Up in the Rocky Mountains, the Colorado ski town of Breckenridge has decided to set aside plans to operate its new fiber network as open access, opting instead for a single Internet service provider (ISP).
In May, Breckenridge selected ALLO Communications, a Nebraska-based telecommunications company, as the sole ISP for the town’s planned fiber network, Fiber9600. Town officials had initially planned to run Fiber9600 — named for Breckenridge’s elevation of 9,600 feet above sea level — as an open access network with multiple providers offering services to residents and businesses. However, after interviewing several prospective companies, officials decided to have ALLO be the fiber network’s only provider, at least at first.
Hello ALLO, Goodbye Open Access
Other companies in addition to ALLO responded to a Request for Interest Breckenridge released last fall, but town officials concluded that working with just one provider at the beginning will give Fiber9600 the best likelihood of success and selected ALLO as their preferred partner. Gallagher explained the decision to Summit Daily:
“We realized that if we came out of the box with two of these folks, that neither one of them would probably succeed and we would quite frankly fail delivering service . . . It was more important for us to ensure somebody succeeded with this effort, given the fact that we’re going to spend a lot of money putting in the infrastructure.”
Under the agreement with Breckenridge, ALLO will be Fiber9600’s sole provider and network operator for an initial term of 10 years, which can be extended for up to two additional 10 year terms. If the town ever decides to sell the fiber network, ALLO will also have the right to place the first offer. After ALLO’s lease has ended, Breckenridge could choose to operate the network as open access, but that isn’t guaranteed as part of the agreement.
According to Assistant Town Manager Shannon Haynes, preliminary subscription tiers from ALLO have been set at:
- 20 Mbps symmetrical - approx. $30/month
- 300 Mbps symmetrical - approx. $60/month
- 1 Gbps symmetrical - approx. $90/month
Fiber9600’s Higher Purpose
Breckenridge began its broadband journey in 2016 when town residents voted to opt out of restrictive state law SB 152, which prevents public investment in broadband infrastructure, alongside 25 other Colorado communities. In Breckenridge, 89 percent voted in favor of reclaiming local authority.
A main reason why the town ultimately decided to invest in a fiber network was the lack of competition among existing providers. As in many communities across the country, most residents’ only choices for broadband access were a telephone monopoly or a cable monopoly — CenturyLink and Comcast in Breckenridge’s case. The anemic competition resulted in poor customer service, high prices, and speeds that were lower than promised, especially when the town’s population multiplied during peak season. While an open access approach would have brought even more options to Breckenridge residents and businesses, town officials expect that ALLO’s arrival will still inject some much-needed competition into the local broadband market.
In October 2018, town council approved the first $8 million of project costs, and they are planning to spend no more than $25 million total on the network. At the time, Councilmember Gary Gallagher told Summit Daily:
“We see this as a cornerstone investment for the town for the next 50 years and beyond. Much like previous councils had the foresight to secure water rights and land bank for the future, this fiber backbone enables the town to be proactive towards future developments and ensure that we’re in charge of our technological destiny.”
Construction started last month on phase one of the fiber network. This first phase will deploy 17 miles of fiber in central Breckenridge to serve as a backbone for the rest of the Fiber9600 network. Town officials hope to have some subscribers online by the end of the year.
Public Infrastructure, Private Services
This is not the first time that ALLO has leveraged public infrastructure to connect homes and businesses with high-speed Internet access. In the company’s home state of Nebraska, ALLO partnered with Lincoln to build a citywide fiber network by leasing access to the city’s conduit system.
Similarly, Breckenridge is not the first community that has opted to launch an open access network by partnering with only one ISP. In Westminster, Maryland, for example, city officials decided to make Ting Internet the sole provider on its new fiber network. After an initial period of exclusivity, additional ISPs will be able to offer services via the network, bringing even more choices to city residents.
Learn more about the promises and pitfalls of public-private partnerships by reading our 2016 report, Successful Strategies for Broadband Public-Private Partnerships.