In an ambitious attempt to blanket the region with broadband, the city of Los Angeles has decided to solicit bids for a project that would extend fiber "to every residence, every business, and every government entity within the city limits."
Steve Reneker, the general manager for the Los Angeles Information Technology Agency, told Ars Technica that the City Council voted unanimously to draft a request for proposals (RFP). He also said the Council would meet again in a few weeks to vote on the readiness of its proposal for distribution.
Existing service providers in Los Angeles -- including AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) -- are likely contenders for the new broadband project. However, some of the requirements in the RFP may keep bidders at bay. The City Council has already determined that any vendor winning the bid must be willing to shoulder the full cost of network deployment, which the Council estimates at running between $3 billion and $5 billion. The service provider must also deliver free Internet access to residents at downstream speeds of 2 Mbit/s to 5 Mbit/s, with higher-speed tiers up to 1 Gbit/s available for a fee.
The Council also wants its broadband partner to provide public WiFi hotspots and, ideally, cellular and datacenter hosting services. The latter two services are not required, but the Council will favor vendors that can bring those capabilities to the table.
There's been a rise in the popularity of municipal broadband ventures of late. North Carolina released an RFP for its North Carolina Next Generation Network project in February, and Seattle is preparing to launch its own gigabit-speed broadband service in early 2014.
Several years ago, when US cities were on an earlier broadband and wireless tear, many municipal Internet endeavors ended in disaster. However, the results of those efforts should offer guidance for cities attempting to deploy networks and new Internet services today. (See Imbroglio by the Bay.)
Incumbent Internet service providers, meanwhile, consider the municipal broadband trend with a degree of wariness. In the case of Seattle, a company called Gigabit Squared has been hired to manage the city's fiber network in its first phase. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) would rather not face new competition, and reportedly gave money to the current mayor's opponent recently in an alleged attempt to derail the project. Comcast denies the campaign donations were in any way linked to the city's broadband plans, but many believe otherwise.
On the other hand, incumbents are also working to get involved in municipal deployments in some cases. Time Warner Cable, for example, has been very public about its bid to participate in the NCNGN project. (See TWC Bids on NC's Next-Gen Network.)
Light Reading did not hear back in time for this story from service providers in the Los Angeles region on whether they are interested in bidding for the LA business. However, a spokesperson from Cox Communications Inc. said that while LA is out of franchise for his company, Cox is "interested in working with municipalities in our areas to help them achieve their goals."
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable