Fast, affordable Internet access for all.
Content tagged with "boulder"
Boulder, Colorado officials have issued a new request for proposal (RFP) seeking partners for their ongoing quest to deliver affordable fiber to the city of 104,000.
According to an announcement by Boulder leaders, the city is offering potential partners a long-term lease of city-owned dark-fiber backbone infrastructure and a right of way agreement for the construction and operation of a network delivering Internet service offering 1 Gbps or more to all Boulder homes and businesses. Responses are due by March 1.
When we last checked in with Boulder in April of last year, the city was putting the finishing touches on a $20 million, 65-mile dark fiber backbone, funded by the competitive sale of its 2018 Broadband Taxable Certificates of Participation (COPs). The competitive sale was used to ensure that Boulder could get the lowest interest rates possible in financing the construction of the backbone.
While the process was technically started back in 2018, and then delayed by the pandemic, city officials remained committed to moving the project forward.
“What we are trying to do in Boulder – if we can find the right partner or partners – is about creating more competition; increase the competitive marketplace locally,” project manager and independent consultant Tim Scott told ILSR last year.
Like so many U.S. communities, Boulder sees limited competition between the local cable company (Comcast) and the local phone company (Centurylink/Lumen) resulting in slow speeds, spotty coverage, high prices, and substandard customer service.
With the construction of its 65-mile dark fiber backbone nearly complete, city officials in Boulder, Colorado are now ready to move into the next phase of their plan: test the waters for a partnership with private or nonprofit Internet service providers (ISPs) to build out a citywide fiber network to deliver last mile service to the city’s 104,000 residents and businesses.
Last week, the city issued a Request for Information (RFI) “to gauge the interest of for-profit and nonprofit entities in forming a public–private partnership (PPP) with the city to make Gigabit per second-class bandwidth available to all Boulder homes and businesses.”
“As we prepare for further City Council discussion on a future community broadband operating model, it is imperative that we understand the market potential for a PPP (public-private partnership) to meet the city’s goals related to connectivity. We look forward to responses that consider a variety of business models to share technological and operational responsibilities and financial risk with the city in innovative ways,” Innovation and Technology Deputy Director Mike Giansanti said in a press statement when the RFI was issued.
The city is looking for a partner or partners that will come to table with new ideas, create competition, and either fully fund or share costs.
Having prioritized a city-wide fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) build, city officials have identified two main goals: serve the growing demand for “affordable, reliable, and sophisticated broadband technology; and support a thriving business environment.”
Responses to the RFI are due by May 19 at 4 pm MDT.
City officials say they will consider a range of construction and operation designs as well as a variety of ownership models as the City Council will likely vote on the path forward and the execution of a contract sometime this year.
This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by ILSR colleagues Sean Gonsalves (Senior Editor and Communications Team Lead) and DeAnne Cuellar (Outreach Team Lead) for a roundup of recent news. They talk about the release of our new tracking and advocacy tool, the Affordable Connectivity Program dashboard, the pace and speed of the municipal broadband build in Pharr, Texas, pilot program aimed at low-income households in Syracuse, New York, Boulder, Colorado's broadband plan, and Erie County, New York's revived connectivity plan.
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.
This year's Mountain Connect conference begins Monday, May 23rd and runs through Wednesday, May 25 in Keystone, Colorado. The conference's self-stated goal is to "move our western US communities forward by providing relevant and targeted content to help them make the most effective decisions as they build new or expand existing telecommunications infrastructure that enable the long-term vision of a community."
It will feature panels on navigating state and federal funding, telehealth, disaster resilience, digital inclusion, tribal connectivity, construction challenges, and communications and technology standards.
We'll also get to hear an array of conversations with local leaders, talking about everything from revitalizing downtowns with new municipal broadband infrastructure, to partnerships, to open access, to marketing, to managing subscriber expectations. See the full agenda here.
Anchoring the panels will be communities like Boulder, Colorado, Loveland, Colorado, and Detroit, Michigan, with familiar faces and industry veterans helping to break things down in clear ways, including Peggy Schaffer (ConnectME), Joshua Edmonds (Director of Digital Inclusion, Detroit), Brian Snider (Lit Communities), Bruce Patterson (EntryPoint Networks), and Gary Bolton (Fiber Broadband Association).
ILSR's DeAnne Cuellar will be participating on a digital inclusion panel moderated by NDIA's Paolo Balboa with Colorado Department of Labor's Katherine Keegan. Likewise, Christopher Mitchell will moderate a panel with Peggy Schaffer, Eric Forsch (Idaho Commerce) and Veneeth Iyengar (ConnectLA) to talk about how states will use the BEAD money. See the full slate of speakers here.
Over the past several years, Boulder has worked methodically to research how they want to move forward with a publicly owned network. The city has determined that the first step will be deploying a fiber optic backbone, to be completed by 2022. In order to help interested vendors learn more about the project prior to issuing the Request for Proposals (RFP), the city will hold a webinar on August 29th at 9 a.m. MDT.
As described by the city:
Hosted by the City of Boulder’s Chief Innovation and Technology Officer, Julia Richman, the webinar will outline the initiative’s background and progress to date. In addition, the city will also cover the high-level specifications and expectations for construction services, while also providing an expected solicitation timeline.
Boulder is building the first step of a world-class community telecommunications infrastructure for the 21st Century and beyond. Broadband connectivity is a critical infrastructure service for quality of modern life, as is the case with roads, water, sewer and electricity.
The webinar will take place via teleconference and if time allows, the city will open the floor for a brief Question & Answer period.
Ready to Build
Earlier this month, the Boulder City Council voted to issue certificates of participation in the amount of $20 million to finance backbone construction. Certificates will be sold in September.
