Ammon now has judicial confirmation to move ahead on their Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) project.
As we reported earlier this year, Ammon's Fiber Optic Department, led by IT Director Bruce Patterson, is on the verge of commencing the next phase of its incremental network deployment. Bruce explained to Chris in Episode #173 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast, how the city will create a utility and residents who choose to participate will pay to have the network connected to their homes. The first area where FTTH will be deployed includes approximately 300 properties.
Innovative Participation Model
As Bruce put it:
"…[I]t seems logical that since fiber to your home raises your property value that we'd find some way to bond for that and put the payment for that bond as on assessment on your property tax because it does actually increase your property value so that's our goal. We do that with what they call a local improvement district."
Ammon intends to issue bonds that will then be paid with funds from assessments levied on the properties of those who wish to connect to the network. If a property owner wants to connect to the network, they will also become a "Utility Member" and will pay a monthly fee to use the service. Ammon's FTTH network will be open access; the city will not provide retail services but will maintain and operate the infrastructure. Residents will subscribe to the services offered by ISPs that operate over the network.
Ammon also intends to offer a low-cost option that will allow Utility Members to access basic functions, such as checking email, messaging, and file transfers without the need to subscribe to an ISP. Their plan will allow people in the community who cannot afford more advanced services to still have access to basic Internet tools.
In order to determine which neighborhoods want fiber, Ammon asks residents to sign up so they know where to aim the next build.
As Ammon has developed their open access network from vision to achievement, they have taken several bold steps. The city won an award for its school emergency app, took over to connect local schools when the state educational network went dark, and experimented with partitioning fibers for multiple services. It's no surprise that Ammon's approach to financing was not typical.
As pioneers know, there can be something unexpected around the next tree. City officials chose to obtain validation from the state court prior to moving forward rather than risk investing time, money, and effort into an uncertain project.
On February 29th, District Judge Joel E. Tingey decreed that the city has the authority to construct, operate, and maintain the FTTH network under state law. He went on to state that their plan for financing under the Local Improvement District Act is authorized and that the bonds issued will be valid and enforceable.
Read the Judgement here and the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Decree here.
Onward And Upward For Ammon...And Others?
Now that the state court has determined that Ammon has the authority to enter into this venture with this model, perhaps other communities will feel more confident forging ahead. While this ruling applies only to Ammon, we hope it will help reinforce innovative thinking in the "Gem State."