being owned by you, like an Electric Cooperative.
What are the expected benefits of making this vision a reality?
A. By optimizing Internet access with fiber optics, McHenry County will address strategic development, communication, and education goals. Such as:
- Attract new businesses and enable further growth of our current small businesses;
- Better education and test scores for our children;
- Increased value of private property;
- Provide much faster, cost-effective, reliable internet service to all McHenry County residents and businesses;
- Provide a locally controlled resource that will benefit residents and businesses, not corrupt Illinois politicians;
Why do we need fiber in our county?
A. Right now we are paying a lot more than most other countries for poor service and slow speeds. The profits are also going to private companies out of state. There is a better, cheaper alternative. Quick explainer video: https://youtu.be/izYslyrm3oU
Why a community-owned broadband network?
A. Lack of competition driven by a few giant companies has lead to a monopoly. The existing companies refuse to compete and expand their networks. We propose a true free market approach through partnership with our own small business where we make the decisions and gain true fast, reliable service while keeping the profits. Quick explainer video: https://youtu.be/jWcBftCOxEc
Has this been done before in other counties?
A. Yes! Over 190 other communities have successfully introduced cooperative fiber networks. Among these “Next Century Cities” are neighbors in Carbondale, Highland, Urbana, and Champagne, Illinois. See the full list here!
Is community fiber working, and all that it promised, in areas where it has been implemented?
A: Overwhelmingly it has successful, and more than often it has delivered what it has promised. However, it is not a piece of public infrastructure that is a “build it and they will come”. Community-fiber is a business. It has be accountable and self-sustaining. That means, it’s important to have a business plan, feasibility study, engineering study, conduct your market research, and have the right talent running it. Hundreds of communities have done it, whether it would be rural or urban and it has been successful, much like electricity has been for our country.
Community-fiber is a failure, right?
A: Some communities have faced difficulties when it came to their community-fiber project, however there are hundreds of examples where it has gone well. Like with any business or service, which community-fiber is, you have to put together good plans like business, marketing, and financial, then execute them well. Some of these communities have done it poorly.
The advantage that McHenry County has, we can learn from those mistakes and tap into the vast knowledge and experience in the market place to avoid and mitigate those risks. We can ensure our success by utilizing those resources.
Anyone, including McHenry County, going into the community-fiber business has to acknowledge that community-fiber is not one of those, “Build and they will come” scenarios. It’s a business and you have bonds and customers to serve. If done right, we can have a sustaining and viable public asset that will last for generations, and provide us cost-effective, reliable, universal broadband Internet for everyone.
Here is a link that will go further in-depth and the rebuttals to various reports that say community-fiber networks are a failure.
Besides faster Internet, what benefit can I expect?
A. One benefit other communities has seen is an added 3.1% ($5,000) value added to their property. Imagine actually raising the value of your investment with a community resource you can use now and enjoy in profits later. Read the Fiber and Broadband Association study findings here.
How will fiber help create jobs?
A. Fiber creates local jobs by encouraging businesses to move in to the area and by encouraging people to work from home. The fastest growing source of new business in the telecommute/virtual space. That means more payroll taxes paid and less traffic congestion for our streets. This also mean vacant properties are more attractive to other businesses looking to move into our community near a commuter airport, major highway, and with a stable, community atmosphere.
I use Internet primarily from my smart phone, not my home computer. How will this benefit me?
A. All of the smart devices you use, from your phone to video gaming, online streaming services like Netflix, and more all rely on your home’s WiFi and Internet connection. Even your cellular network provider bridges gaps in service from residential Internet services in a web of ‘borrowed” hotspots. The problem is your devices are capable of so much more performance, but are limited by the speed of your network connection.
Bandwidth needs are growing at an exponential pace; other technologies (wireless (4G, 5G, etc), DSL, etc.) cannot keep up. We are already far behind and can only move forward through an infrastructure upgrade with the strong reliability and longevity fiber provides.
If we replace our copper and existing cables with fiber, when will that need to be upgraded?
A. Fiber is the only solution with the capacity to handle advanced smart grid applications long-term. The longevity for fiber is estimated at 100 years or more. This means we have a “dig once” approach to build a community-owned fiber network that really is a multi-generational infrastructure investment.
Who maintains the fiber-optic lines and what is the on-going cost?
A: IFMC is advocating for a non-profit co-op, which you are part-owner of, to save guard the fiber-optic asset and to keep costs low. If a community-owned fiber-optic network were to be created, that non-profit co-op would maintain the fiber-optic lines. However, at this time, our current public fiber infrastructure is maintained by a Government Co-Op at the McHenry County level (Consortium for short).
We don’t have enough information to determine what is the on-going costs because engineering or even per-engineering estimates have not been completed. Any on-going costs would be covered by the revenue from the services provided.
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