City-Wide Ultra High-speed Internet. Wi-Fi EVERYWHERE!
May I think out loud a minute with you? The subject on my mind is access to high speed internet. I’d like to see ultra high-speed internet universally available to everyone in our “Gig city”. What if we created a virtual Wi-Fi dome around our city and offered ultra high-speed internet access, at a very reasonable fee, perhaps on a sliding fee scale to ensure access to all of Clarksville? Imagine . . . wireless, internet coverage throughout our entire city with access for every citizen?
I know that a lot of us already enjoy the internet. Many of us can afford to have access to a wireless network at home or work. However, there are folks who have very limited or absolutely no access to high-speed internet or a Wi-Fi network.
High-speed internet has touched our lives in so many ways. It is a fact of life that our children’s education is very dependent on access to the internet. Our communication with the world is internet-based. You cannot easily apply for a job and complete the hiring process if you don’t have an e-mail address and internet access to follow-up or eventually accept a new job. Companies are creating or expanding opportunities for their employees to “tele-commute” to save money on office overhead and hire the best folks regardless of where they live. In order to tele-commute the employee must have and maintain reliable access to high-speed internet. Telecommuting can be an attractive alternative for some in the workforce and also help us better manage our traffic congestion issues. Internet entrepreneurs are establishing web-based radio, developing apps, and selling all sorts of merchandise through online retail. The possibilities for new businesses are limitless if the would-be online entrepreneur has access to ultra high-speed internet and broadband Wi-Fi access.
The cost of internet access is also a deterrent, even a barrier, for some who need it but it just won’t fit into their monthly budget. So the idea is to offer all city residents access, for an affordable fee, to a city-wide high-speed Wi-Fi network they can use anywhere in the city limits. It will be a solid plan that will save smart phone dependent users on their data plans. It will provide our K-12 students access to the internet when homework or study assignments are necessary, which is every day. Going to a friend’s house to study? No problem. Wireless internet is there too. Need to complete a work project while the children are at soccer practice? Wireless internet connection goes along with you. Need high-speed access to refine your business idea or sharpen tomorrow’s presentation for a new, important client?
“Well I already have access to a wireless network” you say. You have the option of maintaining your plan if it suits your needs better, or you can buy into the citywide plan if it works for you, or both. This will save our working families who often struggle with the daily expenses faced by an average family.
So let’s be innovative. Let’s use our status as a “Gig City” with ultra-fast internet access to take care of our families in our city. Let’s enhance the opportunities for home-based business in our community by offering ultra-fast Wi-Fi in every neighborhood regardless of zip code. And finally, let’s relieve some of the burden of working families by offering an option for what has become as important as electricity or water.
Just thinking out loud.
Smart Investments in our community. Neighborhood by neighborhood.
The former home of Frosty Morn Meat Packing Company has been a point of contention for the neighbors and others in our city far too long. City Council members, community members and leaders have been outspoken proponents of the city re-purposing the property to something more useful. Since 2013, when the City acquired the property in a delinquent tax sale, the property has mostly fallen into further disrepair, and is blight on the Red River neighborhood, and the surrounding light industrial district.
The building, whose smoke stack stands tall on the north-central side of town, represents a beacon of a once thriving company, but now is symbolic of some of our neglected neighborhoods and districts that are usually last on the list of the to-be-redeveloped. The reason for the neglect is 1.) the cost of demolition and subsequent clean-up that makes any potential use cost prohibitive, and 2.) the lack of a plan for the property.
The property is now costing city tax payers in security and some repairs to the tune of more than $16,000. Add the loss of property tax revenue on a building that once employed more than 600 of our citizens, and the loss becomes a real number. That is also discounting the cost of added police presence because of unlawful activity in and around the building, adding further instability to a once thriving neighborhood.
So with that in mind, may I offer an idea for us to consider? Let’s turn the Frosty Morn building into the Red River Revival Center! Turn this building into a multi-functional center of commerce for our small business community. The pictures above show the current building, and a similar building that might be the new and improved center for this neighborhood.
At the heart of the plan would be an expanded Farmers Market. The existing market has outgrown the space next to the L&N Train Depot, and access for vendors and parking for customers is limited. And for the record, the Red River Revival Center would not replace the existing Downtown Market.
In addition to the Farmers Market, we could use the building to house local small businesses that offer food-related services, which would complement the neighborhood. I can envision a thriving center of commerce where food, floral and craft vendors establish a year-round presence to offer their wares. Think about the Farmers Market in Nashville. Local merchants would be given preference. We would be building the capacity of entrepreneurs or those with an idea, but insufficient capital to afford market rate rents. By clustering these enterprises together, we build critical mass to allow customers from all over town to shop and buy fresh fruit, vegetables, jams, jellies, cakes, flowers, gifts of all types, coffee and tea shops, and enjoy a unique shopping experience.
But there’s more…we could dedicate space for entertainment and lower-cost venues to hold events such as family reunions, church gatherings, civic club functions, and other smaller gatherings that aren’t quite large enough for some of the larger venues around town.
I can imagine a thriving artist’s conclave for the visual arts, music, dance and other art events that are unique to our diverse community.
Because the building is large enough and the parking ample, we could also use some of the space for education and training. After-school tutoring, non-credit classes, painting and music lessons of all types could be offered for people of all ages. We would create a Wi-Fi hotspot so the business owners and customers would have access while there.
The Red River Revival Center would become the town square for the Red River and Brandon Hills neighborhoods. It could become a destination space instead of an area of town many avoid or simply ignore. A gathering place for young and old. A place where citizens located in an area without easy or reliable access to a grocery store would have a closer, better option for nutritious food. A place where after-school and part-time jobs would be available and accessible for the teenagers of the area.
We could nurture the small business owners who may be currently operating out of their kitchen or garage, or perhaps someone who has an idea, but no place to launch their dream. And one of the best parts of the Red River Revival Center is it will end the years of bickering about who pays for what.
It turns a financial drain into a revenue generator. Sales taxes, business taxes, and fees would be generated to help offset the cost of renovation and operations. A non-profit organization would be at the heart of the operation to keep administrative costs low and plow profits into further renovations.
There will be some who may say why throw taxpayer money away? Why spend that amount of effort and time into an old building? Why there? Why not spend that money out by the interstate? Exhibit A, and a great illustration of vision, is the former Acme Boot warehouse building owned by the Knott family. That family had a vision and a dream of turning a once thriving warehouse building into an entertainment complex with a variety of shops and experiences. And look at it today. It has become the epicenter of the Madison Street corridor, and the preferred location for entertainment in a town where we often hear, “there’s nothing to do here.”
So as we talk about smart investments in our neighborhoods, or at least I have talked about it, let’s start with taking one of the long-neglected areas of our community, and turn a site from blight into bright.