"We Can Do This," Says Palo Alto Muni Fiber Leader

During the 20-year on-again-off-again relationship between Palo Alto and a possible fiber optic municipal network, the people of the community have waited while plans have changed, leadership has shifted, and city staff has researched potential infrastructure plans. For the people of the city, it’s a long time to be patient. In a recent opinion piece, resident Jeff Hoel described his long wait and expressed why his city needs to finally move forward and create a citywide municipal Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) network.

Knows of What He Speaks

As a retired electrical engineer who has intimate knowledge of technology and networking, Jeff writes in his piece that one of the reasons he moved to Palo Alto in 1998 was because the city was considering deploying a community network. At the time, Palo Alto had already invested in dark fiber, which they have used to generate approximately $2.1 million per year through leases. The revenue has been held in a fiber optic fund, which has grown to around $26 million.

Over the years, the city has commissioned studies and community leaders have publicly advocated for an expansion of the network to a citywide utility for residents and businesses. Palo Alto’s residents have supported the idea, but stumbles in securing funding, difficulties locating private sector partners for a P3, and a failed bid to bring Google to town, have all left the city with no fiber optic network.

Now, Jeff Hoel feels that his city is ready to look at the facts and recognize that there are many municipal networks that are providing fast, affordable, reliable Internet access across the U.S. Jeff notes the success of Longmont, Colorado, where folks can sign up for symmetrical gigabit connectivity for around $50 per month. If so many other communities can manage to deploy networks and operate them efficiently, Palo Alto also has a fighting chance:

"It's not rocket science. We can do this."

Getting Organized for Change

In order to help educate the people of Palo Alto and to organize the support that he knows is in the community, Jeff has launched Muni Fiber Palo Alto. He shares information about municipal fiber networks and other types of technology, resources for more information, and the history of the municipal fiber discussions in the city. Jeff also has listed contact information in order for people of Palo Alto to express their support for a municipal fiber utility to community leaders.

Jeff has included a link in his opinion piece to Palo Alto Council Member Greg Tanaka’s online petition in support of a fiber optic network and encourages supporters to sign.

Check out our Community Broadband Bits Podcast episode 26 from 2012, in which Christopher interviewed Josh Wallace from Palo Alto about the city’s dark fiber network. Perhaps in the future, we’ll be interviewing them about a citywide FTTP project.