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In Lean Times, Private Citizen Funds Public Infrastructure

Nate Berg reports on the efforts of one Bay Area business owner to get his city to upgrade its internet infrastructure by investing his own money.
March 15, 2012, 1pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Business owners and public officials in the California community of San Leandro have Patrick Kennedy, CEO of the software company OSIsoft, to thank for upgrading 11 miles of the city's copper wires to higher-speed fiber optic cables. Seeing the opportunity to piggyback on a city project to lay down conduits to link up its traffic lights, and a lack of public money to take on the fiber optic initiative, Kennedy will spend between $3-5 million out of his own pocket to finance the upgrade.

According to Berg, "[t]he cables will increase the speed of internet from about 1.5 megabits per second to 10 gigabits per second, or about 666 times faster than before. The prospect is tantalizing for companies that deal with large amounts of data, including medical services, design firms, imaging services, and data centers."

As Kennedy could not have afforded to fund the entire project on his own, including the costs to dig up city streets, those involved in the project see it as a potential model for public-private partnerships across the country.

"This project 'could not have been done as a private or public project. It's only the public-private partnership that made this happen,' Kennedy says. He encourages other cities that are thinking about making similar investments to tap into local business interests who may be able to share in the costs of what would also be a shared benefit for a wide array of businesses."

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Published on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 in The Atlantic Cities
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