Palo Alto's super-high-speed Internet dream lives again [Palo Alto Daily News, Calif.]
(Palo Alto Daily News (CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sept. 18--Palo Alto's on-again, off-again goal of bringing super-high-speed Internet access to every corner of the city appears to be back on again.
On Tuesday, the city council's Technology Committee enthusiastically backed a proposal by City Manager James Keene to develop a "fiber-to-the-premise" master plan and issue a request for proposals, or RFP, to build out the existing dark fiber optic system in Palo Alto.
Ultimately, it will be up to the city council whether to proceed with the endeavor, which is expected to cost $100,000 to $350,000, depending on the level of environmental review that is required. The money would come out of the city's $15.3 million fiber fund reserve.
"Given the upturn in the economy, the city believes there is potential renewed interest from telecommunication service providers in building a network in Palo Alto," utilities management specialist James Fleming told the committee.
A master plan that includes the engineering and environmental studies needed to build a network is the key to attracting a provider, Keene said. As a technical document, it would differ from previous failed efforts that focused on business plans and soliciting firms for proposals to build and operate a network.
"From what I can tell, this is completely different from the two other RFPs that were done," said Vice Mayor Nancy Shepherd.
Some members of the public who have followed the years-old fiber-to-the-premise saga weren't convinced.
"It seems to me that we've done study after study. If we can identity a common factor among them, it's (city) staff doesn't want to do it, so staff picks the consultant who's willing to say, 'Let's not do it,' " said Jeff Hoel. "This next study, the consultant had better be picked a different way."
On the contrary, Keene said staff was "gung-ho" about finding a way to provide citywide super-high-speed Internet access. He added that the city council also sent a clear message when it made technology a priority earlier this year.
"We think this is the fastest path to get to a decision point," the city manager said about his proposal.
Council Member Larry Klein, meanwhile, raised concerns about Fleming's estimate that it would take nine months to finish the master plan and request for proposals. He called for a quicker turnaround.
"It's a fast-moving field," Klein said. "The study might be out of date before it's very old."
In a related move Tuesday, the Technology Committee also supported a proposal to develop a wireless network plan with a near-term focus on Wi-Fi and a long-term consideration of other wireless technologies.
The plan is expected to cost up to $100,000 and would also be funded out of the fiber fund reserve.
The point of the network would be to enhance public safety and give officials a means to communicate during a catastrophe, said Jonathan Reichental, the city's chief information officer. But it would extend to parks and other parts of the city where large numbers of people congregate.
According to a report prepared for the committee, the network would cost $3 million to $5 million to build.
Mayor Greg Scharff said any network built in the city would have to deliver high-quality Internet access. He recalled being at airports and other places with free Wi-Fi that was simply too slow to use.
"I want Wi-Fi that really works," he said.
Email Jason Green at email@example.com; follow him at twitter.com/jgreendailynews.
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