Chamber Chair Issues Letter to City Commission Regarding Proposed Municipal Broadband Utility

In preparation for the City of Tallahassee Commission meeting, Chamber Chair, Mark O’Bryant issues the following letter regarding the proposed municipal broadband utility.

Dear Mayor Dailey,

On behalf of the Board of Directors of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, I would like to share a few thoughts regarding the City Commission’s ongoing discussions on the creation of a municipal broadband utility. The Chamber Board is in agreement that the City of Tallahassee should forego any further discussions about competing with existing companies in our market. Currently, there are at least sixteen companies who provide internet services to the citizens of our community and under no circumstance should the City be entering this market as a direct competitor with the private sector.

Recently, the Chamber commissioned a group of community leaders to study how our local government can best affect the problems facing our community. The conclusions of their report included prioritizing private sector job growth, addressing the effects of economic segregation, minimizing reputational risks, and creating a unified vision for the future. The Chamber Board has been encouraged to see the City pursue a number of creative and innovative solutions aimed at improving the fortunes for everyone in our community, but the pursuit of competing against private companies should not be one of them. Regarding the matter of municipal broadband utility services, there is no further study warranted and the City should instead focus on improving the conditions for private sector investment in the sector.

Next week, the Chamber will host over 80 community leaders in Greenville, South Carolina for a leadership trip aimed at discovering new strategies for building a successful future in Tallahassee. I am greatly encouraged to see that you and the entirety of the City Commission will be joining us for that important trip. The Chamber believes in civic innovation and we look forward to seeing the Commission and staff bring back bold ideas from Greenville that make sense for Tallahassee. Our hope is that when fresh ideas emerge from City Hall that they are aimed at positively impacting business retention and expansion in our community instead of competing with taxpaying companies that employ hundreds of our fellow citizens.

The Chamber’s mission is to serve as the catalyst for local business growth and we are proud of the member businesses that provide internet services across our community. These companies are in the middle of a rapidly changing business environment for telecommunications and it should be private capital that continues to be put at risk in that space. To gamble public funds for such ventures would be misguided at this time and we firmly believe there is no need to study this matter any further.

A better route would be to engage our local providers in meaningful dialogue and work with those providers to create the best possible environment for private sector investment in this space. We would be happy to engage as a facilitator in those discussions if you feel that would be helpful.

Thank you for your service to the community and for your consideration of these thoughts.


G. Mark O’Bryant
Chair, Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce
President and CEO, Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare