Fiber report offers options

By Thomas Nelson,

Charles City continues to consider offering broadband internet access as a utility.

Eric Lampland, president of Lookout Point Communications, presented information Wednesday evening from a broadband feasibility study his company performed to the city Broadband Commission, Charles City Administrator Steven Diers, City Council member DeLaine Freeseman,  Mayor-elect Dean Andrews and outgoing Mayor James Erb.

Lampland brought up Waverly and Cedar Falls as examples of Iowa cities that have broadband as a utility.

The study presented five models the city could use for bonding to finance a broadband initiative and reviewed some of the technology involved.

Josh Mack, a commission member, asked questions centered on the technology.

According to the study, a city-provided broadband fiber optics system would create 10 full-time jobs during its first year.

A communications supervisor; a sales, marketing and customer service supervisor; customer service staff; sales and marketing employees; operational technical manager; a network consultant; and three technicians would be required. After the first year only two of the technicians would be needed, according to the study.

The broadband services that could be provided include internet data at speeds of 10 Megabits per second, 50 Mbps, 100 Mbps and 1 Gigabit per second, and voice and video services as well.

The prices that the broadband could offer would be less than other regional or local providers, according to the study, with residential 10 Mbps offered at $9.95 per month, 50 Mbps at $45, 100 Mbps at $59, and 1 Gbps at $89. The study also had pricing options for businesses.

“This is higher than some of the nationally best numbers, but lower than where Cedar Falls is,” Lampland said.

Sales will be an important part of the project, he said, and the community should expect competition if it goes forward with the plan.

“I will tell you that Mediacom has changed their strategy from yelling and screaming loudly that ‘you should never do this,’ to waiting until you do it, and then going door to door and cutting prices underneath their cost,” Lampland said. “Expect that behavior to happen.”

The bonds modeled would range from $9 million to $12.4 million with fluctuating costs for capital expenditures. Bonds would be repaid with revenues from the system.

Lampland and commission members considered working with nearby communities for a regional system as Charles City’s best option.

“How much control of your destiny do you want to have?” asked Lampland during the meeting.

A survey from Lookout Point released earlier in 2017 showed that 82.9 percent of Charles City residents who responded say they either are somewhat likely or very likely to switch to a community broadband utility if one was provided.

When the commission meets again it will review options presented in the report. No decisions were made during the meeting Tuesday.

The commission’s next meeting will be 5:45 p.m. Jan. 9 at the City Council Chambers.

Also at the meeting, commission member Sarah Downing said she will be resigning from the commission later on because she will be changing her residence during 2018.

Commission members are appointed by the Charles City mayor.