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Rockford, Ill., Mulls $200M Citywide Fiber-Optic Network Deal

Under the terms of the arrangement with New Jersey-based SiFi Networks, the city would lease right-of-way across the city and the company would pay for and install an underground, high-speed fiber network for use by several ISPs.

glowing fiber optic cable
(TNS) — City officials are considering a development agreement with a New Jersey-based company to install an estimated $200 million citywide fiber-optic cable network.

Under the agreement, the city would lease right-of-way across the city to Morristown New Jersey-based SiFi Networks. The private company would pay for and install an underground, high-speed fiber network that is said to be capable of delivering faster and more reliable Internet access to businesses, schools and homes than is currently available in Rockford.
SiFi would then work with multiple Internet service providers from whom residents and businesses could buy Internet access. The deal requires no cash investment from the city which would be paid more than $10,000 a month to cover construction review and permitting costs.
Calling it FiberCity Rockford, SiFi says it alone will take on the investment and construction risk to create "a very high-speed multi-lane highway" throughout the city. Rockford City Administrator Todd Cagnoni said SiFi has installed 10 such networks in California, Wisconsin, Connecticut and Massachusetts among others. Cagnoni said that although parts of Rockford have high-speed fiber optic cable, those lines are degraded by copper-based cables to most Rockford business districts and neighborhoods.
"As a nation we are completely underserved related to fiber optic compared to some countries," Cagnoni said. "At some point, if you don't have it, you are not a competitive community anymore. We want to be on the front end of that technology."
Cagnoni said once the development agreement is approved by City Council, SiFi would work to develop engineering and construction plans while securing financing for the project. The development agreement would require construction of the network which involves laying more than 1,100 miles of cable and the hubs needed to operate it within four years.
The agreement requires the network to reach every Rockford neighborhood, Cagnoni said.
"If this should come to fruition, it would put fiber optic in every right of way, in front of every residence, in front of every business, fully connecting the city of Rockford," Cagnoni said. "Not that we don't have fiber optic network in some locations within the city, but this would be from beginning to end."
©2021 Rockford Register Star, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.