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Community Broadband

At the same time the city is in the planning stages for the Community Broadband project, CenturyLink is completing a private fiber optic construction project in Boulder. These are separate projects and the city is only involved in the CenturyLink project as it would be for any privately-funded infrastructure project.

Community Broadband Summary

The city’s vision is to provide a world-class community telecommunications infrastructure to Boulder for the 21 st 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.  Based on current guiding principles, this service would provide an opportunity for every home, business, non-profit organization, government entity and place of education to access a fast affordable, and secure connection, and to provide the infrastructure necessary to support future technologies, such as advanced mobility and sensor-based (Smart City) analytic infrastructures.

In 2018, staff met with council to evaluate possible options for achieving community broadband and garnered council decision on model for moving forward. 2018 also marked the beginning of detailed planning the broadband project including project structure and resourcing. In the fall staff issued an RFP for detailed backbone design and strategy services. Staff also received a proposal on an alternative operating model which it reviewed with council in a December council meeting. The city plans to launch construction in 2019.

2019 – Q1

Following direction from Council to continue with a traditional design, then build and provide City financing, the following project steps have been taken: 

  • A firm (Magellan Advisors) were selected to provide design services specific to the lay-out of a new city-wide, underground, fiber optic backbone 
  • Magellan and city staff have performed outreach to potential users of the new fiber backbone which includes understanding current and future needs of multiple city departments and various other stakeholder groups 
  • This design will go through various reiterations as it progresses through City review and will be adjusted to accommodate known field conditions and changes that may be required prior to commencing construction 

2019 – Q2

The following steps are anticipated 

  • In early Q2 the initial design of fiber optic backbone should be complete with a focus on the expected costs to complete construction 
  • At the end of Q2, we should be nearing completion of the final backbone design that reflects local field conditions and enables the creation of actual construction packages that ultimately go out to bid for construction companies to bid on to build the new fiber optic backbone 
  • In parallel to the backbone design work, the City will be investigating various approaches to the actual operation, business and financial model of the backbone 
  • The City will also be organizing to issue Certificates of Participation to actually fund the required project work

2019 Planned Action – Q3 and Q4

Key activities that are planned for the rest of 2019 include

  • Finalize the backbone design and total materials required
  • Issue Certificates of Participation to fund the construction
  • Shortlisting and ultimately contracting with a construction firm to build the new fiber optic backbone infrastructure
  • Agreeing to a master schedule of when the new fiber optic backbone will be constructed
  • Investigate how partners may wish to engage with the City and use the new fiber optic backbone to both transform the local broadband market and enable services for community members and also provide new opportunities for the City to explore applicable smart city services and applications
  • Begin construction with applicable oversight
  • Begin the process for partner(s) selection that would use the new fiber backbone

Planned Actions Beyond 2019


  • The goal is to have the new backbone complete and ready for service prior to or by the start of 2022. As with all major construction projects, especially those that are underground, there are many variables and this high-level schedule is subject to change.  

2018 Milestones

  • January —Boulder City Council received an update on the broadband options currently available to customers in Boulder through a study session. Council directed staff to proceed with analysis of broadband options.
  • May —Staff brought council five possible broadband models, including the option to refrain from moving forward at all. Staff presented broadband business models, costs, the relationship between broadband and municipalization, potential take rates and examples of cities that have different broadband models. Council expressed interest in proceeding with construction of a fiber backbone to begin implementing the project’s goals and preserve the city’s future options for several different broadband business models.
  • City staff and technical consultants further researched and refined the backbone proposal and conducted a statistically valid phone survey about market conditions and voter preferences related to community broadband.
  • June —City Council unanimously passed a motion to proceed with development of a fiber backbone in support of the city’s broadband goals.  
  • September —Staff issued a request for proposal (RFP) for detailed backbone design with a plan to procure design services, then construction services and then maintain the backbone ourselves. It received 13 responses.
  • November —Staff reviewed vendor proposals and conducted interviews with 6 vendors. One vendor proposed an alternative to the city’s proposed model. The proposed model is for the city to pay a vendor to design build operate and maintain the backbone which could reduce overall costs to the city but comes with tradeoffs.

If council gives direction to pursue a lease to own model staff will:

  • Issue an additional RFP in the market for design build operate and maintain services to move into this step via a more specific competitive bid and/or
  • Begin direct negotiations with the proposing design build operate and maintain vendor
  • Engage and solicit potential users of the system

If council does not give direction to pursue a lease to own model and continue with a traditional design, then build and city financed approach then staff will:

  • Select a firm to support design services only
  • Conduct detailed backbone design
  • Engage and solicit potential users of the system
  • Procure construction services to build the backbone

Anticipated Council Action 

  • Review and provide feedback on fiber and business model design once complete. Anticipating council discussion Q3 2019. 


  • Julia Richman, Chief Innovation and Technology Officer, 720-390-0738 or [email protected] .