NextLight in Longmont, Colorado Expands Beyond City Borders

Longmont Nextlight logo

Since it first broke ground in 2014, Longmont, Colorado’s community-owned NextLight fiber network has won numerous awards and inspired countless communities nationwide.

With its citywide deployment nearing completion, and counterproductive state legal restrictions in the rear view mirror, city leaders are now working to expand the network beyond city limits.

City officials tell ILSR that network construction has now crossed north of Colorado Highway 66, outside of city limits and into the Anhawa and Strawberry Circle neighborhoods. The extension will bring service to around 125 homes that previously had access to Longmont electrical utility service, but not broadband.

Longmont officials say this latest expansion is being financed entirely by subscriber revenues and money set aside for capital projects, with no bonding or other supplementary funds involved.

Longmont Nextlight Building

“We’ve been carefully evaluating our opportunities for expansion in order to make best use of the community’s resources,” NextLight’s Scott Rochat told ILSR. “Our total investment in this project is just under $300,000; based on our typical rate of adoption, we expect to see about a five-year payback. This also has the benefit of giving us a foothold on the north side of (Highway) 66 to help facilitate more expansion in the future.”

NextLight, which recently received a nod in PC Magazine’s list of “Best Tech Brands for 2024,” indicates that its deployment within the city of 98,000 is about 91 percent complete.

“We currently pass nearly 42,000 premises,” Rochat said. “Of that, we have a take rate of about 64 percent...In other words, of all the homes and businesses that could take NextLight, nearly two-thirds of them actually do. Considering that we compete against two large ISPs, that says a lot about the strength of our community support.”

Subscribers within range of NextLight service currently have the option of symmetrical 100 Mbps (megabit per second) service for $40 a month; symmetrical 1 Gbps (gigabit per second) service for $70 a month; symmetrical 2.5 Gbps service for $150 a month; or symmetrical 10 Gbps fiber broadband for $250 a month.

There are no usage caps, contracts, or hidden fees.

NextLight’s latest expansion comes after a busy few years in Colorado broadband governance.

A Colorado state law, lobbied for by regional telecom monopolies and passed in 2005, imposed cumbersome and onerous restrictions on Colorado towns and cities looking to build better, more affordable community-owned and operated broadband networks.

In 2011, Longmont residents voted to opt out of the law, which was then fully dismantled by a statewide vote last year after years of criticism. The law’s demise gives Longmont the freedom to expand affordable access, though city officials say the bond that funded the network’s original build from 2014 to 2017 could only be used for construction within city limits.

Longmont Nextlight Truck

With the restrictions finally irrelevant, Longmont officials say they’re exploring expansion opportunities as resources allow.

“We operate in a state that recognizes the importance of broadband and in a community that
has given us every opportunity to flourish,” said NextLight Executive Director Valerie
Dodd. “We’re proud of what we and our customers have achieved together, and we look forward to even more exciting successes in the Future.”

For now that future involves driving fiber to the remaining 10 percent of city locations that don’t have access, many of which are developments or multi-dwelling units where negotiations for access are already underway, but take time to complete.

“We regularly hear from Longmont tenants who want us to bring them service and we’re always willing to work with landlords and property managers to make that happen,” Rochat said. “We do have some agreements in the works now and we’re confident that we’ll see more as NextLight’s community support and track record continue to grow.”

Meanwhile, Longmont expansion will accelerate as resources allow, a welcome development for residents of the Centennial State still struggling with spotty, sluggish, and overpriced monopoly connectivity.