Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Timnath, Colorado and Loveland Team Up to Further Expand Celebrated Municipal Fiber Network
Loveland’s municipal broadband utility Pulse is a heartbeat away from expanding into a small neighboring Colorado town eager to offer its residents the same attractive, high-quality Internet access that can be found in Larimer County’s biggest cities.
Officials in Loveland and Timnath, Colorado (pop. 7,800) recently announced the ratification of an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) that greenlight’s a plan to bring ubiquitous, affordable high-speed Internet access to yet another community in the Centennial State, as an increasing number of Colorado cities and towns embrace municipal broadband after years of frustration with the inadequate, high-priced service from the region’s monopoly incumbents.
"The selection of Pulse as our broadband service provider reflects a thorough process of assessment and consideration,” Timnath Town Planner Brian Williamson said in a press statement after the agreement was approved. “We are excited to work together, leveraging their expertise to ensure our residents have access to reliable, high-speed Internet that will contribute to the growth and prosperity of Timnath."
Keeping Up With The Loveland’s
This week Williamson spoke to ILSR about the project and why a town-wide fiber network is such valuable and vital infrastructure.
“Timnath is an interesting place. We are predominantly a residential community and we are growing quickly,” he said, adding that in a post-pandemic world of distance learning, remote work, and telehealth, an important part of the mix when people decide where to live and work is whether that community has reliable and affordable high-speed Internet access.
“In another Larimer County community people weren’t moving there because of the lack of high quality connectivity. So we looked at Pulse (in Loveland) and Fort Collins (Connexion). We wanted to stay competitive in that draw for housing and be able to offer the same services,” Williamson said with a nod to the high customer satisfaction ratings and public accolades of the municipal fiber networks sprouting up in the state’s Front Range region.
“We had heard anecdotally from residents through the years so we did a community-wide survey in 2020, specifically around whether the Town should invest in exploring this issue – 80 percent said yes,” Williamson said.
With widespread resident support, the town commissioned a feasibility study. And in the spring of 2022 Timnath voters went to the polls to opt out of the state’s incumbent-friendly law known as SB 152, a cumbersome referendum hurdle Colorado communities had to jump over in order to pursue municipal broadband. (That law – fueled by a Covid-induced demand for municipal broadband – was nixed by state lawmakers not long after the Timnath vote).
“We did a few other surveys and outreach and had three working sessions with the town council where we discussed options and the direction we wanted to go. That led us to IGA,” Williamson said.
‘Natural Progression’ To Leading Edge of Connectivity
The IGA calls for Pulse to build the network and operate as the Internet service provider (ISP) for Timnath subscribers. To finance the $20 million in network construction costs, Timnath officials will tap its existing Town Capital Improvement Fund, joining a growing list of communities who have figured out how to finance building their own networks even without help from an historic amount of federal grant funds many other communities are relying on.
Once the network is built and lit up for service, the IGA also establishes a revenue-sharing arrangement in which Pulse will give the town a 25 percent share of gross income from subscriber revenues.
That “translates to a 2 percent to 6 percent return on the town's capital investment over 20 to 30 years (with the) full payback … estimated to take about 26 years,” Pulse Broadband Manager Brieana Reed-Harmel explained, adding that even as Pulse nears completion of its own city-wide fiber network (expected to be finished by the end of 2023), Loveland’s municipal broadband utility has been expanding its network further out into several rural communities in Larimer County.
With the IGA now in place, Williamson said Pulse contractors will start on the phased construction of the network, which is expected to take three years to complete. The areas that will get built first, he said, will follow a “natural progression” south to north with the feeder line coming in from the south, as Loveland and its existing network is 10 miles southeast of Timnath.
“Phase One will be the construction of the (network) backbone, feeder line, passing about 1,600 premises,” he said, which is about 37 percent of the 4,300 premises the network will cover when construction is complete. Phase One, Williamson added, is expected to be finished by the end of next year.
Pulse Broadband Manager Brieana Reed-Harmel told ILSR that once service is available in Timnath, the business plan conservatively estimates a take rate of between 40 and 50 percent. In Loveland and other nearby communities where Pulse already operates they are seeing a 40 percent take rate. “So we expect to be in that ballpark in Timnath or higher because there is a high interest there as we’ve seen in market surveys,” she said.
Besides offering a high-quality fiber connection, the service tiers and pricing will likely be just as enticing to town residents. While the service packages and pricing for Timnath have not yet been finalized, Reed-Harmel said it will likely be the same as what is offered in Loveland.
Current Pulse subscribers have a range of options that includes a 100 Megabit per second (Mbps) symmetrical starter package for $45/month and their most popular symmetrical gig speed service for $75/month. No data caps, throttling, or long-term contacts.
“We recognized early on that there were parts of our larger community that were really being left behind,” Reed-Harmel said. “Usually with digital equity you think of income, but we have communities nearby that didn’t have (network) access at all. There was a digital cliff developing. So we have been working closely with our partners at the county to solve that gap in coverage.”
To listen to Pulse Broadband Manager Brieana Reed-Harmel discuss how Pulse has leveraged its relationships to connect unserved areas in both Loveland and outside the city limits, check out our most recent Community Broadband Bits podcast below: