Last March, the community of Stillwater, Oklahoma, issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) seeking a firm to complete a feasibility study. After narrowing down their list of responses, the Stillwater Utilities Authority (SUA) unanimously approved funds for a feasibility study that will examine the potential for a publicly owned network in the city of approximately 50,000.
One Step Forward
At the September meeting, trustees approved $150,000 for the study. Staff have narrowed down the list of potential firms for the feasibility study from 13 responses to the top three firms. Now they will ask those three firms to provide more detailed proposals. Some of the information community leaders want include estimated deployment and operating costs and the demand in Stillwater for publicly owned Internet infrastructure.
SUA is also interested in which models would best suit the community. Stillwater leaders have concerns with the quality of local connectivity, the consequences of the repeal of federal network neutrality protections, and their ability to compete economically. SUA systems administrator Billy Palmisano said, “It’s just a basic question, do we want to lead the way and have the ultimate decision on the path that we take, or do we want to let others help us on that path.”
Each Community is Unique
SUA staff discussed possible models, including open access, public-private partnerships, and direct retail services. Choosing the right model for Stillwater is an area where consultants’ recommendations appears to be most requested:
“That’s been one of the big questions that we’ve had, is whether this is something that typically goes in rural areas where they don’t have a lot of options, but there’s at least one other community in Oklahoma, Sallisaw – Fort Collins, Colorado – and several other communities that had other options but chose to go with this anyway,” [Special Projects Director John] McClenny said. “It’s been across the board. Would this fly in Stillwater or not, that’s one of the things we need to know from the study.”
Stillwater’s Oklahoma State University campus brings about 23,500 students to the community and has its own fiber optic network. SUA staff see an opportunity to possibly work with OSU and expand the infrastructure project.
We spoke with Keith Skelton and Danny Keith from Sallisaw, Oklahoma, back in 2014 for episode 114 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast and our former Research Associate Hannah Trostle visited the DiamondNet and reported on her trip in March 2018.
For the SUA discussion about the feasibility study, check out this video: