The Broadband Advisory Task Force is preparing to complete their work for the city. On Wednesday, they approved the draft of a letter from Chair Chris Clements, but authorized him to make minor revisions prior to submittal.
The letter comes as the city prepares once again to bring a potential contract with Astound Broadband back to the council for approval. Staff on Wednesday indicated that could come back to council within the month.
In early April, council heard from a number of citizens prior to a closed session meeting with regard to that contract, which would allow Astound to “bring fiber-optic cable into the City of Davis using existing City owned conduit to supply high speed network to their existing and future customers.”
Rob Nickerson has argued that the contract “is backwards” and “a big giveaway to a company.”
In their letter to council, the contract with Astound is not mentioned, however, Mr. Clements writes, “I find it important to stress that the overall consensus of the Task Force is that the time has never been more important than now to take significant action towards this effort.”
He argues, “With the empty promises of faster networks, all wireless options, and even dense fiber deployments, it is the community that suffers as these technologies just never seem to penetrate the masses and provide a common platform that all can call their own.”
Instead, the letter reaffirms the BATF recommendation that “City Council support the concept of implementing a community owned broadband network in the City of Davis.”
That includes exploring community interest toward the concept of a community owned broadband network.
Doug Dawson, a consultant hired to help BATF wit the feasibility study, developed a survey which consisted of 30 questions and was responded to by 350 residents of Davis.
The survey generated three “statistically valid” findings: “People in the City want a municipal fiber network, they don’t know how fast their internet connection is today, and they feel they are paying too much for what they are receiving in terms of quality of service and throughput.”
The results “demonstrate the desire of the community to have a more robust, fairly priced alternative to the commercial networks that are currently available in the community.”
Mr. Clements notes, “In order to move the project forward, it will require technical expertise beyond the volunteer BATF composition.”
Here the financial component is deemed critical: “Throughout the majority of the analysis that was performed by the BATF, one message was recurring more than any other. That was the need to spend some time and effort to understand the financial options that could be used to make this program a success.”
Along these lines they believe “it will be critical that an expert in alternative financing options be consulted.”
Therefore, the BATF recommends “that the City engage with someone with background and expertise in order to understand the financial possibilities that will make the deployment possible.”
Mr. Clements writes: “From a starting point, the most natural option would be to investigate the network requirements and connectivity needs that are essential to satisfy the data needs once served by the iNet network. This will afford the city a first-hand account of the power a fiber network will provide the rest of the community. In addition, it sends the message that the City is willing to support the project to the extent it is using the network on a daily basis to run the City.
“As with any major undertaking, the devil is in the details,” he continues. “Building a new fiber network is no different. Because of this fact, it is imperative that a technical group inclusive of the City engineers be put together to review the options that will detail the network build out.”
In conclusion he writes: “While the BATF prepares to disassemble, the emotion and passion around the concept of a municipal fiber project could not be any more intensified. We strongly feel that with the right level of technical engineering and financial exploration, not only will the City be successful in deploying this utility to the community, but would also pave the way for massive economic development.
“The network would create the ability for businesses around the world to employ work from home professionals in the City of Davis.”
Mr. Clements provides “numerous examples of how the community would benefit from such a powerful utility” and implores Mayor Brett Lee and the council to “take the next step.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting