Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
West Des Moines is Building a Citywide Conduit System and Google Fiber is First in the Door – Community Broadband Bits Podcast Episode 426
In July we wrote about West Des Moines’ announcement that it would build an open access citywide conduit system to spur broadband infrastructure investment, and how Google Fiber became the Iowa city’s first partner.
In this episode of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast, Christopher is joined by Jamie Letzring, Deputy City Manager for West Des Moines, Iowa, and Dave Lyons, a consultant with the city, to discuss in more detail how things unfolded behind the scenes.
Together, the group digs into the how West Des Moines started with a long-term vision—called West Des Moines 2036—that, in part, brought local leaders together to discuss universal high-speed Internet access as a path to equity, economic vitality, and citizen engagement. Jamie and Dave share the challenges that came with a rapidly congesting right of way (ROW) landscape, and how that ultimately led to the decision to commit to a citywide conduit model that has attracted Google Fiber. Finally, Chris, Jamie, and Dave talk about what the citywide conduit system will do for business development and city residents once it’s complete.
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We want your feedback and suggestions for the show-please e-mail us or leave a comment below.
Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.
Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.
Jamie Letzring: You really can't go wrong when the idea is that you're trying to offer your residents best price, best speed, competition for your business. It just feels like a real slam dunk for everyone.
Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: Welcome to episode 426 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. This is Ry Marcattilio-McCracken here at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Today, Christopher talks with Jamie Letzring, Deputy City Manager for West Des Moines, Iowa, and Dave Lyons, a consultant with the city. Together the group digs into how the city started with a long-term vision called West Des Moines 2036. That, in part, brought local leaders together to discuss universal high-speed Internet access as a path to equity, economic vitality, and citizen engagement. Jamie and Dave shared the challenges that came with a rapidly congesting right-of-way landscape and how that ultimately led to the decision to commit to a citywide conduit model that has attracted Google Fiber. Now, here's Christopher talking with Jamie Letzring and Dave Lyons.
Christopher Mitchell: Welcome to another episode of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. I'm Christopher Mitchell at the Institute For Local Self-Reliance in St. Paul, Minnesota. Today I'm speaking with folks from West Des Moines, which has a very interesting model. We're going to get down to how it came about, and how it developed, and how it works. With that I'm going to introduce Jamie Letzring, the Deputy City Manager from West Des Moines. Welcome to the show.
Jamie Letzring: Good morning. Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Christopher Mitchell: Thank you. We also have Dave Lyons, a consultant with the city of West Des Moines. Welcome.
Dave Lyons: Thanks, Christopher.
Christopher Mitchell: So, I want to just briefly tease that we're going to be talking about a very interesting model. I think we're going to see many more places that gets conduit to every home in the community, also solves a lot of right-away issues, and that you're working with Google Fiber in a very intriguing partnership. We're going to start with some history, though, and I'd like to start with Jamie telling us a bit about West Des Moines, particularly for people who don't spend a lot of time in the Des Moines metro area.
Jamie Letzring: Yeah, certainly. So, West Des Moines, Iowa is a suburb of the capital of Iowa, city of Des Moines. We're a community of about 65,000 people. We've got quite a bit of commercial industry. We've got a healthy balance of commercial industry and residential homes here, and a significant number of apartments, as well. Most of our industry is in finance, banking, a lot of insurance, home mortgage, Wells Fargo. Those type of businesses have some pretty significant headquarters here, including Hy-Vee foods grocery stores also has a headquarters. We're a community with a pretty high graduation rate. A pretty high number of our residents have secondary degrees. Our medium income is above both the state average and the national average. So, it's pretty safe to say we have a high standard of excellence here that's expected from our residents.
Christopher Mitchell: Just another one of the hyper-literate Iowa communities.
Jamie Letzring: That's right. Yep.
Christopher Mitchell: I'm curious about ... I always like to ask a little bit about background. Is getting into this broadband stuff something that you're excited about, or is it one of your duties as the Deputy City Manager where you just feel like, Oh, I have to do this thing.
