Next Century Cities member Opelika, AL’s Mayor Gary Fuller has written an exceptional op-ed to defend the city’s broadband network from fact-free smears. Industry-backed opponents of community broadband investments used inaccurate information to create a distorted representation of Opelika Power Services’ OPS ONE fiber broadband network.
In addition to his op-ed, Mayor Fuller also published an article on the Opelika City News page in which he rebutted some of the most brazen untruths and wrote on OPS ONE’s many successes. In the post Mayor Fuller said that he is “happy to take this opportunity to set the record straight because the facts speak for themselves.”
Background on OPS:
Before OPS ONE deployed fiber service in Opelika, the only option for broadband internet access was through a single provider’s overpriced cable service. Opelika city officials approached several private service providers and asked that they come to the city to deploy high-speed broadband services, but all refused. As a result OPS, which has been Opelika’s municipal power provider since 1911, built the network itself and in 2010 it began offering fiber service to all under- or unserved areas of Opelika through its OPS ONE division. Today, all residents and businesses now have access to high-speed internet, cable TV, and telecommunication services through OPS One.
Setting the Record Straight:
The most outrageous claim opponents made is that Opelika is a broadband failure. OPS ONE has been a resounding success, and has led to many meaningful benefits to the city. After just three years in operation OPS ONE has more than 3,200 subscribers and is generating $5.5 million in annual revenue.
OPS One has also lead to significant job and economic growth. The Auburn-Opelika area has seen the largest total employment growth in Alabama in recent years, and in 2016 was named the “6th best performing small city in the United States” by the Milken Institute. Opelika is leading the state in job creation, wage gains, and technology trends. Furthermore, OPS One was a direct contributor to Opelika’s increased bond rating.
In his article, Mayor Fuller also outlines several key areas where aYellowhammer News article particularly misrepresented the truth about OPS ONE, including the following:
- OPS ONE has not used any federal or state grants or subsidies, nor does it rely on taxpayer subsidies. The company pays all its own expenses.
- Opelika spent $20 million to deploy a fiber to the home network and another $23 million to modernize the electric grid and build a new facility.
- OPS ONE began offering gigabit speed service for $94.99/month in February 2017, in the hopes that the lower price will increase demand for gig service.
OPS ONE deployed fiber not because it wanted to, but because no one else would. The municipal provider has increased competition and speeds, while decreasing the cost to consumers. It has shown incredible gains in its first three years, and has hit every benchmark set for it thus far. The benefits to the community have come swiftly, and customers are much more satisfied than they were with prior service.
Opelika’s efforts to ensure everyone in the city has access to high-speed, reliable broadband services are commendable, and Mayor Fuller should be applauded for his defense of the great work OPS ONE has done for the community.
Update: A bill, SB 228, was introduced by Alabama State Senator Tom Whatley that would have allowed OPS ONE to extend its fiber network outside city limits and into communities in neighboring Lee County. Unfortunately, AT&T fiercely lobbied against this bill and the Alabama Senate Transportation and Energy Committee struck it down in a 7-6 vote.