LA refines its pitch for citywide FTTH

6 April 2015 by Steve Blum
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Seen one of these?

“Are we creating a unicorn here?” asked Steve Reneker, general manager of information technology for the City of Los Angeles. He was relating his experience looking for companies interested in building a citywide fiber to the home system to participants in a local government broadband conference put on by the California Emerging Technology Fund in Riverside last week. The answer he got back from the industry was “yes”.

LA [floated a request for information last year](), looking for ideas and partners to aid its FTTH quest. It certainly resulted in information, but little that would lead to direct action. Reneker said responders cited two primary problems: the “laborious” permitting process they would have to go through – a common problem in Californian communities – and the lack of information about the assets the city was willing to put into the mix.

He said LA is trying to fix both problems, and is getting ready to formally ask for proposals later this month, with responses due back in September and, he hopes, a winner picked early next year.

Essentially, LA is looking for a Google Fiber deal, but without any cherry picking: a gigabit for around $70 a month, with 5 Mbps service given away for free. Citywide WiFi and commercial-grade broadband service would also be part of the deal. That’s the unicorn.

The city has a better idea of what it can offer – space for fiber huts, for example – but still can’t commit its crown jewel. The City of Los Angeles operates a municipal electric utility, which has access to, and in some cases ownership of, a citywide network of pole routes and conduit. But that’s not on the table yet. It’s complicated, Reneker said. “We’re trying to figure it out and make it happen”.