More than two years ago, community leaders in New Braunfels, Texas, decided to move forward with funding for a feasibility study to examine options for publicly owned Internet infrastructure. In mid-July, the city released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) in search for a partner to assist them on their New Braunfels Broadband Project. Responses are due August 24th, 2018.
Back in 2016, businesses completed a survey as part of a feasibility study and 81 percent expressed dissatisfaction with their Internet access. Speed, reliability, and affordability were all important factors. Community leaders, with an eye toward economic development, have been pondering ways to overcome the problem and have decided to aim for a public-private partnership. Specifically, they want to focus their efforts on fiber optic connectivity in their commercial and industrial business corridors.
New Braunfels has about 55 miles of existing fiber that the city and New Braunfels Utilities (NBU) will make available for the project. They also have conduit that they will open up for the future network design. NBU offers municipal electric, water, and wastewater services, which indicates that they would likely have the knowledge base and the personnel to operate a fiber optice network, but the RFQ states that they're looking for a turnkey arrangement.
The state of Texas also limits what local governments are able to offer to the general public. Municipalities are not allowed to offer voice services, but are able to provide Internet access.
Looking for A Partner
In their RFQ, New Braunfels states that they want to find either a private or public sector partner that will offer a revenue sharing arrangement. They expect a minimum of 1 gigabit connectivity now with an expansion to at least 10 gigabit capability in the future. New Braunfels also prefers a partner willing to grow the network over time and have unequivocally stated in the RFQ that fixed wireless on its own will not be suitable to meet their needs and goals. They will, however, consider a fixed wireless complement.
As part of what’s been dubbed the “Texas Triangle,” New Braunfels is located in central Texas between Austin and San Antonio. The city began as a German settlement in the mid-19th century and now boasts a unique German and Latino character. There are also cold springs that run through the community that have been developed into a summer tourist draw.
The area has grown steadily in recent years, increasing in population at a rate of about 4 - 5 percent annually. In 2015, city leaders estimated more than 70,000 people lived in New Braunfels. Some of the community’s larger employees include the local county and city school districts, a Walmart Distribution Center, and Schlitterbahn, which is an entertainment company known for its waterparks, resorts, and golf courses.
July 18, 2018: RFQ issued
August 8, 2018: Pre-Submittal Meeting
August 10, 2018: Deadline for questions and requests for clarification
August 24, 2018: Statement of Qualifications (“SOQ”) submission deadline
September 2018: City evaluation of SOQs submitted by firms