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Northern Colorado Broadband

Loveland Council Explores Broadband Proposals from Six Providers-
My Personal Take-Aways
R. Toftness

January 31, 2018

  The council meeting on 1/30 was very interesting and informative with six possible providers of internet networks presenting their capabilities and proposed solutions for Loveland. The public was sternly reminded that any clapping or comments would not be appreciated. I was especially careful after last month’s admonishment by a councilor for smiling during the meeting.​​

Comcast did a snappy job of presenting itself as a civic minded, generous organization that values customer service above all else. They also stated with a straight face that they had no part in the misleading ad campaign during the recent Fort Collins vote. “It was all the Fort Collins Chamber of Commerce and the American Cable Association that financed all of the $990,000 in advertising” they stated with certainty. Century Link provided a rambling presentation without an obvious point. Others provided concepts of business models ranging from totally financing and operating a network to partnering with the city in any way possible. The word partnering was splashed around a lot.

There also was the usual spreading of fear and doubt that a city could not operate a network even though there are 750 municipal networks across the USA and 200 network providers in Colorado alone. Therefore, it must be easily doable.

My take-aways were as follows:

  • All the hype about 5G replacing fiber in the future is just that, hype. 5G is going to require fiber and lots of it. Anyone that has studied 5G and its technology already knows this fact but it was good to hear multiple people state the same conclusion.

  • The investment level in Loveland by Comcast and Century Link is not going to change. The massive investment they have announced will be spent on high density areas that will provide the rapid return they demand. Loveland is way down the list. One presenter classed the areas they will invest in as NFL Cities.

  • Cities are working to insure their control of future technology. The gentleman from Mox stated that the reason Culver City was putting in their own network was the city wanted to insure they had an infrastructure that would last into the future. They wanted control and assurance of connectivity for whatever technology developed in the future be it 5G, smart city applications or whatever. Not unlike Loveland, Culver City sees this technology as a key element to their cities economic future.(See news piece on City of Arvada's Fiber Plan)

  •  F​iber is a great technology. Several of the presenters stated that we should expect it to last 30 to 50 years and be easily upgradable. Obviously Comcast and Century Link, the two big boys in Loveland, think the same as they are both expanding their use of fiber to extend their coax cable or old telephone network to carry more capacity. They are doing this only as necessary and at a very slow pace. Given their rate of Loveland investments it could be a very long time until we would have decent connectivity throughput the city.

  • The big elephant in the room was how much this would cost and how to finance the project. Several of the presenters offered to finance the network by using private equity. The return required by private equity firms is very high compared to municipal bond rates. Anyone that thinks it is low or that a city is going to get a really great rate is in for a surprise. The cost of the money to build a network is a large portion of the project cost. Greater rates of return to investor’s means higher rates to customers; probably much higher rates. The use of others people’s money may seem like a way to reduce risk, but if it makes the subscription costs for the network much higher, it may cause the subscription rate to plummet leaving the entire project in jeopardy. 

After thoughtfully considering the presentations of last night, the opportunity of Loveland partnering with Longmont and Fort Collins in a public-public partnership and using the fiber already available from PRPA seems too good to pass up.

As recommended by several of the presenters. Loveland’s next step should be to get an accurate estimate and engineering plan which details how much network build and operation would cost. 

Loveland needs to move forward and at the next council meeting vote to initiate the process as recommended by the Broadband Task Force. It is a wise investment in our communities’ future. I would encourage you to email your counselor and tell them what you think.