Bartow, Florida, has owned and operated its own fiber network for years as a way to connect municipal facilities and offer high-quality connectivity to a few select businesses. Now, they’re on the verge of expanding use of their fiber by developing a pilot project to connect more businesses and also residents.
A Recurring Theme
Back in 2013, the City Commission had begun a serious investigation of the possibilities. The city has had continuing plans to use fiber infrastructure for smart metering for Bartow’s electric service. Many people in the community have also been unhappy with service provided by Comcast, the incumbent cable ISP.
The City Manager George Long also recently told the Ledger, that the municipal electric utility will use an upgraded electric system to allow customers more flexibility in managing their accounts and conserving energy.
“This program will include the ability to pay for utilities in incremental portions.”
For example, a resident would be able to purchase a week’s worth of power at a time, in advance, rather than have to pay a month’s bill at once.
“There are people who need to be able to do that,” he said, “and this will give them that flexibility.”
The $2.5 million needed for the pilot has already been included in the budget for the year. The next step for the City Commission is to determine the location of the pilot project; community leaders have estimated that the pilot will serve approximately 1,000 premises. They intend to address the matter in June at a workshop.
The county seat in Polk County, Bartow, is in the central area of the state and home to more than 19,000 people. Industries such as phosphate mining, citrus production, and honey production play key roles in the economy. They’re also around 50 miles away from Walt Disney World and Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, which makes tourism another important economic driver.
The Proof Is in the Pilot
Pilot projects have become a common step for communities to take as they consider the possibility of investing in Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) networks for the entire community. These geographically limited projects allow a local government the ability to work out performance issues, determine true enthusiasm from potential subscribers, and get a more accurate idea of costs. Municipal projects such as Owensboro in Kentucky and Holland, Michigan, began as pilots and have since grown. Cooperatives are also using pilot projects to determine whether or not to make a larger investment in broadband access for all members in their service areas.
Bartow expects construction for their pilot to commence by the end of 2018.