Powell is considering an agreement that would give the city its first fiber connection.

In January, the city's operations committee reviewed a proposal from Consolidated Electric Cooperative that would see Powell spending $81,650 to connect to an existing fiber-optic network for city use.

Optical fiber lines -- known frequently as fiber optics or simply fiber -- offer internet connectivity of up to 1 gigabit per second, or about 1,000 megabits per second.

In comparison, internet-service providers often offer packages of 10, 20 or 50 megabits per second in residential areas and up to 100 megabits per second for business customers.

By adding fiber lines, Powell could meet a number of goals, such as connect itself to local networks, such as the one set up in Delaware County; attract businesses that require higher rates of connectivity; and turn the fiber into a utility it offers to the community, which would allow it to recoup costs of its establishment.

This agreement can't achieve those goals but instead would serve as an entry point, one that Powell City Councilman Brian Lorenz -- who has been spearheading the project -- said would pay for itself and bring some immediate benefits.

"This would give us access to the countywide system, which we need to have in the event we have an emergency and our communication gets separated," he said. "It also gives the city an opportunity to make an investment in internet that will end up paying for itself over the next five years or so."

With the connection, Powell would have access to two fiber lines and connect to the Delaware County network. The county would provide network services in the agreement.

Lorenz said the $81,650 will pay for equipment, connections and maintenance -- the majority of costs -- over a five-year period, and then will belong to the city, which is a reason he thinks the deal makes sense.

"It's kind of like paying a cable bill upfront for five years and then you own that line," he said.

Although only city buildings would have access to the connection in this first stage, Lorenz said, that would provide enough of a benefit for now. Some departments, he said, have long needed a faster and more secure connection to "correct inefficiencies."

"I've talked to our police department, and it will help them immensely with file transfers," he said.

Police Chief Gary Vest agreed and said fiber would make "a huge difference" for his department, primarily because of the software the department uses to share data with Delaware County.

Vest said his staff members are "sometimes connecting to a broken network," which can add lengthy steps to reporting and dispatcher processes.

"It's the time that officers have to either load a document or wait for the system to come up so that we can either collect data to populate the reports we work on," he said. "When a person makes a 911 call and the dispatcher captures the information ... that actually populates the record-management system, so if the system is slow, the officer spends more time doing his reports."

Lorenz said he would prefer to reach more people with fiber, and sees it as a real option in the future.

But for now, he said, this small step is a positive one.

"Start small and work ahead -- I prefer to operate that way and make sure everything is working and we're getting good value for our residents," he said. "We'll see where we go from there."

The proposal next will go before the city's finance committee, which will determine whether it can fit into the city's budget.

City spokeswoman Megan Canavan said it has not yet been decided whether the proposal will be discussed in February or March.

According to the proposal, Consolidated would spend between 90 and 180 days constructing the new line.

Lorenz said he isn't in a hurry but would like to see the process up and running by late spring.

And for Lorenz, the process doesn't stop with one agreement.

"I look at (fiber) as just another part of the infrastructure," he said. "It's just like our roads and sewers and things like that. They all tie in together."

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