Tag Archives: salinas

Salinas City Council approves contract to build municipal fiber network

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Salinas fiber

A contract to build the first phase of a municipal dark fiber network was approved by the Salinas City Council earlier this month. This initial leg is a mile and a half long, and will run west along Alisal Street, a main thoroughfare through the downtown business district, beginning at the new Salinas Police station that’s under construction on the east side of downtown and ending at Central Park on the west side. A lateral will also connect City Hall to the network.

The route intersects several independent fiber networks, as well as infrastructure owned by major incumbent operators. The City plans to use the network to support its own operations – besides providing a direct, high capacity link between City Hall and the police station, it will interconnect traffic signals – but that’s just the beginning. According to the City’s press release

The installation of the fiber may also mean faster internet speeds for residents and businesses. The City intends to offer the fiber for use by private companies to provide affordable high-speed internet along the fiber route. The fiber can also be used by third parties to connect small cell antennas, which are necessary to increase current internet speeds and will ultimately be used to support a 5G network in Salinas.

Construction is expected to be completed by next Spring. Plans also call for another phase, which will extend the Salinas Municipal Network along Main Street, and for an extension through the Ag Tech Corridor in the southeast corner of the city.

The City’s Dig Once policy underpins the fiber build, which is just one element of a Downtown Complete Streets Project. The network will be supplemented by roughly three miles of empty conduit that was installed in earlier street projects.

The beginning of construction represents a major milestone in the implementation of a broadband development plan approved by the Salinas City Council in 2015, and supports the City’s policy of encouraging broadband infrastructure deployment, including expanded mobile network coverage and service.

I’m a consultant to the City of Salinas and assisted with the development of its broadband policy, plans and contracts. I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

City of Salinas Preliminary Broadband Plan, final version, 1 September 2015

City of Salinas, City Council Resolution, Policy Reducing Underground Excavation for Communications Infrastructure within the City Right Of Way, 15 November 2016
City of Salinas, Staff Report, Reducing Underground Excavation for Communications Infrastructure within the City Right Of Way, 15 November 2016

City of Salinas, City Council Resolution, Small Wireless Facility Regulations, 2 April 2019
City of Salinas, City Council Resolution, Small Wireless Facility Fees, 2 April 2019
City of Salinas, Staff Report, Small Wireless Facility Regulations and Fees, 2 April 2019

City of Salinas, City Council Resolution, Wireless Telecommunications Facility Lease Policy, 17 April 2018
City of Salinas, City Council Staff Report, Wireless Telecom Leasing Policy, 17 April 2018

Master License Agreement for Wireless Installations on Public Structures, by and between the City of Salinas and AT&T, 13 August 2019
City of Salinas, City Council Resolution, Authorising Mayor to Sign AT&T Master License Agreement, 13 August 2019
City of Salinas, Staff Report, License of City Facilities for Small Cell Sites, 13 August 2019

Salinas, AT&T sign master pole license agreement with small cell design standards and $750 annual rent, sorta

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Downtown salinas

AT&T and the City of Salinas hedged their bets and signed a master license agreement for attaching small cell sites to city-owned poles that complies with current Federal Communications Commission guidelines, but snaps back to market-based fees if those rules are changed, or overruled by a federal court.

Last year, the FCC declared that municipal assets installed along roads or otherwise in the public right of way, like street light poles or traffic aren’t really city (or county) property, but instead are part of the right of way itself. In California, that would mean that mobile broadband companies could hang wireless antennas and other equipment on street lights at will, simply by filing for an encroachment permit. The FCC said any fees have to based on cost, not market prices, and it decided that $270 per year is what a city’s costs should be. It has since backed away from some of the restrictions it wants to impose, as it defends its ruling against lawsuits filed by dozens of cities.

Under the terms of the deal, if the FCC’s preemption of local street light pole ownership survives the federal appellate court challenge underway in San Francisco, then AT&T will pay the City of Salinas a “monitoring fee” of $270 per pole per year to install “small wireless facilities”. If it’s overturned, then a license fee will kick in, raising the yearly total AT&T has to pay Salinas for each pole to $750 for the first year, with a 2.5% annual increase in the license fee portion after that.

$750 per year falls in the middle of the average range for city pole rental fees in California, although it’s less than typical rates in the San Francisco Bay Area, which tend to be in the $1,500 per year ballpark. Unless the ballpark is in San Francisco proper – $4,000 is common there.

AT&T also agreed to follow particular construction standards for small cell installation on city-owned poles. It will…

  • Follow the City of Salinas’ small cell design standards, which limit antenna enclosures to twice the width of and no more than 20% higher than an existing pole, require equipment to be located underground or mounted on poles, and set standards, including anti-graffiti measures, for screening everything.
  • Cooperate with the City on pre-approval of standard small cell designs that can then be deployed quickly and widely.
  • Not install small cell facilities on traffic lights, or any pole “supporting signs or devices used to control or direct…traffic”.
  • Abide by the City of Salinas’ Dig Once policy, which could require AT&T to use existing conduit or fiber routes in some circumstances, and allows notices to go out to other companies that might be interested in participating in projects that involve excavating city streets.

