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Content tagged with "Waterloo"
Decorah, Iowa is moving forward on a long-percolating plan to expand the city’s core fiber ring to provide affordable broadband access to long-neglected residents and businesses.
While the project has been discussed for years, local officials tell ISLR the project gained renewed momentum during peak COVID, and is creeping closer to launch.
Contracts are still being finalized as the city hopes to spend somewhere around $12 to $15 million to deliver fiber to all 3,000 potential subscriber locations. The full project would take about three years to deliver fiber to all 7,740 city residents, with the first subscribers potentially coming online this fall.
“Decorah has been in pursuit of fiber to the premises for the last 8 to 9 plus years and we finally have broken through some of our challenges on how to get to the finish line,” Chopper Albert, Decorah IT Director told ISLR.
According to Albert, Decorah’s recent progress is thanks in part to new City Manager Travis Goedken, who has long advocated for expanding the city’s existing fiber network to drive affordable fiber access citywide.
New City Management Team Pushes Forward
Since 2013 the city has owned an 11-mile core fiber network, dubbed the Decorah MetroNet. MetroNet was born out of frustration after a major flood in 2008 across much of Iowa resulted in prolonged communications network outages.
MetroNet (not to be confused with the Indiana-based ISP that goes by the same name) currently provides access to Luther College and 18 additional government buildings and anchor institutions.
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.
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.
The City of Waterloo, Iowa has been flirting with the idea of building a municipal fiber network since 2005 when voters approved the creation of a municipal utility service. Voters said yes to the concept then but were not asked to put any money behind it.
"We were so excited we passed it, and then nothing happened. (The plan had) been gathering dust for 16 years," at-large Councilor Sharon Juon, a member of the city’s broadband committee in 2005, told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier when the city council unanimously approved a $2.5 million contract with Magellan Advisors to design and engineer a fiber network last fall.
This is something our city needs so desperately. We've lost businesses because we don't have the broadband needed.
Now, officials in this northeast Iowa city of 68,000 residents (the eighth-largest city in the state) are ready to take the next step, going back to voters with a ballot question that seeks approval for the city to borrow $20 million to build the network backbone.
Voters will head to the polls to decide the question on September 13. It will need 60 percent approval at the ballot box for the measure to pass.
The ‘Time is Here’
Characterizing the effort to build future-proof fiber infrastructure as “good for the long-range interest of this community,” Waterloo Mayor Quentin Hart told The Courier:
For the past 15 to 20 years, the city has done a lot of talking of needing to do this and to work for our own fiber network, and the time is here.
Should the ballot measure pass, the funds would be used to build a 100-mile fiber backbone to support the city’s sewer, storm water, traffic, and water systems. Consultants to the city have said that general obligation bonds are not required, but would be used to lower the cost of financing the overall project.
Last summer we wrote about the slow but steady progress the city of Waterloo, Iowa (pop. 68,000) has been making towards improving local connectivity options for residents and businesses needing it. The city hired Magellan Advisors to perform a feasibility study for a possible Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network in the fall of 2019, but things have been mostly quiet since, with news outlets reporting on a reluctance to release the results of the study for fear of what incumbent cable provider Mediacom would might do to hinder its efforts.
These fears are not without reason, given the company’s previous efforts in the region to slow the specter of municipal competition with lawsuits, complaints, and propaganda efforts in its service territory.
When last we heard the feasibility study would be released this spring, and while we still have not seen a copy, Waterloo must be encouraged. The city’s Telecommunications Board of Trustees established a resident-led municipal broadband utility committee on January 27th, giving the group the charge of tackling “risk mitigation, community marketing, digital infrastructure and finance and business strategy” for a future network.
When the announcement was made, Board Chair Andy Van Fleet said the work would serve as "critical pillars to move this project forward successfully when the time is right to turn the plan into actionable items."