Thursday night there will be a special meeting of our town commissioners. One of the topics of discussion will be a plan to offer public wireless internet access (Wi-Fi) in downtown Pilot Mountain. The initial cost to the town is expected to exceed $8,000 in addition to annually recurring fees of more than $2,500.
I ask that our commissioners vote against it, and should I be fortunate enough to serve Pilot Mountain this November, I pledge that I will oppose misguided initiatives like this one and support fiscally responsible alternatives.
At the core of this issue is a question of priorities. We live in a community with an under-equipped police department and increasingly costly and often unreliable water service. We need to meet these basic needs before we consider spending on luxuries like public Wi-Fi.
At home, all of us make sure that the lights are on and there’s food on the table before we go out to buy a new television. We should apply the same common sense approach to our town’s budget priorities.
Even if public Wi-Fi were our town’s top priority, the cost of this plan is simply too much.
I can speak from a position of authority on this subject. I have worked alongside my father for years at our family business, PC-Medic Computers. We have built wired and wireless networks for businesses of all sizes. The latest word is that 70 percent of the public Wi-Fi plan will be grant-funded and the remaining $8,000+ will be paid for by the Town of Pilot Mountain. I can assure you that no networking job the size of downtown Pilot Mountain should cost $26,000.
I understand that not everyone is an expert in computer networking, and I’m certainly no expert when it comes to a variety of other fields but I can comparison-shop, and so can our town leaders. I am confident that they will recognize this plan for the poor value that it is.
Finally, we need to ask whether the people of Pilot Mountain actually want public Wi-Fi downtown. I have spoken to many of my neighbors and local business owners, and they share my concerns about this type of spending. Public Wi-Fi is quickly being supplanted by cellular data plans and smartphone tethering. It would be unwise to make so large an investment in a project that will be of use to so few people.
Supporters of the plan will argue that it is the type of initiative we need to attract new businesses to Pilot Mountain. I say that we attract businesses by showing them how well and how responsibly we care for our community.
It is the choice between indulging in a luxury or tackling the greater infrastructural challenges that our town faces. I know that I am not alone in these concerns, and I know that our town leaders all want what is best for Pilot Mountain. I urge them to consider these points and say no to this plan.
Evan J. Cockerham, Pilot Mountain