Economy & Economic Development  December 15, 2015

Longmont’s NextLight clinging to construction timeline despite delays

LONGMONT — Tom Roiniotis, general manager of Longmont Power & Communications, said it remains to be seen whether buildout of the city’s ultra-fast broadband Internet network will begin in Phase 5 by the end of the year as targeted. It won’t be far off, if at all.

Despite a litany of unforeseen circumstances that have caused delays to the overall project, Roiniotis said he feels like the buildout is staying on schedule about as well as could be expected.

“We feel like we’re pretty much on track with (construction of the distribution network),” Roiniotis said this week. “Where we are falling a little bit behind is customer connects right now because of the high demand.”

Roiniotis said boring is expected to begin in some areas of Phase 5 in “the next few weeks.”

When Longmont began buildout of the network, which is making 1-gigabit Internet speeds available to every home and business in town, work was slated to begin in Phase 5 in the second half of 2016 as the city worked in one counterclockwise loop around the city. That timeline moved up for Phases 5 and 6 in March, when the city decided to add crews and begin working in both directions, starting at the city’s south end. That meant Phase 6, originally slated for work to begin in the first quarter of 2017, saw work begin earlier this year. Phase 5, meanwhile, was slated to begin in the fourth quarter. Phase 4, now the final phase, is expected to see work begin in the first quarter of 2016 as originally planned.

But despite the accelerated timeline, some hiccups have gotten in the way.

The Xcel Energy gas pipeline replacement project along Airport Road, Roiniotis said, held up broadband construction in some areas of Phase 6 for a month or two. Certain street-improvement projects have held up other parts of the city. Phase 1, where service is available nearly throughout, still has work going on in the Prospect neighborhood. That densely laid out neighborhood, Roiniotis said, has caused some issues with installation due to the lack of space to work with for new rights of way and easements for service.

All of that said, construction on Phases 2 and 3, the central and eastern portions of the city, is moving along quickly for the most part. While the hope was to do all of the installations sequentially, the delays have caused construction crews to jump around some and then come back to certain spots. That might mean delays in service availability in some areas initially, but once the gaps in the distribution network are closed, large swaths of homes and businesses are “lit up” at one time.

Of course, once service is available in a given area, installation crews still must come to the homes of residents who order service to run a line from the distribution network to their homes and get the customers set up. Roiniotis said the city is working right now to increase the number of installation crews to deal with the backlog.

Demand remains plenty strong more than a year after the first residents in Phase 1 got service. For residents who sign up within three months of the city marketing to their neighborhood, the 1-gigabit service is available at the charter member rate of $50 per month — a deal that no incumbent providers have come close to matching yet in the area.

As of the start of this month, the city has 2,052 Internet customers. That’s about 40 percent of the households to which the city has marketed. However, service is available to other areas that the city simply hasn’t marketed to yet because of the installation backlog — an issue the city is hoping to alleviate as more installation crews are added.

Another thing, Roiniotis said, that should help speed things up as service becomes available in later phases, is a shift in how the city gets fiber-optic cable from the distribution network to the homes. Currently, the city is doing a lot of backyard installations because rear easements require less linear footage. However, rear easements also have more obstacles and create other access issues. Roiniotis said the city is shifting in later phases more toward front-yard installations.

“We think that’s going to make it go quite a bit quicker for us,” Roiniotis said.

LONGMONT — Tom Roiniotis, general manager of Longmont Power & Communications, said it remains to be seen whether buildout of the city’s ultra-fast broadband Internet network will begin in Phase 5 by the end of the year as targeted. It won’t be far off, if at all.

Despite a litany of unforeseen circumstances that have caused delays to the overall project, Roiniotis said he feels like the buildout is staying on schedule about as well as could be expected.

“We feel like we’re pretty much on track with (construction of the distribution network),” Roiniotis said this week. “Where we are falling a…

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