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Community Broadband

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.

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

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  • Magellan Advisors was selected to provide design services specific to the lay-out of a new city-wide, underground, fiber optic backbone. 
  • ​Magellan and city staff performed outreach to potential users of the new fiber backbone to better understand the current and future needs of multiple city departments and various other stakeholder groups. 
  • The 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. 
  • In early Q2, the initial design of the fiber optic backbone with a focus on the expected costs to complete construction was completed.
  • In parallel to the backbone design work, the City investigated various approaches to the actual operation, business and financial model of the backbone. 
  • The city organized to issue the Certificates of Participation which will fund the required project work.
  • At the end of Q2, the fiber optic backbone design was completed. The design included local field conditions which enabled the creation of the construction packages that will be used in the bidding process for the build.
  • On April 23, 2019 additional funding for high priority network laterals in addition to dark fiber broadband backbone was approved. ​ Fiber and Broadband Presentation to Council  and  April 23, 2019 Council Meeting Minutes
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  • Finalized the fiber optic backbone design and total materials required.
  • Issued Certificates of Participation to fund the construction.  August 6, 2019 Council Meeting Minutes
  • On August 6, 2019 City Council adopted the Certificates of Participation to fund the required project work. 
  • On September 10, 2019, the City of Boulder will have a competitive sale of its 2018 Broadband Taxable Certificates of Participation (COP’s). The competitive sale is conducted to ensure the City receives the lowest interest rates on the transaction.
  • In Mid-Septemper, the city expects to release the construction Request for Proposals (RFP).
  • In  Mid-October, the RFP is expected to close.
  • In Mid-November, a contractor will be selected and the contract is expected to be finalized. 
  • In December, construction is expected to begin.
  • 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.