By Ella Chabot-Remington
SEBASTIAN – The lack of high speed Internet at the Sebastian Municipal Airport could mean the loss of at least one tenant and perhaps the loss of potential businesses at the site, according to one Sebastian City Council member.
Councilwoman Andrea Coy told her fellow council members last week that the airport was about to lose a second tenant due to not having high speed Internet.
Coy described the tenant, an aviation insurance company, as an “excellent, new guy in town.”
Coy added that Airport Manager Joe Griffin has been diligent in trying to get Comcast to provide service, but there are differences in the understandings between Comcast and the City of Sebastian as to what services Comcast is obligated to provide.
“They are not friendly to the City of Sebastian,” she said of Comcast.
Coy asked the Council to authorize about $19,000 for City Manager Al Minner to expend on high speed Internet at the airport in an effort to save the tenant and avoid the loss of other tenants at the airport. Council approval would be needed for Minner to spend over $15,000 on behalf of the City.
“Comcast owes us some services,” Minner told the council, adding that the issues are difficult and Comcast is not in agreement on this. Comcast wants a construction fee of about $18,000.
“We want it free,” said Minner. “We can pay the fee and get service, or fight Comcast.”
In the meantime, the airport is losing tenants, according to city officials.
Minner suggested the best “flanking maneuver is to purchase the service” from Comcast. Funding for the service would come from airport funds.
Minner said that the service would fall under infrastructure costs and benefit the intention of the airport road construction grant. Council approval would be necessary for Minner to either purchase the service or “fight the fight” with Comcast.
“As we get aggressive with economic development, we have to cater to companies to a certain degree,” Minner told the council.
Councilmember Eugene Wolff asked about the DSL services from Bell South at the airport.
“High speed Internet has more upload capacity,” responded Airport Manager Griffin. The tenant in need of the high speed internet service is an aviation insurance company that uploads numerous documents.
If the service were provided, Griffin has a “gentlemen’s agreement” at this time with the tenant to re-locate to the airport.
Councilman Jim Hill said that high speed Internet would go to all businesses at the airport, not just one. And that, even if the aviation insurance company tenant does not come to the airport, the service would still be needed there.
Councilman Wolff also brought up the existence of a T-1 line, a fiber optic cable that carries more data than other lines, and asked if this could be used for the tenant.
Griffin responded that this line needs to be kept clear for the police department.
Councilwoman Dale Simchick proposed that cutting edge technology might be appropriate for the airport.
“Do we want high speed Internet? Don’t we want to offer a T-1 line out there?” she asked.
Griffin said that it is too expensive to have a separate T-1 line.
Minner and Griffin were scheduled to meet with Comcast later that week. The Sebastian City Council is expected to revisit the issue of high speed Internet service at the airport on Sept. 23.