A public-private partnership, dubbed The Santa Cruz Fiber Project, envisions improving Internet speed by an average 50-fold to start, primarily by replacing aging copper lines with new fiber optic lines.
(TNS) -- Santa Cruz, Calif., leaders took the first step this week toward addressing a thorn in the side of local businesses and residents alike: improving broadband Internet service.
The Santa Cruz City Council unanimously voted to partner with local service provider Cruzio to investigate building an exponentially faster, cutting-edge, gigabit fiber-optic communications network. Only about 50 other cities across the country have engaged in similar publicly-backed projects, and none have aimed to reach every property in their jurisdiction, as Santa Cruz is hoping to, said city Economic Development Manager J. Guevara.
“This is a huge opportunity for Santa Cruz to have a big impact and to build the infrastructure for the 21st century,” Guevara said.
The new public-private partnership, dubbed The Santa Cruz Fiber Project, envisions improving Internet speed by an average 50-fold to start, primarily by replacing aging copper lines with new fiber optic lines. A gigabit-sized Internet capacity equals 1,000 megabits. Guevara said Santa Cruz has an average 19.35 megabits-per-second Internet connectivity, referring to the measure of data transfer speed.
In the next few months, the partnership will undertake studies examining the project’s feasibility and cost, all while gauging the public’s interest. The public can weigh in online at cruzio.com/santa-cruz-fiber. The plan calls for Santa Cruz to own the network and Cruzio to operate it, and for the program to be self-sustaining. Discussions about the project have been ongoing for the past year, authorities said.
The project’s infrastructure costs, preliminarily estimated as $52 million for what Guevara calls the top-grade “platinum” option, likely would be paid for through a city-issued bond. Unlike typical city general obligation bonds, which are approved at the polls and require taxpayer repayment, Santa Cruz is investigating a revenue-lease bond, which is repaid from proceeds generated by the project — namely by Internet customers.
“At this point, if people don’t want it, we won’t build it,” said Cruzio co-founder and CEO Peggy Dolgenos. “I think that the neighborhoods that don’t want it, we would spend as little as possible to make it so that in the future we could build it out there, while we’re doing our big build and it’s cheaper to get to them.”
The customer price of the new service is still being studied, though both Guevara and Cruzio say it will need to be consumer-friendly to be effective.
The Central Coast Broadband Consortium, using California Public Utilities Commission data, gives Santa Cruz a “D” grade for its broadband availability and connectivity. The city also ranks 447 out of 505 California cities for average Internet speed, according to data compiled by Guevara.
The improved Internet service would not boil down to just recreational use, or “a family fighting over multiple Netflix streams,” Guevara said. It would make possible everything sharing information for public safety, health care, “smart” remote technology access, education and much more, he said.
The early project time line estimates primary infrastructure completion by late 2018.
This is not Santa Cruz’s first go at obtaining gigabit-speed connectivity. In 2010, the city’s Economic Development Department and a business cluster of high-tech firms on the Westside unsuccessfully applied for a competitive nationwide contest by Google to test high-speed fiber connections.
In March, the city jointed Next Century Cities, an initiative among cities “dedicated to ensuring the availability of next-generation broadband Internet for all communities,” the city said in a release at the time.
©2015 the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.