Jamie Letzring: That's a great question. I would say that it kind of found me. It wasn't something that I was pushing until I got here and I realized that that was an initiative that we were really ... It was something that our community was really missing, and the project really just found me from there. So, I am not, was not, when we started, a subject matter expert on this stuff at all. Daily I'm still learning about fiber, and broadband, and the engineering aspects of it, so, certainly not my background.
Christopher Mitchell: What's the number of premises in the city, like how many households are there?
Jamie Letzring: Let's see, we have probably around 35,000 between our apartment complexes, business locations, if you add up all of the different strip malls and things, and then also single-family homes.
Christopher Mitchell: Great. So, Dave's going to be jumping in with some of this history but, Jamie, I'm going to ask you to get started with how West Des Moines started approaching what has become this massive conduit project.
Jamie Letzring: About four years ago, just as I was arriving and taking on the position as Deputy City Manager the city went through a visioning process with Rebecca Ryan and we created a vision document called Our 2036, kind of our 20-year strategic plan. Of that plan there were several initiatives. Some of the key points, there's about six key points, I guess, and they were things like creating a kitchen cabinet of West Des Moines leaders and residents that were going to help shape, and inform, where the city was heading and what type of big picture ideas that we needed to make sure we were capturing in order to stay relevant, and thriving, and growing.
Jamie Letzring: Another one of our major initiatives in that 2036 plan was to really double-down on technology. At the time when we wrote that four years ago that could have looked a lot of different ways. A lot of communities were still considering, and are considering even now, municipal broadband projects, and that's really kind of initially where we assumed that that would go.
Jamie Letzring: I was charged with really implementing a lot of those initiatives that came from our 20-year strategic plan, but I certainly couldn't do it alone. So, that is when Dave Lyons and I started working together to help implement, really on the forefront, those two initiatives that I mentioned, our Leadership Advisory Board and then also really ramping up the importance the access to technology and high-speed Internet here in our community.
Christopher Mitchell: My assumption is West Des Moines is probably pretty similarly situated to most other communities of your size. You have cable available to just about everyone, probably DSL available in many areas, and perhaps a smattering of areas that are better connected? Is that more or less accurate?
Jamie Letzring: Yeah, that's correct. We have a historic area of our community, Historic Valley Junction, that is sort of our older neighborhoods that tend to be less connected. Then, as you head south and west our community gets younger and newer homes are being built. We don't have the type of Internet coverage that you may suspect from a community our size, and we really saw a large increase in population during the early 2000s when a lot of our industry was taking off and a lot of people were moving to West Des Moines. It just seemed like existing Internet providers couldn't either keep up, or didn't manage to be able to meet the growing need of our residents. So, in the last several years we have sort of fallen behind in terms of available activity, and certainly fallen behind in terms of options for providers.
Christopher Mitchell: I feel like when I hear that there's a group of experts getting together, I feel like a lot of times not a lot comes out of it. But, you formed this West Lab Group and it seems like ... I mean, it's not the only time I've heard about it, but it seems like it's really worked out well. People took it seriously and they got real things out of it.
Jamie Letzring: Yeah, I definitely would say so. One of the things, one of the privileges that we have in working in government is that we are able to call people together. When we call upon people they tend to answer, and they tend to show up and come to those meetings. So, we really called upon the experts, the CEOs within our community, and said, "We need your help shaping the vision and the future of our community to make sure that we're paying attention to things that are extremely important to the success of your business model and our community." They listened. They absolutely said, "Yes, please." We fed them lunch and Dave can speak to his two rules, you start on time, you end on time.
Jamie Letzring: We created this Board and we meet quarterly. I knew at the very beginning that it wasn't something that I would be qualified to facilitate. As a city staff member I needed to be able to take a lot of notes, and often times when you're creating a meeting like that it's best to have an outside third-party facilitating those discussions. They're unattached to the subject matter. They're unattached to the city, and that leaves us free to try to absorb people's reactions and absorb the information. That's when I asked Dave Lyons to join me in facilitating these meetings, and they have just seen some really positive results.