It’s City policy to support 4G mobile network upgrades and 5G deployments so “Salinas businesses can remain economically competitive” and “residents have the ability to access resources (including educational resources) that are available through the Internet”. Its efforts aren’t limited to promoting better mobile service. As part of its Dig Once program, the City installs conduit in its own road projects and made broadband infrastructure upgrades a top priority for its economic development initiatives, particularly in Salina’s Ag Tech Corridor and downtown area.

I’m a consultant to the City of Salinas and assisted with the development of its broadband policy and agreements. I’m not a disinterested commentator. Take it for what it’s worth.

Master License Agreement for Wireless Installations on Public Structures, by and between the City of Salinas and AT&T, 13 August 2019
City of Salinas, City Council Resolution, Authorising Mayor to Sign AT&T Master License Agreement, 13 August 2019
City of Salinas, Staff Report, License of City Facilities for Small Cell Sites, 13 August 2019

City of Salinas, City Council Resolution, Small Wireless Facility Regulations, 2 April 2019
City of Salinas, City Council Resolution, Small Wireless Facility Fees, 2 April 2019
City of Salinas, Staff Report, Small Wireless Facility Regulations and Fees, 2 April 2019

City of Salinas, City Council Resolution, Wireless Telecommunications Facility Lease Policy, 17 April 2018
City of Salinas, City Council Staff Report, Wireless Telecom Leasing Policy, 17 April 2018

City of Salinas, City Council Resolution, Policy Reducing Underground Excavation for Communications Infrastructure within the City Right Of Way, 15 November 2016
City of Salinas, Staff Report, Reducing Underground Excavation for Communications Infrastructure within the City Right Of Way, 15 November 2016

Ag department honcho says rural communities need faster broadband

by Steve Blum • , , ,

The Forbes Ag Tech Summit opened in Salinas yesterday, for the fourth year in a row. The headline act was editor-in-chief Steve Forbes’ interview with Stephen Censky, the deputy secretary of the federal agriculture department.

Agricultural technology depends on broadband, Censky said, but access is a serious challenge in the rural areas where it will be deployed. Of the 24 million people in the U.S. who don’t have broadband available to them, 80% live in rural areas.

It’s an even bigger problem when service levels are considered. Censky reiterated the agriculture department’s position that the minimum needed – for all rural users, not just tech savvy growers – is 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds.

That level of service is often unavailable in rural communities, and even though the Federal Communications Commission agrees that 25 Mbps down/3 Mbps up is the proper “baseline” speed for 2018, it reckons communities with 10 Mbps down/1 Mbps up to be “served”. The California legislature sets the bar even lower at 6 Mbps down/1 Mbps up.

Figuring out where to find it can be a problem. Censky pointed out that the broadband availability data collected by the Federal Communications Commission comes from the companies themselves, and there’s no easy way to confirm that it’s accurate, or to drill down to see who can and can’t get it.

“There might be a location or two that have broadband, but not whole counties”, Censky said. “For agriculture to succeed in this day and age…you do need reliable access to broadband…for all precision agriculture, you need broadband”.

Censky held out the hope of more federal dollars for broadband infrastructure development, saying there’s $1.4 billion in the agriculture department’s budget for broadband grants and loans. How much of that money is realistically available in California is an open question, though. He had high – and well deserved – praise for rural electric cooperatives, which are taking the lead in broadband deployment in many parts of the U.S. Unfortunately, utility co-ops are rare in California – there are only three.

Salinas promotes broadband development with new dig once rule

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Underground utility construction and other projects that involve work on city streets in Salinas will include dig once requirements, thanks to an ordinance approved by the Salinas city council. The new rule requires notification of telephone, cable and other telecoms companies whenever such work is done, and gives them an opportunity to include their own conduit in the project. Once completed, there will be a five year moratorium on any excavations in that particular location.

The key language reads

All construction, reconstruction, repaving of a City right of way shall include a provision for the installation of a public utility infrastructure, such as conduit, tube, duct, or other device designed for enclosing telecommunications wires, fibers, or cables, wherever practical and feasible…

To the extent feasible, the Director of Public Works or his/her designee shall notify (or require an applicant for such work to notify) all known telecommunications service providers of an impending excavation and afford all such service providers the opportunity to utilize the excavation to install, upgrade, co-locate, repair or improve their telecommunications facilities during such an excavation project. Any such notice shall be provided at least 30 days prior to the commencement of excavation. All service providers utilizing the same excavation shall be responsible for their proportionate share of the excavation costs, including but not limited to the costs of permitting. Such excavation shall not take place more than once on a particular City street within a 5-year period.

The ordinance reinforces the City of Salinas’ current practice of installing city-owned telecoms conduit in public works projects. In the relatively short time this shadow conduit policy has been in place, the city has built up an inventory of three miles of conduit that’s available to support broadband projects, and has plans to build 20 miles more in the next few years. And that’s not including new development that’s also on the books.

