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MARCH 10, 2017, KEIZERTIMES, PAGE A3
Duo wants Keizer to have its own internet service
By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
At a Keizer City Council meeting
in early February, a pair of Keizer resi-
dents spoke to the councilors about a
new-to-Keizer idea: internet service as
a public utility.
While Dylan Juran and Daniel Mi-
edema were hoping to get the council
to take a closer look, the council and
city staff largely dismissed the notion.
Mayor Cathy Clark spoke of con-
cerns about competing in private
markets. City Manager Chris Eppley
balked at the potential cost in a time of
However, there are other cities that
have built out internet services as pub-
lic utilities and others that installed
what became a backbone network that
enhances economic development in
their area (See story below).
It may seem like a stretch for a place
like Keizer, but Juran has concerns that
go beyond the immediate area.
“The end of net neutrality is my
biggest thing and I don’t like the idea
of data being discriminated. I don’t like
the idea of being told that I have to buy
into an off-brand Netflix to get better
service,” Juran said.
Net neutrality refers to preventing
internet service providers from charg-
ing more for allowing certain content
to flow across their systems, charges
which would likely end up costing us-
ers who want to access the content. Us-
ers might also incur additional charges
for accessing the internet from differ-
ent types of devices. Net neutrality is
currently mandated as part of a 2015
U.S. Court of Appeals decision, but
there is increased concern that it might
be overturned under pressure from the
new presidential administration.
“I think of the internet as a utility
in the same way someone else might
look at water. If we had contracted out
water services to a fictional company
called Waternet that wanted to charge
you a different price for shower wa-
ter than cooking water, we would not
be okay with that. But that’s the way
it might happen with the system we
have,” Juran said.
Miedema is an iOS app developer
who works from home in Keizer and
his job depends on having access to lots
of bandwidth to upload and download
data as he works with associates in
Portland and even across the country.
“I would personally love to see low-
er costs and have it be more accessible
with better speeds. That unlocks pos-
sibilities that some people don’t even
realize are out there,” said Miedema.
He mentioned monitoring one’s home
from a phone or work computer as a
However, thinking about internet
service as a public utility requires an
almost fundamental shift in how most
made it work
By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
In their presentation to the
Keizer City Council to consid-
er a public utility internet ser-
vice, Keizerites Dylan Juran and
Daniel Miedema mentioned
municipalities that are similar
to Keizer in some ways, but
both took drastically different
approaches to the same issues.
The municipalities Juran and
Miedema brought to the table
are Washington’s Mount Ver-
non and an alliance of Mon-
mouth and Independence, in
Oregon, that created MINET.
Keizertimes reached out to the
managers of the cities’ networks
to find out what they did and
how they did it.
M OUNT V ERNON
Mount Vernon sits about 60
miles north of Seattle. Its popu-
lation is about 33,000 residents.
Keizer’s is just north of 37,000.
Mount Vernon includes about
12 square miles of terrain while
Keizer is about seven square
The city installed an eight-
mile fiber network ring around
the central part of the city that
now serves government agen-
cies and several businesses. By
any stretch of the imagination,
the city was an early-adopter
of the technology. They began
talking about doing it in 1995
and the first half of the ring was
completed in 1998.
“The mayor and police chief
asked about a facility they were
buying across town and how to
put them on the same network.
I said we should do fiber,” said
Kim Kleppe, information ser-
vices director for Mount Ver-
Fiber optic networks are
generally preferred to copper
and hybrid networks because
there are no known limita-
tions on how much data can be
pushed across them.
By 2001, the city completed
the backbone of the fiber ring
that now saves the city money
– to the tune of $100,000 a
year on phone and data services
people approach internet services.
There was a time when accessing the
internet took a machine that cost up-
ward of $1,000 or more, but that is no
longer the case. Today, it’s possible to
get an internet-capable laptop for $35.
That doesn’t include the internet-ca-
pable device many people are already
carrying around in the pockets and
handbags – the cellular phone.