Christopher Mitchell: That seems like a really interesting thread, Dave, with the start on time and end on time. Is that something that's helped make them be more successful?
Dave Lyons: It has. When you bring a group of 40+ CEOs and community leaders together you have to make it worth their time. You have to have an agenda, you have a key point and deliverable of a meeting. You start on time to respect their schedules. You end on time. Usually you'll get everybody to come back to the next meeting.
Dave Lyons: Good. So, West Lab was an interesting challenge. Previously I held positions such as the Economic Development Director for Iowa, the Insurance Commissioner for the state. I've run numerous public and private organization from the CEO level, so I was very used to public/private partnerships. I think that's why West Des Moines gave me a call. I thought it was a unique challenge to form this group and to recognize that it's not about micromanagement, it's about getting high-level input on key challenges and opportunities facing the community, and being both a sounding board and an innovation Board for city leadership.
Dave Lyons: Then, the two subjects that Jamie talked about pretty quickly came together. As we started teasing out with this group of leaders what were their key challenges for the future they jumped all over connectivity, and they made it pretty clear. First of all the city was going to need to treat it as a utility, with the same level of respect, the same level of service and commitment, as any other key utility, regardless of whether it owned it or franchised it, which is a bit of a challenge.
Dave Lyons: The second issue is they felt that the city would be most core competent on the infrastructure and the politics management side, and to do a public/private partnership for customer service, et cetera. Kind of a their, If the city stays in its swim lane and makes it possible through infrastructure for more broadband companies to be investing and able to move forward in West Des Moines everybody will win.
Dave Lyons: The third issue was is that they wanted to make sure that it was equitable. They understand that relying on public/private partnerships you have to have a keen view of equity in the role of government to ensure that every boat rises with the tide. So, they laid out a pretty good roadmap on one of the first issues on broadband, which I was able to take back to city leadership, and we were able to form over three years a series of innovations that I think kind of led us down maybe a third path so to speak for many cities that are very small. They really need to put all the infrastructure in and run an ISP themselves to get a level of service that's world quality. For very large communities they're able to use the density of population to convince people to come in and put in ubiquitous fiber. West Des Moines is kind of halfway in between. We needed a middle path, and with the public/private partnership I think it's going to be very successful.
Christopher Mitchell: This piece of equity I find very interesting because it seems like you get these CEOs together and they could have said, "We need business district fiber. We need fiber to the businesses, or we need conduit, or we need the city to do something within it's lane," but the focus on equity throughout the residents is interesting, and I'm wondering where that comes from.
Jamie Letzring: Part of it is the fact that we have several hospitals here located in West Des Moines, and I think those folks realize that their patients are not always able to make the journey to the facility for that care. Also, those CEOs are thinking more of a state wide. When they're interpreting their business plan they're thinking about it in terms of the entirety of the state. Local hospitals are closing and perhaps the only place that you have in town is maybe that grocery store that also has a bank, and also has a quick clinic care site, and also has a pharmacy. It might be the only place in town that has access to all of those items and, therefore, we need connectivity not just throughout town for everyone but also they were thinking we need connectivity from West Des Moines, our headquarters, into rural parts of Iowa, as well.
Jamie Letzring: So, I think in terms of just using healthcare as an example those hospital CEOs were also thinking to themselves, "Our patients, in an aging population in an aging state don't necessarily need to come into the office for every single visit if we can visit them inside their home virtually." We also included not just business CEOs, but there are about six school districts that West Des Moines overlaps into, and so we had, I think, I want to say at least four of the school superintendents present at almost every meeting. They're carrying with them, obviously, a big message around even just ... Obviously before we were in the midst of a pandemic, but they're carrying a big message around connectivity at home, because our school districts are allowing students to take laptop device, or an iPad. home with them. So, they definitely drove home the message from the school perspective. Dave, I'll let you add any other insights you might have as to how equity reverberated through the group.