The 65-mile backbone will take about two years to complete and city leaders hope to wrap up preliminary contracts in order to begin construction in December. While they hope to finish this phase of the project by early 2022, Boulder officials acknowledge that this is a “high-level” schedule and subject to change.
Take Action Screening Guide: Learn About Municipal Networks, Connect With Neighbors, Share This Film in Your Community
Generate conversation about broadband access in your community with a screening of the short film, "Do Not Pass Go." We have created a helpful guide on how to host a screening of the film in your community. Spend some time connecting with others who share your questions about local options and want to learn more.
About the Film
Documentary filmmaker Cullen Hoback traveled to Pinetops, North Carolina, to experience firsthand the battle between municipal networks and private providers.
Pinetops is a rural small town that receives high-speed Internet service from the nearby City of Wilson, North Carolina. The large ISPs have tried to put a stop to this with a state law, and all the red tape might kill the small town.
Download the Guide
Not sure how to host a screening? Get going with this guide.
- Basic information about community networks
- Logistics of hosting a screening from location to outreach
- Discussion questions about broadband in your community
The guide is 13 pages long and is available for download as a PDF. We produced the guide with Next Century Cities.
Host a Screening
There have already been three screenings across the U.S. in Marietta, Ohio; Atlanta, Georgia; and Rochester, Minnesota. The community group Broadband & Beers has a planned screening for April 17th, 2018, in Boulder, Colorado. Let us know if you show the film in your town!
This November, more Colorado towns and counties will be voting on whether to opt out of the 12-year-old SB 152, a state law that restricts broadband development.
Sweeping Out the Old
Senate Bill 152 has hindered communities’ ability to invest in Internet infrastructure and provide service themselves or with private sector partners. Many communities are realizing that national carriers can’t be relied on to provide high-quality Internet access. To date, at least 98 communities across the state of Colorado have voted to reclaim local telecommunications authority by opting out of SB 152; a handful are considering actually pursuing a publicly owned network.
Opening the Door for Options
For some towns and counties, the ballot question is simply a way to keep their options open and to reclaim local authority that the state took away in 2005. As we’ve seen in Westminister, Maryland, public-private partnerships can be a great option for communities. Being out from under SB 152 will allow these municipalities to explore high-quality network options if the opportunity arises. Additionally, when towns give themselves the ability to explore new providers and different models, current ISPs tend to take notice and adapt accordingly. Beyond these options and ripple effects from shedding SB 152, some towns simply want autonomy and freedom from sweeping state regulation.
In Eagle County, they recognize climbing out from under SB 152 will allow them to consider more substantial steps for taking back local power and implementing a high-speed network. They’ve yet to conduct any feasibility studies but in their yearly Legislative Policy Statement they made it clear that they’re motivated to improve connectivity.
Ushering in the New
Recently, Christopher spoke with Glenwood Springs, Colorado, about their venture into providing high-quality Internet access for the community. They were, to our knowledge, the first Colorado community to pass a referendum reclaiming local telecommunications authority. The voters in Glenwood Springs chose to opt out of SB 152 and reclaim that authority in 2008.
Last fall was a banner season for local communities deciding to no longer be limited by the state restrictions borne out of big cable lobbying. More than four dozen municipalities and counties voted on the issue and all of them passed, many with huge margins. In the spring of this year, nine more towns joined the fray, including Mancos, Fruita, and Orchard City. There are also over 20 counties and number of school districts that have taken the issue to voters and voters responded overwhelmingly saying, “YES! WE WANT LOCAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS AUTHORITY!”
Most of these communities have not expressed an intent to invest in publicly owned infrastructure, but a few places are engaged in feasibility studies, are raising funding, or even in the midst of projects. For most of them, the question of autonomy was the overriding issue - local communities want to be the ones to make the decisions that will impact them at home.
One year ago, a wave started in Colorado as voters in a handful of communities chose to reclaim the local telecommunications authority revoked by CenturyLink lobbyists in 2005. This year, the wave is even bigger.
Colorado Communities Want the Choice
As 2015 election day approaches, voters in 43 Colorado communities are on track to keep the momentum going across the state. A total of 17 counties, 26 towns, and at least 3 school districts are taking the issue to voters, reports the Colorado Municipal League. Referendums to opt out of restrictive SB 152 will take place across the state, much to the chagrin of big ISPs who spent millions in lobbying dollars to get the bill passed.
Local Support: “Yes” in Steamboat Springs
The Board of Trustees for the city of Firestone, CO is evaluating the feasibility of a new municipal broadband service for this growing town of about 10,000 people that sits just 30 miles north of Denver. This according to a recent report in the Times-Call newspaper in Longmont, Colorado. The feasibility study will compare Firestone’s existing telecommunications infrastructure with those in nearby communities such as Longmont and Boulder that already have municipal networks. It will also assess the potential for growth of the service in Firestone to a nearby 3,500-home community development project.
It would be travesty to build a 3,500 home development without having a plan for high quality Internet access. Even if CenturyLink or Comcast were to deploy fiber optics there, the community should ensure there are plans for conduit or an open network to allow multiple service providers to provide a real choice.
A 2005 Colorado state law barring municipalities from providing internet service to their citizens has been an obstacle for Longmont and Boulder in their pursuit of their own city-run broadband services. Telecommunications companies in the Longmont area spent $200,000 on a campaign that helped defeat the referendum in 2009 and $400,000 more in 2011. But citizens in Longmont successfully voted in the 2011 referendum to exempt their town from the law and build their own community broadband network. As we wrote in May, Longmont’s NextLight fiber-based municipal broadband service, which started just 2 years ago, is now among the fastest internet services in the United States.