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The City Journals

Fiber internet coming soon to Riverton?

Apr 22, 2019 05:07PM ● By Mariden Williams

By Mariden Williams | [email protected]

For the past several months, Riverton officials have considered providing residents with access to fiber internet as a city service. 

City council members have consulted with fiber internet provider EntryPoint Networks about the possibility of a city-owned internet infrastructure in previous work sessions. On April 2 , the council had EntryPoint representatives present their findings to the public at a city council meeting.

Fiber internet, especially city-owned fiber internet that is provided to residents the same way essential utilities such as water and electricity are, represents a major disruption from the current status quo.

“We’re going to see that disruption accelerate over the next five to 10 years, and so many options are going to come to cities that have fiber, that can take advantage of new applications of smart cities, of the internet of things—the benefits are manifold,” said Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs. “We found it very interesting to take a look at this right now and see if it is something that would benefit us and our residents.”

There are a couple ways things with EntryPoint could go. It could provide fiber internet to only municipal buildings and possibly a couple of residential streets, or it could, as Staggs hopes, provide internet to the entire city.

“If we go forward with the full project, I would say community engagement is the most important thing,” said Entry Point representative Jeff Christensen. “It’s really about understanding the community’s appetite for it and being able to communicate effectively what the broadband plan is.” 

Thus far, support from the public has been overwhelmingly positive. Casey Saxton, Riverton’s communications director, put out a survey on the matter that received nearly 2,000 responses. Support from internet service providers, too, has been remarkable.

“The direction the city is pointed is toward an open-access network, which means the city owns infrastructure and then service providers come from the cloud,” Christensen said. “All four of those internet service providers (we have spoken with so far) said they will participate. Not just, ‘we’re interested,’ but ‘we will participate.’ We think we’ll find that same kind of reception as we engage others.”

Utah Department of Transportation officials, too, seems willing to help with this effort. They have already had several meetings with EntryPoint, and more are scheduled for the future.

“Those meetings have centered around opportunities for UDOT to work with Riverton, pooling UDOT’s fiber resources with Riverton’s potential fiber resources,” Christensen said. “That could be very beneficial to the city, but the talks are still early.” 

Perhaps this positive reception shouldn’t be much of a surprise, given that internet service is becoming viewed more and more increasingly as an essential utility. 

“Frankly, I believe in our day and age it easily is construed as such,”  Staggs said.   

Exact figures on expenses haven’t been anywhere near nailed down yet—EntryPoint will be constructing a more solid plan in the coming months—but currently, Christensen estimates $72,947 for one year, to 729,000 for 10 years, to nearly $1.5 million over a 20-year period. Over the next six to nine months, rather than pursuing proof of contract, EntryPoint will put out requests for proposal to find out exactly how much it will cost to replace contracted internet services with city-owned ones. 

At any rate, it’s going to be a significant investment. But it’s an investment that could have significant returns, especially for residents. EntryPoint calculates that nationally, people spend an average of $70 a month on their internet services. Entry Point expects their net monthly cost to be $50 or less.

 “The communications you’re getting right now are not robust in terms of speeds,” Christensen said. ”So, there’s a real opportunity to enhance what the city has. I think there’s an opportunity for 10-year, 20-year cost savings. And then it also creates a path for anything that the city does moving forward. Meaning that, whether we do a conduit or poles, it still creates a path for anything that happens in the future.”