Longmont gears up for broadband project

LONGMONT — An estimated $41.1 million broadband network in Longmont is “going for the full build,” according to a project spokesman.

Longmont City Council members considered a feasibility study of the broadband network project and directed city staffers to move forward during a study session May 14.

As a result, workers may be digging trenches to hook up businesses and residences to an existing 17-mile, fiber-optic broadband network in Longmont before the year is out, said Vince Jordan, Longmont Power and Communications broadband services manager.

“We’re going for the full build. It’s exciting,” Jordan said. “This really will set Longmont apart.”

First, city council members must give formal approval to a financing plan for the project, which is expected to be some form of city-backed bonds, according to the feasibility study done by consultant Uptown Services Inc., which has an office in Boulder. If the project were to be built using existing funds, it would take an estimated 50 years to get every business and home hooked up that wanted service, Jordan said.

In the meantime, the Longmont Area Economic Council, the Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce and Pumphouse Brewery are most recent sign-ups for the broadband service. About 50 companies are in the queue to get hooked up to the network, Jordan said. An estimated 1,300 companies are within 500 feet of the broadband network infrastructure.

The broadband project seems to be worth the “calculated risk,” said Gabe Santos, Longmont’s mayor pro tem.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It’s been sitting in the ground for 16 years and only the city and the county … and the hospital can use it,” Santos said. “We have companies beating on the door to buy in.”

Voters approved the city’s right to offer service from the high-speed network in 2011, after a state law went into effect in 2005 that banned it. Longmont has had the network since 1997.

Uptown Services was hired to create a business plan for the network. The business plan calls for a three-year time frame to build the network and includes different cost scenarios.

Even though it’s often expensive to run fiber-optic cable to buildings that don’t have it, the local economy is expected to benefit widely from companies having access to less expensive, faster broadband service, Jordan has said.

Because of Longmont Power and Communications’ current limited budget, Jordan has a simple business hook-up strategy for companies that are close to the network. If a business will pay more in monthly fees in two-and-a-half years for the service than it costs to hook them up, the cost is free upfront. If it costs more to hook up a business than it’s estimated they’ll pay in that time period, the company pays the estimated difference, Jordan has said.

Internet service rates are expected to range from $39.95 for a residential customer per month for small download and upload speeds to up to $499.95 per month for up to 250-megabyte download and upload data speeds, according to the Uptown report. A goal of the new service may be to offer rates that are 20 percent cheaper than those of other Internet providers, according to the report.

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