City of Salina resolution, communications infrastructure in underground projects
Staff report

Salinas targets Ag Tech Corridor, downtown with broadband RFP

The City of Salinas has officially released a request for proposal, looking for telecommunications companies that are interested in using its municipal conduit system and other local assets to build out a high speed broadband system in key commercial and industrial areas…

The City of Salinas owns a total of 16,000 feet of telecommunications conduit that is available for use (see above referenced study) by respondents. Approximately 5,400 feet is in the core downtown business district, 1,600 feet in or near the planned Agricultural Technology Corridor and another 9,000 feet in an unincorporated area southwest of the city. Over the next ten years, the City plans to build an additional 108,000 feet of conduit, with construction in key areas – downtown, the Agricultural Technology Corridor, Alisal Marketplace and new developments in north Salinas – planned to be completed in two to five years. In addition, the City has an ongoing policy of installing telecommunications conduit in excavations in the public right of way and in other public works projects.

The information requested in the RFP is relatively top level – the objective is to get sufficient information about technical and business plans without putting too much of a burden on respondents.

The project is the result of a broadband study and plan I developed for Salinas last year. The Salinas City Council adopted it on 15 December 2015. It leverages several long haul fiber optic lines that run through the city already, and one that’s under construction by Sunesys LLC. Funded by a California Advanced Services Fund grant and available on a open access basis for a fixed price of $8.50 per mile per month, the Sunesys line will connect Salinas to Silicon Valley via Santa Cruz, as well as linking to major fiber access point locally and in Soledad, and providing in-town connections.

Written questions are due on 10 February 2016, there will be a pre-proposal meeting on 9 March 2016 and responses are due on 21 March 2016.

Request for proposal, Salinas Broadband Project, 25 January 2016
City of Salinas Preliminary Broadband Plan, 1 September 2015
Salinas City Council staff report, commercial broadband infrastructure, 15 December 2015
Salinas Broadband Project KML files

Salinas pursues fast broadband to build ag tech corridor

With big and small agricultural companies expanding in downtown Salinas and the southeast area of the city earmarked as an Ag Tech Corridor, the need for better broadband infrastructure is becoming critical. Yesterday, the Salinas City Council voted to ask for proposals from potential private sector partners who are interested in using city assets to build out high capacity networks.

Tellus Venture Associates recently completed a study for the City of Salinas that evaluated existing infrastructure and examined options for improving it. Key findings of the study – which formed the basis for the council’s decision – include…

  • Generally broadband infrastructure in the City of Salinas is average, as compared to California as a whole, and above average compared to other communities in Monterey County. AT&T and Comcast offer broadband service to nearly all homes and businesses in Salinas, on generally the same terms and at the same service level as elsewhere in California. Broadband providers that specialize in serving business customers are also present in Salinas, although not on a widespread basis.
  • Despite this focus, data provided by AT&T and Comcast to the California Public Utilities Commission indicates that the underlying broadband infrastructure in commercial and industrial areas of Salinas, and in the southeast area in particular, is substandard.
  • Salinas is served by several fiber optic routes that provide connections to major Internet exchanges in the San Francisco Bay Area and southern California, and, in some cases, are capable of providing local service directly to locations within the city.
  • The City of Salinas owns approximately 16,000 feet of conduit that is available to support construction of additional fiber optic networks, and has plans to build 108,000 feet of additional conduit in the next few years.

The next step is for the City of Salinas to issue a request for proposals from interested and qualified companies for using the existing and planned fiber lines traversing the city and city-owned conduit and other resources to build out broadband infrastructure in the downtown and Ag Tech Corridor areas. The council approved a draft RFP, and the final version should be released soon. More on that later.

City of Salinas preliminary broadband plan
Draft request for proposal
Staff report on Salinas commercial broadband infrastructure, 15 December 2015

CPUC small business expo draws hundreds to Salinas

by Steve Blum • , , , ,

Giving small business a lift in Salinas.

Rapidly changing business models and utility needs are providing opportunities for small businesses in the twenty-first century. That was Commissioner Catherine Sandoval’s message to several hundred entrepreneurs in Salinas yesterday, at a small business expo and matchmaking fair sponsored by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Sandoval pointed to new rules that were just adopted that allow online ride sharing companies, such as Lyft and Uber, to provide on demand service, despite vehement objections from entrenched – and protected – taxi companies.

“We created a way for them to legally move forward and create new opportunities,” she said. It’s the CPUC’s job to ensure that regulated utilities “provide safe and reliable service at just and reasonable rates”.

To do that, the CPUC classified crowdsourced ride sharing platforms as charter party carriers, which fall under a different set of rules than traditional taxis.

Other opportunities include innovative technologies and business models that help Californians save energy and water, two resources that are in perpetually short supply here.

The event was co-sponsored by Comcast and organised by the Monterey County Business Council and its Procurement Technical Assistance Center. Major telecommunications, water and energy companies were on hand, along with several state agencies. They met one-one-one with small business people who traveled to Salinas from all over California. One even flew in from Connecticut.

More expos will be held in coming months elsewhere in the state. It’s part of an ongoing CPUC effort to connect regulated utilities and state procurement officers with small businesses.