“The barrier to entry has dropped
so low that it is near-ubiquitous,” said
Miedema. “I want another option (for
service) that treats internet the way I
think it should be treated. It’s not the
special thing it once was. We’re not
there anymore, the internet is every-
where and it should be treated differ-
The one member of the city coun-
cil who seemed open to at least dis-
cussing the matter further was the
council’s newest, Laura Reid. She also
happens to be a teacher at McNary
– and has become an attractive
amenity for businesses seeking
to expand. They did it for a to-
tal cost of less than $1 million
and fiber network installation is
even cheaper now. The first half
of the network was paid as they
went and the completion was
aided by a $500,000 grant.
To make it happen several
things had to work in the proj-
ect’s favor, Kleppe said.
“You have to have mayor
and council support along with
the public. Then you need to go
out and figure out the business
model of how things will oper-
ate. Then it’s down to the im-
plementation of the model. An
education process also needs to
happen because it will floun-
der,” he said.
Network installation even
became part of the city’s devel-
opment code and now property
developers have to pay for new
network nodes. That has helped
the network grow.
Businesses can connect the
network through private in-
ternet service providers that
contract with the city to install
the hook-ups. Kleppe said local
market competition has decid-
ed the prices. About 110 busi-
nesses have opted to connect to
the fiber ring.
“We’ve had a couple of busi-
nesses move here because we
can give them fiber. It’s only a
handful, but businesses like it,”
“There is a digital divide with some
students not having access to the inter-
net at home, and more and more as-
signments are internet-required,” said
The way Miedema and Juran envi-
sion a public utility internet service is
as something that meets the needs of
net neutrality and greater bandwidth
while also creating greater access with-
in the city.
“I really want people to understand
that the younger generation needs the
internet. The internet is not a conve-
nience like television, or even the way
it once was. That has changed,” Juran
“I would love to have a free tier,”
added Miedema. “Maybe I pay more
so someone else can check email and
do research and look at what’s happen-
ing in their city. Maybe I’m subsidizing
that, but I am more than okay with it.”
One of the features Mount
Vernon doesn’t offer is residen-
tial service. Kleppe said the cost
to hook up a single residence is
simply too prohibitive.
“We set a hard line that we
will not go into the red on an
install,” Kleppe said.
M ONMOUTH -I NDEPENDENCE
choose to make its fiber net-
work a public utility to save
money, Monmouth and Inde-
pendence did so out of neces-
“At the time, about nine
years ago, the best internet ser-
vice we had was the equivalent
of dial-up with maybe some
DSL,” said Don Patten, general
manger of MINET. Major in-
ternet services like Comcast
and Charter made it clear at the
time that broadband internet
wasn’t going to arrive for some
“We didn’t want to become
part of the information divide,”
The cities originally took
out a $3.7 million, state-guar-
anteed loan to build the net-
work. It was refinanced a few
years later to provide operating
capital, but the service has been
in the black for at least the last
three-and-a-half years, Patten
said. It has a market penetration
of better than 85 percent.
Unlike Mount Vernon, the
service is available to residential
customers and pricing ranges
from $10-a-month for a bare-
bones package to an ultra-fast,
high bandwidth package for
With Oregon State Univer-
sity nearby and several students
from the area, Patten said it isn’t
uncommon for students, and
their friends, to come home for
the weekend and do all their
downloading over MINET
because the service is so much
faster than what is available
down the road in Corvallis.
The system has also been a
boon to local public entities,
like the Central School District.
MINET has a direct fiber con-
nection into every school in its
area and can expand and con-
tract usage depending on needs.
That was key during a recent
round of public school testing.
“Central was one of the few
districts, if not the only in the
state, that didn’t break down
when all the students were on-
line taking tests,” Patten said.
While MINET has had
some struggles in bringing the
network to profitability, Patten
said that there are also forces at
work that had nothing to do
with the network.
“It comes down to how
much value a community plac-
es on having the resource, and
that will ebb and flow with the
politics,” Patten said.