Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Releases RFP for Broadband Needs Assessment and Feasibility Study

When we last shared news from Cleveland Heights, Ohio, community leaders were beginning to discuss the possibilities of a community network. Over the past 15 months, people in the city of around 46,000 have become committed to the idea of choosing the most effective path. Recently, Cleveland Heights released a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Broadband Needs Assessment and Feasibility Study. Responses are due September 13, 2019.

Read the full RFP here.

Looking at Options

As in other communities, Cleveland Heights wants to know what options they have and the advantages and disadvantages that accompany each. In order to obtain a complete picture of how best to approach the gigabit network they want for the community, city leadership wants the firm they hire to provide a range of information, including:

  • Needs Assessment
  • Infrastructure and Deployment Recommendations
  • Governance and Ownership Strategy
  • Funding Sources
  • Business and Financial Expectations

In addition to determining the current need for broadband in the community, Cleveland Heights wants to understand how they can prepare for future demands. Community leaders are interested in hearing multiple strategies for deployment and technology options and want to ensure that both businesses and residents benefit from the investment. Cleveland Heights also wants the firm they hire to provide information on funding sources that include local, state, and federal opportunities.

City decision makers want detailed analysis about potential models for a publicly owned community network and expect detailed evaluation for review. They’re also interested in learning about how a public-private partnership might work in the community. Cleveland Heights wants the consultants they hire to determine how best to engage the community in the process, educate them on potential pitfalls, and find ways to eliminate the local digital divide.

Cleveland Heights Residents Want a Muni

The city is an eastern, inner ring suburb of Cleveland and covers a little more than eight square miles. A current traffic signal update along one of the city’s thoroughfares will connect to city hall; Cleveland Heights wants the fiber incorporated into their community network design. They have also installed some extra conduit.

Spectrum provides cable service and AT&T offers DSL with U-verse in a few areas; there's widespread dissatisfaction with the service from both companies. People who live in Cleveland Heights and must take service from the large incumbents have been the engine behind change. 

Citizens for Heights Municipal Broadband ISP (CHMB) began by researching municipal broadband projects in Ohio and elsewhere and sharing their findings with Council Members. While they expected resistance, they were pleasantly surprised to find support among the Council. In addition to encouraging economic development, CHMB has been especially concerned about negative impacts from the FCC's decision to remove network neutrality protections.

CHMP has advocated for a revenue neutral model, and the firm they hire will need to supply information on the prospect for Cleveland Heights. With such an approach, the city will not operate the network for profit, but will reinvested all excess revenue into the network or use it to lower subscriber rates.

"We think the city's RFP is fantastic. We put in a lot of hard work to bring Municipal Broadband into the city's list of priorities," said Nikhil Chand, a member of [CHMP].

Important Dates

Questions Due: August 22, 2019, 4 p.m. EST

Responses Due: September 13, 2019, 4 p.m. EST

Read the full RFP here.