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Five years on (now eight)

PETER O’CONNOR
Staff Columnist
oconnor@lbknews.com

I was looking at some early columns in my own archives.  I came upon one I penned for these pages in July 2010.  That was my first year at this avocation.  I even added photos to some works back then.  I brought this one forward in reaction to some current discourse in the LBK morning traffic concerning digital infrastructure (or not) between/among some of our current heavies.  Back in 2010 I interviewed and I wrote about the then Town Commissioner, Gene Jaleski.  We discussed the digital world among other things.  Now Gene is a bit less active.  With his permission I’ll bring that early column forward.  We were not all ‘dummies’ back then.  Something about  learning from the past, eh?

(Gene now spends about half his time in  the Great Northwest.)

From my piece in these pages, August 2010;

“So Gene and I discuss the underlying issue, the need which drives these tower location discussions.  He notes that there never has been the will to have a cell tower on Longboat Key before now.  The evidence is that no one has ever applied to build one.  Further, he says, we are a small retirement community – we get adequate service for the majority of our people (AT&T in NYC drops 4% of its calls).  The more sophisticated equipment coming on the market will require greater bandwidth, need to be closer to the transponder.  More data moves through cell phones now than voice. A more complete system – Gene has called this MDI for Municipal Digital Infrastructure – will bring this community into a modern mode, attractive to visitors and residents plus enhancing public safety.  “We are using twenty year old technology”, says Jaleski.  He expands on MDI.

Municipal Digital Infrastructure:  call this a fiber optic spine on which can be  ‘hung’ various services.  These can include WiFi, Telephone, TV, Public Safety Communications, Smart Grid for meter reading, surveillance cameras.  We could  easily add home monitoring – temperature, hot H2O heaters, inexpensive security services.  Gene adds enthusiastically that any community – Our Town – could offer all this and make money.  He again mentions security cameras at strategic locations – a hot button issue for Gene. (We now have the cameras at either end of the Key.)

We talk about costs and savings.  Gene offers this; say for 9,000 residences WiFi and Telephone now cost about $100/month or $900,000/month paid out in season, $500,000 off season.  He assumes that MDI could supply these services for 45% of this, at a profit (to our Town).  This means further savings to every taxpayer through the profit to the Town.”

“Advantage    All, including tourists as well as residents should be able to acquire a WiFi signal everywhere – can not now.  In this day & age, for a modern up-scale community  (like LBK)  WiFi is a necessity.  Tourists expect it.  A tower adds nothing to satisfying this need, Jaleski says.  He adds that residents and especially tourists are using and paying for cell service minutes for that which could be free.  He stresses, and I must agree, that we should offer these latest information technologies to tourists and buyers.”

“Jaleski says loud and clear that our community should not make a mistake.  We need positive action in solving problems.  He says that is MDI.  Gene estimates that system could be developed on LBK for say $250,000.  That’s for an Islandwide Solution.  Another tower now might actually hurt more Longboaters than it would help – by stifling enhanced system development and by denying all the financial opportunities to be gained.  This in a time of financial crisis!

I called Jaleski a 21st century guy trying hard to operate in a 20th century environment.  That environment might just be us.

‘Tis time for some forward thinking.  There is work to be done.”

This was written in 2010, five years ago.(now almost eight years ago)  I don’t see much progress on this front in those five years.  Bradenton Beach has permitted and started construction of that so badly needed cell tower.  It isn’t finished.(It still isn’t finished in 2018.  Equipment is being loaded on the tower now; I’m told by AT&T.)

Some suggest that we, the Town, should not compete with services now provided by Verizon and Comcast.  Really?

In our interview in 2010 Jaleski called his vision MDI, for Municipal Digital Infrastructure.  The name is less important.  The vision is important.  Two weeks ago in this column I suggested that it is time for us, for Longboat Key, to get on with it.  This might just be a place to start.

A few more weeks ago we visited the nice upscale coastal community of Palm Coast on our Florida east coast – where family members were renting an almost new multi-bedroom condominium on a monthly basis.  This was similar to many of the properties on offer here on our Key – only much newer.  One relevant problem that our brother-in-law discovered was that this condo lacked wi-fi access.  A short sighted lacking feature you say.  The owner had low-balled his rental offer.  This is not a mistake to be repeated, if you want repeat renters.  So, Tom, the brother-in-law, ventured out to the local town one morning in search of a newspaper and maybe even wi-fi access.  Like any modern guy he checked first at a local Starbucks.  Indeed this modern retailer offers such a service, even outside in the parking lot and in the approaches to the drive-through.

We’ve all been there.  Tom’s problem was solved for his month at Palm Coast.  He may not return to this particular property though!  Lesson learned by this landlord, maybe, provide all the latest expected amenities.  LBK take note.  Gene’s modern approach might help LBK.

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