For the past year, six municipalities along with local colleges and universities have collaborated to lay the groundwork for fiber optic infrastructure in the greater Asheville area. The group, West Next Generation Network (WestNGN), is now ready to find a partner to begin hammering out details in order to realize the concept. They’ve released the WestNGN Broadband Request for Negation (RFN) and responses are due September 21st.
The plan closely resembles the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN) in the Research Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill. WestNGN will include the communities of Asheville, Biltmore Forest, Fletcher, Hendersonville, Laurel Park, and Waynesville - all of which belong to the Land of Sky Regional Council. The Council has helped with administration and in drafting the RFN aimed at improving local connectivity and boosting regional economic development.
Strategic Alliance Partnership
WestNGN’s RFN states that they want to establish a Strategic Alliance Partnership with a single ISP or a group of ISPs that possess an interest in both providing service and in deployment. WestNGN puts negotiation of ownership of assets and use of those assets at the top of the list for discussion points, signaling that rhey aren't set on a fixed approach. Similarly, they hope to negotiate matters such as management, operation, and maintenance of local networks; ways to speed up deployment and reduce costs; and ways to better serve low-income residents.
Goals For The Network
WestNGN plans to bring gigabit connectivity to residents, businesses, and community anchor institutions in the region. They specifically state their priority for this level of capacity, but note that their future partner will have time to gradually implement it, if necessary. They also stress the need for symmetrical service speeds. Several employers in the region have determined that upload speeds - from their offices and for their employees at home - are increasingly desirable. The consortium has recognized that home-based businesses in the region are also multiplying every year.
WestNGN states that they want to increase the amount of dark fiber available to lease to all providers. Potential partners should be willing to make those assets available and possibly plan on expanding dark fiber. Several members of the consortium have dark fiber that they would contribute to use for the project.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics sees significant job and wage growth in the region where WestNGN plans to develop the network; the population is expected to also increase. Local employers include Evergreen Packaging, BorgWarner Turbo Systems, and GE Aviation. In addition to 22 advanced manufacturing companies, the area supports a thriving tourist economy.
Home to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information, Asheville describes itself as the center of climate data and research. The area has embraced the concept of bringing more scientists into its research-based and technical entrepreneur facilities. Venture Asheville brings start-ups, mentors, talent, and funding sources together. The Collider is a meeting place for climate scientists and entrepreneurs to collaborate and discover ways to use climate data in business ventures. Mountain Bizworks helps small businesses in the region.
In addition to the University of North Carolina Asheville, North Carolina State University is also a partner in WestNGN. Both schools, along with several other colleges, offer tech training to students and need better connectivity at an affordable rate. Local K12 schools have started one-to-one device programs for students, but poor connectivity at home (and sometimes at school facilities) limit the effectiveness of programs.
Last Date for Questions: August 18, 5:00 pm
Responses Due: September 21, 4:00 pm
Evaluation of Responses Completed: October 19
Interviews with Respondents Completed: November 9
Selection of Potential Partners for Further Discussions: November 22
Agreements Finalized: January 31, 2018