Dave Lyons: Well, you hit it pretty well, Jamie. We had a very diverse opinion on what world class connectivity would be, and it included telemedicine. It included tele-education. It included work from home, because a lot of the employers were becoming much more flexible with their workforce. So, everybody saw it not only as a community importance but in each of their business plans connectivity to their customers, to their employees, to their students, et cetera, really became an important issue.
Dave Lyons: They also had an underlying issue that I thought was pretty exciting, as well. They realized that if you could create universal access at a high-quality level you could create a platform for the city to deliver a broader and broader band of services on a very efficient cost platform. So, their concept was that it's not just good for their business but as tax payers the more efficient the city can become, and the faster, quicker, and more effective it can engage citizens, whether they be frail elderly, or whether they be people going through job training, et cetera, they believed it would make the city more competitive in the future to have that infrastructure.
Christopher Mitchell: Now while this is happening, if I have the timeline right in my head, you also are dealing with a challenge in certain rights of way in the city, and you're recognizing that you have some congestion starting to happen perhaps.
Jamie Letzring: Yeah, absolutely. Typically, the city of West Des Moines tries to purchase 65 feet of right away, which is, you think of that as pretty significant. A lot of our major thoroughfares are six lane but we tend to build three lane and then expand that as the traffic need grows. Even in some of our major business districts our 65 feet was becoming rapidly diminishing as wireless carriers were starting to implement 5G throughout the community, and as high-speed broadband interest and demand was growing and increasing. You add in some of our own fiber that we had used to link all of our stoplights to an adaptive traffic system, and everybody has to be in their own conduit, and their own section, and so many inches apart from each other, you can begin to see how that space becomes cramped.
Christopher Mitchell: What happens if you exhaust that? What is the next step for the city? Is it just to tell people, "Too bad, you can't come to this part of town?"
Jamie Letzring: A great question, yeah.
Christopher Mitchell: You just try to avoid that happening I'm guessing?
Dave Lyons: Yeah.
Jamie Letzring: Yeah.
Dave Lyons: The process really was one where we were finding certain key commercial corridors were 85% or more consumed, which creates two challenges for the city. The first is is that once that becomes consumed the private sector has no longer an ability to cost effectively reach them, which means services begin to suffer. The other issue is is that there are a lot of future needs for the public right of way which we haven't even begun to address yet, such as automated vehicles. If there is nothing left in the right of way for the city to use it will have to implement much more expensive options. So, retaining some public safety right of way is always important.
Dave Lyons: There's always private easements, and that is an option to public right of way when it has been consumed, but that's very expensive and very time consuming. There's also alternative routing, which we've used for several carriers. Again, the problem is that the more feet you consume reaching a location the less efficient you are going to be in servicing that location both financially and technologically. Really the goal was to use this effort to solve for three separate simultaneous outcomes. The first is universal access of fiber throughout the community, every business, every person, every residence, et cetera. The second was a method that would allow for the continued expansion of the private sector while preserving public right of way for potential future uses.
Dave Lyons: The third was to put this within an economic envelope that made West Des Moines not only cost effective in delivering all of these services but actually created an incentive, and a competitive advantage, for West Des Moines over competing communities, because let's face it in today's age people can live and work from pretty much wherever they want. Companies can locate and succeed from pretty much wherever they want. So, if what they want is world class connectivity then West Des Moines is going to be their choice.
Jamie Letzring: Dave brings up a really great point that I just wanted to highlight briefly. Meanwhile, the city of West Des Moines enjoys a very fantastic relationship with Microsoft. We are home to, I think, the largest, perhaps maybe the largest number of Microsoft data centers located in any one community. Meanwhile, Microsoft had approached us and was interested in building their third site, which is generally located in the middle of nowhere and south of town and needed to be linked by some roadway infrastructure which would typically utilize tax-increment financing to build infrastructure for any Microsoft projects. They're an excellent corporate partner, and one of the things that came about as a result of that project was a brand-new roadway that opened up about 5000 acres for development on the south and west side of West Des Moines.
