Expanding Fiber to Neighborhoods and Beyond?

At a City Council & BPW Board joint study session Wednesday, after giving an update on the downtown project, BPW staff presented possible ways to expand fiber to other parts of the city! I know this is what many of you are waiting to hear about, so let’s dig in.

They showed four models for capital cost recovery (how to pay for it). The single biggest hurdle to fiber is the initial installation cost. These models are different ways BPW can cover the initial costs either up-front or over time.

Model 1: Up-front contribution in aid of construction

In this model, a neighborhood association (or similar entity) would pay construction costs and BPW would build to the neighborhood. After the initial construction, BPW would cover all maintenance and upgrade costs.

Model 2: Partial up-front with credit assurance

Similar to Model 1, but with less money up-front and the addition of a credit instrument in case revenues (and customers) are below expectations. If customer numbers are high enough, the credit isn’t used. This would most likely be used by housing developers in a new development.

Model 3: Demand Aggregation

BPW would define a geographic area and try to get commitments from residents. When enough customers signed up, they’d build to that area. This would likely be the model used in the City.

This is effectively the model used for downtown. They defined an area and got customer commitments. For downtown, they started building before customer commitments because the risk was low.

Model 4: Binding commitment from single entity to pay over time

In this model, a taxing or special assessment authority would commit to paying for construction over time. This could be used by a township to build to all residents, or a special assessment district could be created (like we have for the library or airport).

This model could be used to cover the entire city too, but Model 3 seems more likely at this point.

So what’s next?

BPW staff plan to use any of these models where they make sense, and as demand arises.

Additionally, they plan two specific next steps:

Inside the City

BPW will divide up the city into geographic region. They’ll pick one and calculate construction costs. Then, evaluate models 3 and 4 for that area. They’ll bring their findings back to City Council and BPW’s Board in 2-3 months (by end of February) to consider next steps.

I have no inside scoop on which area of the city they’ll use to run the numbers, but if I were them, I’d look closely at people who have expressed interest on their downtown signup page. Even if you’re not in the downtown area, you can enter your address and BPW will keep track (see last slide of the presentation). They already had 325 people outside of downtown express interest. Let’s add some more!

Outside the City

BPW plans to take advantage of opportunities to use any model where it makes sense. I know through the grapevine that some housing developments have already expressed interest in getting BPW fiber, so BPW will be willing and able to move forward if it makes sense.

After many months of hoping, we’re now seeing real signs that BPW fiber can expand outside of downtown Holland. We’ll keep pushing to make it happen!

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