Celina, Texas, recently started its journey toward publicly owned Internet infrastructure by adopting a smart, forward-thinking conduit ordinance. The decision to adopt the new Easement Ordinance is part of the city’s long-term vision to bring gigabit connectivity to businesses and residents.
The new policy requires developers to install conduit and fiber-optic cable in underground excavation within the city limits. Developers pay for the installation and then convey the assets to the city. In order to reduce the need for excavations and cut costs, Mount Vernon, Washington, passed a similar ordinance years ago as they developed their network. Up to 90 percent of costs associated with underground deployment are often due to the excavation rather than materials; smart dig once policies like Celina's saves public dollars.
Internet service providers who wish to offer connectivity in the areas where city fiber and conduit exist will be required to use available dark fiber from the city, rather than deploying their own infrastructure. The ordinance does allow the city provide exceptions in order to promote competition and reduce any barriers to entry for new ISPs.
Before the city council unanimously voted to support the new ordinance in May, they took feedback from the community. According to the Celina Record, several local developers expressed excitement over the Gigabit City Initiative, but weren’t as enthusiastic about the ordinance. Their main concern was how the new rule would be implemented.
They have reason to be excited about the potential to add Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) connectivity to their new properties. In 2015, the Fiber To The Home Council’s study determined that FTTH access can add up to $5,437 to the value of a $175,000 home.
Residents Require Something Better
Scott Stawski of the Celina Economic Development Corporation (EDC) described how the organization had approached the incumbents - Suddenlink and AT&T - along with other 14 other providers about providing gigabit connectivity in Celina but none was willing to oblige:
“What we’re really trying to accomplish is that 100 percent coverage,” he continued. “That is not offered and is not planned on being offered by any of the current providers.”
Jay Pierce, who lives in Celina said that he uses three different Internet access plans in order to obtain the connectivity his family needs:
“We need something fast, and we need it fast fast,” he said. “I really hope that you guys, as a council, take everybody into account. Not just in the areas that are being developed, but the areas already developed. We need help now.”
As part of the Gigabit City Initiative, Celina is in the process of designing a middle mile fiber-optic network. The fiber deployed as a result of new development within the city will be integrated into the new network. Community leaders hope to encourage providers to serve businesses and residences via the new infrastructure; the city will use the network for municipal needs. Stawski said that areas of the community that are not along the new routes will need to be retrofit in the future. As the city develops the Gigabit City Initiative, it will need to consider how to address the issue of assisting areas of town that are out of reach of the new developments.
Preparing For And Encouraging Growth
The community has grown rapidly over the past few years jumping from about 1,800 people in 2000 to over 6,000 as of 2010. It’s location just north of Dallas where middle and upper scale homes are being built rapidly; several developers are building new homes in the area. Community leaders are trying to prepare for the future and take advantage of their strategic geographical location. Having fiber and conduit in place to bring better connectivity to businesses and residents will both attract newcomers and save public dollars in the long term.
“The reason why we’re doing this now is because Celina is in such a unique position,” Stawski said. “We’re 8 percent built out right now, but we have a clear line of sight of being 100 percent built out in 20 years. The cost of retrofitting a community is astronomical.”