- Published: 21 July 2022
Mesa approved license agreements for Google Fiber and three more fiber-optic companies Monday in the city’s attempt to bridge the digital divide.
SiFi, Ubiquity, Wyyerd and Google Fiber are now authorized to begin the permitting process on installing fiber-optic networks in the City’s rights of way. The move is part of an effort to bring full fiber-optic network connectivity to Mesa and fulfil a “need for fast, reliable and affordable internet service,” the city said in an announcement.
Google Fiber announced it will bring its gigabit speed, fiber-to-the home internet network to Mesa on July 1, making Mesa the first city in Arizona with Google Fiber.
At the time of the announcement, Google Fiber and New Jersey-based SiFi Networks were on the agenda for Mesa City Council. By Monday night, Ubiquity and Wyyerd joined the fold, resulting in four approved license agreements.
SiFi announced the launch of the Mesa Fibercity Open Access Network, a $400 million project that looks to provide the fastest residential speeds available in the U.S. to all Mesa homes. Pricing will be from $59.99 per month for one gigabit, the company said Tuesday.
While the companies aren’t guaranteed to build networks in Mesa, “our belief is that they wouldn’t really be pursuing these licenses unless they had a real desire to get going,” said Ian Linssen, assistant to the city manager of Mesa.
In parallel to these licenses, Mesa approved the construction of "micro-trenching" in the city’s rights-of-way, a technique that places micro conduits and fiber-optic cables in small slot trenches a maximum 2.5 inches wide along streets. The conduits will be a minimum of 6 inches underground on residential and collector streets and 10 inches on arterial streets.
Linssen said micro-trenching is faster and less disruptive than traditional boring, which goes three feet underground. Mesa is also encouraging companies to do construction together in a method called joint trenching or utility coordination.
A Mesa priority for years
Mesa Mayor John Giles said this process has been years in the making. After the city realized taking it on as an infrastructure project would be cost-prohibitive — to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, it put out a national request for information solicitation in January.
Giles wants to “future-proof” Mesa as technology gets incrementally better and infrastructure lags behind. Going to fiber, which will be how the world connects to the internet for the next few decades, would be “the gold standard,” he said.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit Mesa, the digital divide between those with internet access and those without deepened, Linssen said. As everyone relied more on internet connectivity, the need for additional connectivity and greater speeds increased, he noted.
“What we discovered is that this problem is not simply cured by giving someone access to a device,” but by making internet an essential utility like water and running water, Giles said.
While this is not a city infrastructure project, Giles said he expects the prices of fiber-optic internet to drop at least 40% as the number of providers increases, expanding access to lower-income communities.
SiFi’s FiberCity Aid program will make about 33,000 households in Mesa eligible for reduced-cost internet, according to a statement. Ashley Church, general manager for the west region of Google Fiber said Google Fiber is always looking into ways to make its product affordable and available for low-income residents, similar to the basic free service available in Austin, Texas.
Future public private partnerships between the city and companies might also close the gap, Linssen said.
Expanding the internet market
With four licenses, Mesa is looking to clear hurdles for the providers and let market competition play out. The additions expand options for residents and competition between businesses.
“Residents are going to have the opportunity to see additional options that provide them with the latest technology,” said Linssen.
Cox and Lumen already provide broadband internet service in Mesa. A City of Mesa survey said 75% of residents have some form of landline broadband connection, but 8% of residents still rely on cell phone data to connect online.
Google Fiber previously attempted to build a network in Tempe. Cox sued the city in 2015, claiming the “video services license” Tempe granted to Google Fiber violated the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 and favored the company over other providers.
Another attempt by Google Fiber to make its way into Phoenix was also stalled in 2016.
“We were very cognizant of the lawsuit, and we wanted absolutely to avoid a scenario like that,” said Linssen. “And we think we did because the idea here is that … we’re not granting exclusivity. We’re not granting any sort of special status.”
The future of fiber-optic
Businesses will be looking for a city with good infrastructure, making fiber-optic internet a selling point for Mesa, Giles said.
Giles expects other cities to follow suit, locally and nationally.
“I think it demonstrates that we have a keen eye for the obvious, you know. That is, having good internet service is an essential part of providing infrastructure for our residents in the 21st century,” Giles said.
Mesa is talking with even more fiber-optic internet providers and working closely with legacy providers.
Autor(en)/Author(s): Nienke Onneweer
Quelle/Source: Phoenix Business Journal, 13.07.2022