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City approves contract for municipal fiber rollout

City council took two steps toward municipal gigabit internet access on Tuesday, June 19, approving a rough plan to staff the utility and executing a contract to design and build the first phase of the project.

The approved contract is with Magellan Advisors, who previously developed the plan for municipal fiber in Centennial, Colorado. Megellan will “provide design, engineering, and construction management services for the implementation of the City’s fiber-to-the-premise network,” according to the city council packet. The first year of the contract will cost around $704,896.

In late May city council decided to build out municipal fiber across the city, starting in South Hillsboro and the Shute Park area. Rolling out the entire network could take a decade, according to city officials, but when it’s done residents can expect to pay $50 for gigabit internet connectivity, according to city estimates. Hillsboro residents routinely pay more than that for a tiny fraction of the bandwidth.

Broadband industry representatives have been silent on the matter until now, but an Oregon Telecommunications Association representative spoke before last week’s meeting to express concern about the plan.

“We are proud to report that our members…already provide high speed internet, including one gig service,” she said. The representative, whose name I did not catch, went on to say residents “already have access to competitive pricing.”

Of course, not one ISP is offering gigabit speeds in the entire city—coverage is limited to particular areas, and where gigabit speeds are offered they’re priced much higher than $50 a month over the long term (one year lock-in deals don’t count). Heck, I pay $45 a month for 30mbps, which is 3% the bandwidth of gigabit, and that price goes up every year. If there’s really “competitive pricing” available I’d love to learn about it.

Anyway, the industry rep pushed on.

“The city should proceed cautiously, update their business case, and ask whether pursuing an infrastructure project is something that citizens would choose,” she said.

Here’s how to contact City Council, if you’d like to tell them whether this is an infrastructure project you would choose.

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