Watsonville moving ahead with city fiber project to replace Charter service

18 September 2013 by Steve Blum
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New conduit is in blue, existing conduit in red, existing fiber in green.

The Watsonville, California city council voted last week to ask for bids to build a fiber optic backbone network that will connect public facilities from one end of the city to another.

The first phase of the project, which is now out to bid, involves installing a total of about one mile of conduit that will link up to another three miles or so of existing conduit and fiber lines, creating a continuous path. Phase two, which is expected to start early next year, involves pulling fiber through the new and existing conduit, to link up city buildings.

The motivation for the project is the end of a deal next year with Charter Communications for free connectivity between those locations. With the move to statewide cable television franchises, local governments have lost the control that allowed them to leverage free institutional network facilities. Starting next July, Charter intends on charging the city as much as $150,000 per year for the system.

The city is estimating the total cost to be about $500,000, less than what it cost to pay Charter for four years of the current network, and about the same as eleven years of a scaled back alternative. Watsonville is also planning to offer service to local businesses and other government agencies, which could bring a faster payback and, eventually, some income to the city.

Although the project is a standalone proposition, there’s the possibility it could interconnect with a proposed middle mile fiber network for California’s central coast that would stretch from Santa Cruz to Watsonville, and then on to Salinas and Soledad.

Phase one bids are due on 8 October 2013.