How online connected is St. George? City survey aims to find out

St. George City Hall, St. George, Utah, June 16, 2017 | File photo by Joseph Witham, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — St. George officials have invited citizens to complete a brief survey that will help answer the question, “How internet connected are we?”

On top of measuring online connectivity, Mayor Jon Pike and his business development team aim to gauge the prevalence of high-speed internet access among St. George residents.

“The city of St. George is committed to a strong broadband infrastructure, which will help us responsibly fulfill our future technological needs,” Pike said. “Fast, reliable and affordable internet is no longer a luxury — it is a necessity. We are dedicated to finding the best solution for this key infrastructure requirement.”

Consisting of 10 easy questions, and often breezed through in three minutes or less, the connectivity survey was widely distributed via June utility bills to local businesses and residents. Citizens can also participate in the survey by visiting the city of St. George’s website.

Among the survey inquiries, questions 8, 9 and 10 are perhaps the most revealing, indicating possible future moves for the city.

The questions

  • “Are you supportive of the city actively pursuing additional broadband options for our community?”
  • “Are you supportive of the city building a fiber-to-the-home network if it can be paid for only by those that voluntarily sign up for services (no taxes or fees for non-subscribers)?”
  • “If you were offered the following options from a fiber broadband provider, what would you sign up for?”

Survey responses could potentially shape negotiations with telecommunications companies and determine which internet resources, price points and options are readily available to a wider range of the population.

Cities around the world are trying to keep pace with fast-changing technologies. Brick and mortar businesses, such as hospitals and colleges like Dixie State University, greatly rely on broadband infrastructure. Consider also that in 2018, global e-retail transactions (online shopping) accounted for roughly $2.8 billion in sales — a figure that is projected to nearly double in the next two years, according to research juggernaut

By 2021, estimates that online shopping sales will represent 17.5% of all sales worldwide.

The keeping-up-with-technology stakes are high, and the daunting challenge applies to almost every city in every country.

A few months ago, President Donald Trump and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced a plan to pour $20 billion of broadband network improvements into rural communities over the next 10 years. In addition, 5G technology is starting to be unveiled in more and more cities across the U.S. and the world, with much of the cost footed by major telecommunications companies such as AT&T and Verizon.

The state of Utah is five years into its “Utah Broadband Plan,” designed to “capitalize on its competitive advantages through strategic coordination and use of broadband technologies and infrastructure,” Gov. Gary R. Herbert stated in the plan.

Boosting broadband infrastructure and internet speeds could help St. George attract and retain more businesses, particularly highly-coveted tech companies. Exactly what needs to be done to achieve those high-priced improvements and who will pay for it, remains to be seen. But such upgrades seem to be both essential and inevitable.

“Smart economic growth is increasingly dependent on solid network infrastructure, which influences quality of life and creates an abundance of opportunities for all types of commerce, from homegrown entrepreneurs to high-tech companies spanning diverse industries,” said Shirlayne Quayle, economic development and housing director for the city of St. George. “We want to understand if those needs are being met across our city, and if they are not, take steps to bring that infrastructure to the neighborhoods and businesses that need it.”

The city encourages all St. George households and businesses to complete the internet survey.

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