It’s been almost two years since 82 percent of Loveland voters chose to opt out of Colorado’s restrictive SB 152. Last fall, the community started working with a consultant on a feasibility study and now, residents and businesses are being asked to complete a second survey to gauge interest in the potential for connectivity offered by the city.
One Step At A Time
Loveland, a community of about 69,000 people in the southeast corner of the state, completed a survey last year, which revealed that 56 percent of residents and 37 percent of businesses feel incumbents are not meeting their connectivity needs. Affordability is a big factor for both sectors with lack of capacity and reliability following close behind. Residents reported they were also unhappy with customer service. Within both sets of respondents, a high percentage showed interest in obtaining service directly from the city or from a private provider working with the city.
This summer, the city released an RFP, hoping to elicit interest from the private sector for potential partners to help them develop a municipal fiber network. Read the full text of the RFP here.
Many premises in Loveland subscribe to cable from Comcast, which faces little or no competition from services other than DSL at much slower speeds. Resident Roger Ison wrote to the Reporter Herald recently encouraging residents and business owners to participate in the survey:
Comcast reaches enough Lovelanders to set the market price for high-speed service here. Competition and citywide access are inadequate because no other competitor has deployed a modern, high-performance network that reaches most potential subscribers.
Ison pointed out one of the positive side effects of municipal Internet infrastructure - its influence on incumbent pricing. When competition comes into a community in the form of a publicly owned network, incumbents that may have been setting rates unchecked suddenly reexamine their prices. The same holds true for customer service. It isn’t only munis that offer locals a respite from inflated prices, any competition has a positive impact on rates. Ison referred to a 2016 report from the Analysis Group that showed the pattern of better services and better rates in areas where competition exists.
Loveland Is A Low Priority
Ison points out that Loveland is spread out and low-density, which makes it a low priority for Comcast or any other large, national ISP. He knows that upgrades now - or in the future when residents and businesses will need them even more - are a long shot from a company serving a limited market. He goes on to say that the city is considering future-proof technology with a fiber optic network. "Its enormous capacity would eliminate speed and reliability problems for the foreseeable future," he writes.
Loveland is still undecided about whether or not investing in a fiber optic network is right for them and the results of this interest survey could strongly influence the outcome. The results will weigh heavily on the price of services and whether or not they feel the project has a chance at success.
The case for a municipal fiber-optic utility is more complex than just access, competition and speed. But the best price Loveland could offer will depend on the number of subscribers and what they're willing to pay, so take that survey! The city's website has good information about the survey and the broadband investigation.