Palo Alto looks to create master plan for citywide super high-speed Internet [Palo Alto Daily News, Calif.]
(Palo Alto Daily News (CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Nov. 02--Palo Alto has resurrected its dream of bringing super high-speed Internet access to every corner of the city.
The city council voted 7-0 Monday, with Karen Holman and Gail Price absent, to seek out a consultant who can draft a master plan for building out the city's existing dark fiber ring.
"This is exciting stuff," said Council Member Liz Kniss, chairwoman of the Technology Committee that vetted the idea. "Quite honestly, I would like a faster connection at home."
Council members also approved a parallel effort to develop a plan for a complementary wireless network.
A fiber-to-the-premise master plan, which would include all of the necessary engineering and environmental studies, is the key to attracting a firm that can build, and possibly operate, a network, according to city officials. Past failed efforts either skipped that step or focused solely on business plans.
James Fleming, a utilities management specialist, added that the city's chances of landing a firm have improved.
"Given the upturn in the economy," he said, "staff believes there is potential renewed interest from telecommunications providers in building a fiber-to-the-premise network in Palo Alto."
The cost to develop the fiber-to-the-premise master plan is expected to range from $150,000 to $350,000, depending on what level of environmental review is needed, and take nine months to complete. The wireless network plan, meanwhile, is expected to cost up to $100,000 and take six to nine months.
The city plans to tap into its $15.3 million fiber optics fund stabilization reserve to pay for both plans.
Some members of the public weren't thrilled with the latest approach. Jeff Hoel said it was a mistake to craft the fiber-to-the-premise and wireless network plans at the same time.
"It will completely be a waste of time," Hoel warned the city council Monday. "The only way to make world-class wireless is to have 100 percent fiber backhaul for all the access points."
Hoel also urged the city council to maintain municipal control of any fiber-to-the-premise network that emerges as a result of the plan.
"A third party is just another kind of private-sector monopoly," Hoel said. "Don't be deceived about that."
Council Member Larry Klein brushed those concerns aside.
"Unless I'm misreading something," Klein said, "the city being the operator is still on the table and we are a long way from having to make that decision."
Klein and Kniss both said they wanted to see the fiber-to-the-premise master plan developed more quickly if possible. If everything stays on track, City Manager James Keene said council members could find themselves awarding a contract to a firm in about a year.
"That's pretty amazing," Keene said.
Council Member Greg Schmid and Vice Mayor Nancy Shepherd said the city also needed to imbue the effort with the kind of excitement that was present when it kicked off a decade ago.
"It's important that we have in front of us some kind of notion of public benefits," said Schmid. "Why are we doing this? We're spending public money because we expect some exciting results."
Barron Park neighborhood resident Bob Moss didn't need to be convinced, though. Super high-speed Internet, he said, would allow more people to work from home, resulting in fewer cars on the road and more parking.
"And it would make Palo Alto a far more livable and a far more valuable city," Moss said.
Email Jason Green at jgreen@ dailynewsgroup.com; follow him at twitter.com/jgreendailynews.
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