Red Wing, Minnesota: Boots, skates … fiber?

Tiny Red Wing, Minn.-home to Red Wing boots and Riedell ice and roller skates-is gearing up a pitch to its residents for a citywide fiber optic network, a plan that local cable provider, Charter Communications, already is pooh-poohing as being unnecessary-who needs all that speed?--for the city of just under 20,000 residents on the Mississippi River.

Charter spokesperson Tucker Carlson said that while a fiber optic system would represent the fastest network available, few users really "need" the speed. "Just like there's not that many people who feel they need to drive a formula one race car to work," he said.

Oh, boy.

Red Wing city leaders disagree and are getting information out to residents and talking feasibility studies and marketing plans. "I think this is the most important thing since electricity," Council member Stephen Castner said. Added Red Wing Port Authority Executive Director Myron White on the city's push into technology: "You're either going to be cutting edge or your going to be playing catch-up."

The push to muni-fiber has been gaining momentum across the country as cities begin to see it as a piggyback utility with potential to lure economic growth and even serve as a profit center. (Or, not, think about the iProvo debacle.) It's become so poplar, in fact, that after initially ignoring new networks, cablecos and telcos have begun to fight tooth and nail to block cities from undertaking projects, taking municipalities to court in an effort to head off funding through municipal bonds, a course of action Carlson suggested if Red Wing decides fiber's in its future.

For more:
- See the Red Wing Republican Eagle story

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