The community of Rock Falls, Illinois, recently decided to move ahead with a project to develop a municipal broadband utility, reports SaukValley.com. At a City Council meeting in early December, members unanimously voted to accept the findings of a feasibility study and move on to develop a formal business plan and preliminary engineering design. From the article:
Alderman Glen Kuhlemier said the table has been set for this project, and it would be foolish not to take advantage of what has already been done.
"To go backward is untenable after the foresight of the past," Kuhlemier said.
Rock Falls has an advantage because it already has substantial fiber resources in place. In the 1990s, the municipal electric utility installed fiber to connect substations. Thinking of the future, the electric utility installed ample fiber, which will significantly reduce the cost and burden to establish a network for business connectivity.
Rock Falls is no stranger to improving local connectivity. In the past, they used excess capacity to connect the city's schools and municipal facilities, reported American Public Power Magazine in 2010. The electric utility partnered with Essex Telecom, an ISP located in nearby Sterling, leasing some of their excess capacity to Essex so they could serve commercial customers.
The plan proposed by consultants would expand the network to connect half of the 350 businesses in the community. The consultanting firm estimates the deployment would cost $700,000 and the city would break even in 7 years.
Rock Falls, population approximately 9,200, is located on the Rock River in the northwest corner of the state; Sterling is immediately across the river. The community's municipal electric utility uses the river to generate hydroelectric power and customers pay rates 10-30% lower than those offered by neighboring investor-owned and cooperative utilities.
In recent years, the population has started to decline. Community leaders intend to jumpstart economic development with the added investment in fiber infrastructure.