Credit: City of Rochester Communications Bureau

Read Rachel’s research at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University on creating a municipal internet network.

Related: Barnhart Calls for Task Force to Study Use of County Fiber Network

As the Rochester region’s economy becomes even more firmly rooted in technology and innovation, citizens, public institutions and businesses will be more reliant on broadband internet.

Broadband internet opens the door to the world’s knowledge, providing the opportunity for citizens to reach their full potential. Education is a way out of poverty. Yet thousands of local individuals and families don’t have a primary educational tool at their disposal.

While rural areas struggle to gain access to broadband infrastructure, urban areas face a different problem: adoption. Lagging subscription rates are due in part to affordability. The marketplace is dominated by only a few internet service providers who can set prices out of reach for low-income households.

The lack of broadband adoption perpetuates inequality. It also deprives our region of entrepreneurs, scientists and others who could contribute in profound ways if given the chance.

The importance of broadband means it should be treated like basic infrastructure. Indeed, Monroe County owns an extensive fiber internet network that could be upgraded to allow other users, including other governments, residents and businesses. This network is 80 percent dark, or unused. Rochester should join with Monroe County to create a municipal broadband network, which could adopt one of several models and technological approaches.

A municipal broadband network supports the region’s technological focus and includes all citizens in the modern economy. It is time for the public sector to show the same spirit of innovation that has propelled Rochester’s past – and will undoubtedly propel its future.