Traverse City Light & Power (TCLP) recently took the next step in their efforts to build out a citywide Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) network. City leaders issued a Request for Information (RFI) for Partnership for Deployment; responses are due June 29th.
All the Possibilities
TCLP has had their own fiber network in place for about a decade. The city uses it to offer free Wi-Fi in the downtown area and leases excess capacity to anchor institutions, such as local hospitals and the school district. Like many other municipalities with similar infrastructure, TLCP invested in the network as a way to enhance electric services and provide communications between substations.
About a year ago, the community utility board decided unanimously to move forward with plans to adjust their capital improvement plan in order to fund fiber optic connectivity throughout the city. Their decision came after considerable deliberation on whether or not to expand their existing infrastructure and if the city should fill the role of Internet service provider (ISP).
They’ve had past conversations with local ISPs and a cooperative that is in the process of installing fiber within its service area. TCLP has also discussed various models, such as open access, retail services, and public-private partnerships. The community is taking time to do their homework and consider which approach is best for their unique situation.
Picking A Partner
A feasibility study completed last year recommended either operating a citywide network as a city utility or leasing it to a single partner. Last May, TCLP board members decided to seek out a partner rather than pursue the municipal utility option. The current RFI seeks a network operator to design, build, operate, and maintain what TCLP describes as the first phase of the project.
TCLP wants a relationship that:
1. Balances financial risk
2. Adopts an open access approach
3. Embraces a community wide deployment
TCLP stresses in the RFI that responders should plan on a long-term relationship with the community. They want to be sure that any firm that offers a proposal understands that as the network will be built out, all sectors of the community need to be able to access fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. If a potential responder doesn’t think it’s possible to bring such services to lower-income or difficult to serve areas, TCLP will work with a partner. Because the first phase only covers one area, potential partners need to keep in mind the community’s vision. If a responder has creative ways to bring the vision to reality, TCLP will want to hear those ideas.
"This is a pretty significant project for us, and we're putting a lot of time into it to ensure the absolute success of it during the entire project, but in phase one too, to determine the logistics of how we're going to continue running it down the road," [TCLP Director Scott Menhart] said.
While TCLP has a specific model in mind, they’re open to other suggestions from potential partners. They strongly favor a turnkey operation in which the city owns the infrastructure and a partner handles design, construction, operation, and maintenance, however, TCLP will consider other models.
TCLP serves approximately 12,500 customers in its electrical service area. Charter cable and CenturyLink DSL are available throughout Traverse City, but both offer Internet access insufficient for the needs of businesses or individuals in the 21st century.
The “Cherry Capital of the World” is located in northwest Michigan along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Their economy relies heavily on tourism and community leaders want to diversify with high-quality connectivity.
May 21, 2018 – Deadline for submitting letter of intent to respond to RFI
June 1, 2018 – Deadline for submitting questions
June 15, 2018 – Responses to questions due (from TCLP)
June 29, 2018 – RFI responses due TCLP