Jamie Letzring: However, as I sat in my office and thought, "That's fantastic. We have electricity, we have water, we have [inaudible 00:22:27]" The one thing that we don't have that's going to be very expensive for a new business to locate out there, or an office park to locate out there, is access to fiber, which is going to be a requirement. So, without installing conduit along this roadway it's ready for business but also not quite exactly ready for business. So, when I would wear my economic development hat I really began to think of that access to fiber. While we weren't interested in providing the fiber itself, but access to the fiber is a significant cost for some developers who are building [inaudible 00:23:08] office space. For us we had had some experience installing conduit for these Microsoft sites and thought, "I think we know how to do this. I think we can probably do that efficiently, too." Then, there's really nothing standing in the way of that 5000 acres being officially ready for development.
Christopher Mitchell: I'm just imaging you out there on the machine adjusting the levels of bentonite as you're drilling through the soil.
Jamie Letzring: Yes, in my spare time that is where you'll find me.
Christopher Mitchell: One of the things you found is that ... Or, I forget if you made it happen, but you were able to use tax-increment financing then for the conduit projects?
Jamie Letzring: We were able to utilize tax-increment financing for conduit projects in some areas of town. One of the first things that we did, we have quite a few urban renewal areas across our community. One of the first things that we did when we started thinking of different ways to attack this problem, as Dave said, we had three different issues we were trying to solve for. In another respect we had multiple different attack approaches to solve the same issue, which was connectivity. One of those methods was to find a revenue stream, so we updated our urban renewal plan. We amended our urban renewal plans as they came about and needed to be updated to include verbiage where we could utilize tax-increment financing dollars for conduit in the road right of way.
Christopher Mitchell: So, let me speed ahead a little bit as we're starting to get crunched for time, and tell me if I miss anything important. As you go through you, basically, identify that this conduit system is something that would work. You start prioritizing the areas of town in which you have the biggest crunch to make sure that you're able to get conduit there. You work with private providers to make sure they're good with using this conduit system, or that there are alternatives for them if they choose not to. Then, at a certain point then Google Fiber is knocking at your door. So, what did I miss before Google Fiber is knocking at your door?
Dave Lyons: The only two things, I think, that's also important to point out is that over a three-year period the pilots included not just technical pilots but implementation pilots. For example, in the low income census tracks we did develop a process to test MiFi devices, community-wide WiFi, and point-to-point wireless, to be able to take a broadband service out to low and income moderate households. So, we've been learning at the same time on the equity as we've been learning on the technical, and all of that has kind of fed into an accelerant, I would call it, in relationship to Google Fiber's interest in investing in the build out and West Des Moines as a licensee.
Christopher Mitchell: Thank you. It's a good tease because I really want, after I give you a chance to catch your breath and do the work you're supposed to be doing I want to have you guys back on just to talk about those projects. So, as I understand then, you're working on this and you're thinking about how to fit it in over a longer term and then Google Fiber says, "Hey, we heard through the grapevine you're doing something," and that kind of gets things in the passing lane, I guess we might say?
Dave Lyons: Yep. The question came in, "Very interesting model very forward thinking, love the concept. Would you be able to go faster if you had a major licensee who was willing to step up?" The city had already done quite a bit of work so it was pretty quickly able to say, "Yes, if," and those ifs were, "Are you talking about equity, which would be universal access? Will you take fiber everywhere we take conduit?" The answer was, "Yes."
Dave Lyons: The second issue is is, "Would you be okay with an open access system?" Which means, guess what, if we're building it we're not building it just for you. We are building it as a city infrastructure that, obviously, will reduce your costs for getting into business in West Des Moines, but it reduces everybody's costs. They said, "Yep, so long as people aren't mixing fiber and people aren't in on top of us, et cetera, we're totally good with the open concept."
