Waterloo, Iowa Unveils Affordable Pricing For City-Owned Fiber Build

After years of strategizing, Waterloo, Iowa officials announced in February that they were moving forward with their plan to create a new utility aimed at delivering affordable fiber to every last city resident. While the resulting network is still very much in the planning and construction phase, officials this month released a new website for the project revealing service pricing.

According to the Waterloo telecommunications board, locals will have access to symmetrical 300 megabit per second (Mbps) service, symmetrical 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) service, and symmetrical 10 Gbps service for $50 a month, $70 a month, and $110 a month, respectively. The offerings will see no long-term contracts or usage caps.

Waterloo Fiber logo

Unlike many municipalities, Waterloo is also offering both phone and television bundles. Phone and TV service bundled with 1 Gbps service will cost locals $180 per month, while phone and TV service bundled with 10 Gbps service will be $224 per month.

Andy Van Fleet, chairperson of the board of trustees, tells the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier that the pricing is notably lower than the prices charged by regional cable monopoly Mediacom. Van Fleet told the paper that Mediacom currently charges him $129 a month for 300 Mbps service, plus the added costs incurred by technically unnecessary usage caps and overage fees.

Waterloo Fiber Construction Map

Mediacom has long tried to undermine community broadband efforts using propaganda and misleading arguments, and in 2020 unsuccessfully lobbied for legislation attempting to eliminate municipal authority to offer market-based prices for Internet access.

Thanks to the network’s popularity with the public, Mediacom’s efforts have repeatedly failed in Waterloo. The city’s network will cost $115 million, take roughly three years to build, and ultimately deliver affordable fiber access at speeds up to 10 Gbps to all municipal buildings, anchor institutions, and all 67,695 city residents.

Of the 2,762 votes cast in September of 2022, more than 84 percent voted “yes” on a ballot question asking voters to approve the issuance of $20 million in general obligation bonds to begin network construction.

This $20 million investment is going toward the construction of a 100-mile fiber backbone network.

The backbone will not only help deliver residential and enterprise broadband service, but will help support and monitor the city’s sewer, storm water, traffic, and water systems.

Downtown Waterloo, Iowa

Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart posted a video providing an update to city residents, noting that service would be broadly available this fall, and urging locals to sign up for updates or explore the FAQ over at the city’s new fiber website.

The network is the culmination of local interest that’s been percolating for the better part of two decades. It was 2005 when local Waterloo voters first approved the creation of a municipal broadband utility to examine the option of the city providing a faster, cheaper access alternative.

“We are accountable to our community instead of corporate shareholders so you will receive more responsive service and local control,” the new website states. “Subscribers’ money stays in the community, paving the way for future technological and community enhancements that will strengthen Waterloo’s quality of life and its economic development potential.”

Watch video (below) of Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart updating city residents on the project:

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