Broadband is a term used to describe a wide range of different types of internet services that provide speeds significantly faster than those available through “dial-up”. The Federal Communications Commission’s National Broadband Plan now defines broadband service as providing a minimum of 25 mbps download speeds and 3 megabit upload speeds.
The City of Fort Collins, local education institutions, data oriented businesses, and community leaders recognize the increasing importance of broadband services to the community. The purpose of the Broadband Strategic Plan is to better understand the community’s current and future expectations regarding both residential and business broadband services and to then define a strategy for how those expectations can best be met.
Broadband is the local connection that enables homes and businesses to get to the Internet. In most cases, these connections use copper wires from a local cable or DSL modem; however, next generation high-speed broadband uses fiber-optic cables to connect to the Internet. Fiber-optic broadband can carry much more data and faster so it allows users have greater access to the Internet.
Since early 2015, several service providers have announced plans to upgrade their broadband services to make residential next generation high-speed broadband available in Fort Collins, but have not provided a timeline or information in regard to servicing all community members within the Fort Collins Growth Management Area.
Internet applications are using more and more broadband capacity every day as more information, education and entertainment content is enabled online. Citizens of Fort Collins should have access to everything the Internet has to offer, without being restricted by their local broadband services. It will support citizens’ needs to run their local businesses, ensure their children have the best opportunities to learn through technology and access the wealth of information and entertainment options that the Internet provides.
Studies on broadband show an important correlation with local economic vitality by improving the performance and cost effectiveness of business services, providing better support for the emerging “creative class,” supporting school technology programs, allowing those that can work from anywhere more options, and generally enhancing the community as a center of innovation. Access to next generation high-speed broadband increases development opportunities, allows greater access to training and job searches and promotes more adoption of Internet services by the community.
At this point, the City has no immediate plans to become a provider of Internet, television or other services. However, we will be evaluating all possible options to ensure our citizens receive the services they need. We will be evaluating a range of feasible options that make the most sense for our community and are economically viable. A voter-approved exemption allows the City to move forward with a wide range of options but doesn’t commit the City to any one course of action.
The exemption from SB-152 will allow the City to consider numerous options for being involved in broadband services. Options include leasing fiber to private entities, creating a public-private partnership to provide services, or directly providing services. The exemption does not mandate that the City take any of these actions but it does allow for the opportunity.
Throughout 2016, the City will be conducting feasibility and market studies and will be engaging the public to determine what role, if any, they would like to see the City play in providing broadband.
Citizens voted in support of SB152 in 2015. This ballot measure was the first step in allowing the City to pursue ensuring broadband access community-wide.
This measure adds telecommunication services to the City’s Utility Charter. Anytime there is a change to a City charter it is legally required to go to the voters. Council would also like voter’s “OK” before borrowing such a large amount of money.
If the ballot measure were to pass Council would be able to pursue the Retail option. They would also have the option of a public private partnership. Adding this language to the Charter would also provide the City the ability to acquire telecom infrastructure if needed in the future.
The City would issue bonds, which would be repaid by the network’s users. Voters would not pay for this unless they subscribe to the service. There is no tax or fee associated with this ballot measure.
Service depends on a variety of factors. Once construction begins on a network, whether by the City or a private partner, full buildout is expected to take three to five years.
Next generation high-speed broadband is about more than downloading movies and streaming Netflix shows. A fiber network provides the city with a competitive advantage when it comes to offering businesses and entrepreneurs a platform to work on that won’t “crash” or “slow down.” While current internet needs may be met for some, the internet of tomorrow, often called the “internet of things,” will need more speed and reliability for uses that have yet to be invented.
Debt requirements will be in the range of $130M-$150M depending on the final architecture and subscriber adoption. Expenses funded from the debt include: engineering and design, network construction, network electronics, bond issuance fees, capitalized interest, facilities and equipment and working capital. The largest cost component of the capital requirement will be the network construction, currently estimated at more than $80M. Details are on page 31 of the Broadband Business Plan. The business plan calls for additional staffing for this project as outlined on page 39 of the Broadband Business Plan.
At this time video is not part of broadband business plan, however no final decision has been made at this point. The City is still evaluating all of its options.
Two reasons, 1) the City believes it is important to be a connected city with high-speed internet available to all residents. A connected city provides opportunities for all and maintains the city’s competitiveness attracting talented citizens and businesses into our community. 2) In conversations with the incumbents, they have provided no clear timeline of when they would provide this service to our community. As a result in order to future-proof Fort Collins and provide next generation high-speed broadband to the community the City is looking into providing this service.