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.
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.
“Next Generation” broadband is capable of providing dramatically faster and higher quality Internet service, 10 to 100 times faster than many of the current broadband services today. Many next generation broadband services offer residential customers Internet speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second at prices similar to what consumers pay today. The Fort Collins Broadband Strategic Plan is focusing on how next generation broadband services develop in Fort Collins.
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 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 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 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 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.