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Universal Coverage Might Start Here

November 27th, 2019 by dk

The Eugene City Council met late last month to evaluate a pilot project that has been underway for more than a year. The results are startling — recipients are delighted to be receiving better services, costing them less money. Councilors asked city staff for a proposal for expanding the benefit to all Eugene residents.

If we’ve learned one thing about universal coverage over the last decade, it’s that it can be accomplished most efficiently if the users are willing to embrace a “single payer” model. That elicits some resistance when it comes to health care, but what about for ultra-high speed Internet?

Eugene’s downtown core has seen a resurgence since ultra-high speed Internet became available. What will happen if it’s offered citywide?

Unlike almost every issue Eugene encounters — I’m looking at you, city hall! — leaders should settle first on the funding source and then develop a plan that fits the revenue stream they intend to tap.

What’s working elsewhere? Councilors might like Ashland’s restaurant tax because it’s paid mostly by out-of-towners and the well-heeled amongst us. A utility tax could work, they are already collecting so much revenue for the city, they could feel targeted.

What about a property tax assessment? The expense would have to be absorbed by homeowners and passed on to renters, but would the added value exceed the expense, once there was no need to pay for cable TV and Internet connectivity?

Many of us have started to “cut the cord” on TV and phone. Would we be happy to ditch our Internet provider for a faster connection that comes automatically to every building in Eugene?

No other city our size provides high-speed Internet to every resident, but is there any good reason for that? A hundred years ago, homeowners could choose whether they wanted running water and indoor plumbing, but no more. We may look back and wonder what took us so long to see this connectivity as similarly essential.

Your house is worth more because it’s connected to running water and maintained sewer systems. Think of gigabyte-speed Internet connectivity the same way. We could all cancel our current Internet provider for a citywide service that’s faster and cheaper.

Single-payer, universal coverage may be just what people want, if only we hadn’t introduced the concept first around medical care.

We love our doctor, because they warn us that the stethoscope might feel cold against own skin. They don’t take our call, but their staff sets up an appointment, so that’s almost as good. Our doctor doesn’t laugh when they see us naked, even though we don’t have a joint checking account. They’re there for us.

Who among us can say the same about their Internet provider? Sure, they make house calls, but that’s because their service is connected to our house!

Once we see that our local government can provide us better service at lower cost for something like Internet connectivity, we might be more willing to trust the state and national government to have a greater hand in providing other essential services, like health care.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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