Dave Lyons: The third issue is is, "Do you understand it's going to take a long-term financial commitment for us to feel comfortable in the city stepping up?" Their answer was, "How about 20 years of guaranteed lease and minimum revenue every year." At that point we realized we really probably could accelerate this vision of a citywide infrastructure that gives carriers the opportunity to reach quicker, faster, lower cost consumers, but at the same time also creates a strong equity backbone for the city to begin looking at, Okay, now how do we peel back the layers of the digital divide and use these new platforms as a means to reach people?
Jamie Letzring: I think to tag onto that very quickly, Dave, the partnership with Google Fiber was important for us, because while we were headed down the road of creating this conduit system throughout our community we didn't have any providers that were saying at that time, "I'd like to go everywhere that you're going to put that conduit." So, a partnership with someone who would be willing to visit each and every household and business where conduit was made available was very important to us, because otherwise we were set to invest the same amount of money without a guarantee that there would be at least one provider option at your doorstep.
Christopher Mitchell: The pricing model then is interesting, I think, for a lot of people because a traditional model is an ISP may get a path to a place and it pays for each of the paths that it uses, but in this case you have any franchisee will be paying for all of the paths that are available, but about 225 a month if I remember correctly?
Dave Lyons: Actually, the city has a goal of creating as much flexibility for private carriers and licensees as possible. So, in Google Fiber's situation the preference there was a per servable address license fee. So, again, the city will link to every servable address and so long as we're linked to that address Google Fiber will pay a license for that address, whether that address ever signs up with Google Fiber or not. They could easily be with somebody else or have no conduit at all, but they're paying for the market presence.
Dave Lyons: We have other licensees, however, who prefer not to license the entire system, and they have asked, and we have agreed, to convert what that per license household would be into a more traditional per linear foot charge. So, carriers really do have options about how they want to license, and we will have a rate card that will assure that there is equity and parity between carriers.
Christopher Mitchell: That's a very nice gentle correction. I always appreciate that. The servable address we would expect, basically, almost all locations in the city, it's just individual property owners could opt out if they decide that they would not like to live in the future?
Jamie Letzring: That's correct.
Dave Lyons: Absolutely correct and, again, the theory is is that the connection to the city conduit network will be free and, I think, most of the households already kind of get it. The ones we've chatted with certainly have. Yes, I would like to have ability to consider other carriers in the future. Even those that are very comfortable with their existing carrier, "I've got a good connection with Century Link," or "I have never had any problems with Mediacom," they still want the connection made, knowing that when they turn around to sell that home in the future the fact that it is connected to fiber that is in a competitive backbone really gives that house another piece that sets it apart.
Dave Lyons: Additionally, they know that it increases their flexibility in the future. Obviously, the pandemic is a perfect example where a number of folks who felt that they had good DSL service, or the cable was fine, suddenly found themselves working from home and having to download large documents and work on engineering issues, et cetera, doing a lot of Zooms and Skypes, and they found that they really had to increase their speed. So, that's the other reason home owners, even if they're not interested right now are still looking at being excited about joining the network, is it gives them a lot more flexibility in the future should they need it.
Christopher Mitchell: So, a couple of quick questions then. One is, who does locates?
Dave Lyons: The city understands it's going to be staffing up to support this process, and in the city it will locate all of the process for implementing the citywide network, and it will work with the carriers for locates going forward on the system itself. Again, think of it as a collaborative conduit system. We will assist with the locates. If there is a cut we will have a SLA, a Service Level Agreement, that gets out there and fixes it. Everybody pays equivalent to the percentage of fiber they have within that conduit. So, if I'm a big user I'll pay a big percentage of it. If I'm a small user I'll pay a small percentage, but everybody shares in the costs of the maintenance, and development, and ongoing capacity of the system.
Christopher Mitchell: Is there a maintenance fee that then goes beyond that per servable address fee?
Dave Lyons: The maintenance fee is actually built into the servable address and the per linear foot costs. We do have the ability to long-term be able to add some additional costs in, but that would then be very transparent in that everyone would have a need to see what the needs for upgrade were in sharing in those costs.
Christopher Mitchell: Anyone that's leasing this can use, the way you've designed it, their own technology, so you could have a home that has access to both an active ethernet approach as well as a GPON system, for instance?
Dave Lyons: Absolutely. The idea is to provide the road, and whether somebody wants to drive a semi, or a Chevelle, or a Volkswagen, it's totally up to them. Whatever services their needs and their customers the best.
Christopher Mitchell: So, I want to thank you both for all this time. I want to make sure we have a chance just to, if there's anything that we missed. One thing I'm curious about, Jamie, is the City Council pretty united on this? Is it something that they're enthusiastic, they feel like they've hit the jackpot?
Jamie Letzring: Absolutely. Yeah, very excited. It feels good to be able to cross one of your to dos off of your 20-year strategic plan only four years into having a plan, working the plan I guess. But, very excited. Equity throughout the community is an initiative that a lot of communities are working on right now. This is just simply digital equity. It's an area that I can be a partner in. There is a lot of equity issues that we still have yet to do work on, and we are working on those. You really can't go wrong when the idea is that you're trying to offer your residents best price, best speed, competition for your business. It just feels like a real slam dunk for everyone. We can offer all of those things without having to increase taxes to do so to pay for the project is really the icing on the cake for us.
Christopher Mitchell: Just a quick question on that then. So, is this just something that's able to locate within existing capital expenditures that are planned then?
Jamie Letzring: Correct. You know, the city enjoys both a AAA bond rating from both Moody's and S&P, so interest rates have been very good to us recently.
Christopher Mitchell: You're almost at the point where banks are going to pay you for this stuff.
Jamie Letzring: It has been pretty remarkable. This last round of bond deals that we did I was just really astonished at how wonderful the rates are. That has been able to afford us some room within our existing debt service levy where we're able to fund the project through where our existing levy is at.
Christopher Mitchell: Is there anything else you want to make sure we cover?
Dave Lyons: Well, Christopher, the one thing is is any project of this size there's going to be somebody who's concerned. So, obviously, we've covered financial, we've covered the physical, we've covered the technological, et cetera. Market expectations, we are getting some reach out from Legacy carriers who are very concerned that reducing the barrier to entry is going to create more competition for their business plans, and that is correct. Again, they understand, for the most part, that we have to respond to consumer expectations, to citizen expectations, and that this is a requirement for quality of life today. They also understand in their hearts that public right of way will soon be completely consumed and they won't have options either.
Dave Lyons: So, we are having a lot of conversations with the industry right now to make sure they understand that this system is an open system, that this system is about preserving right of way and lowering costs and keeping options available, and that we really do think, whether it's Google Fiber, or whether it's Mediacom, or Century Link, or any of the other positive carriers out there, this really will make West Des Moines a place they want to invest.
Christopher Mitchell: Excellent. Any final comments from you, Jamie?
Jamie Letzring: No. Thank you for the time. Dave and I are willing to discuss with others who may have questions to follow up. We're pretty passionate about digital equity and access for all, so I encourage other communities to try something a little out of the box if they're struggling as we were.
Christopher Mitchell: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for both of you, and congratulations on this great model.
Dave Lyons: Thanks, Christopher.
Jamie Letzring: Thank you.
Ry Marcattilio-McCracken: That was Christopher talking with Jamie Letzring and Dave Lyons. We have transcripts for this and other podcasts available at muninetworks.org/broadband bits. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter. His handle is @communitynets. Follow muninetworks.org stories on Twitter. The handle is @muninetworks. Subscribe to this and other podcasts from ILSR including Building Local Power, Local Energy Rules, and the Composting For Community podcasts. You can access them anywhere you get your podcasts. You can catch the latest important research from all of our initiatives if you subscribe to our monthly newsletter at islr.org. While you're there please take a moment to donate. Your support in any amount keeps us going. Thank you to Arne Huseby for the song Warm Duck Shuffle licensed through Creative Commons. This was episode 426 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast. Thanks for listening.