Broadband study could put Dublin on path to become nation’s ‘most connected city’

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group

Imagine a "smart city" with high-speed broadband access to every house and business and capabilities that could determine traffic and parking patterns? 

Through a growing number of pilot programs and discussions with internet service providers (commonly called ISPs), the city is working toward becoming the “most connected city in the nation,” said Doug McCollough, the city’s chief information officer.

Dublin City Hall.

A "smart city" refers to using technology to collect data, gain insights and ultimately improve operations, according to Lindsay Weisenauer, the city's public-affairs officer.

"In Dublin, we are testing various technologies, including cameras, sensors and broadband, with a goal of improving lives, drives and experiences for Dublin residents, businesses and visitors," she said.

The goal to be the most connected city also extends to such capabilities as “smart parking,” Weisenauer said. 

Already in use at the Darby Lot in Dublin's historic district, smart parking allows the city to record parking patterns and make decisions about parking limitations, capacity and other considerations, a practice that could be expanded with improved broadband, Weisenauer said.

City Manager Dana McDaniel said Dublin expects to spend $75,000 to $100,000 on a study to identify the best approach to achieving such goals, using funds from Dublin’s capital-improvements program. Council approval would not be required. 

“Our intent is to move forward with it,” McDaniel said. “This is such a high priority of importance that we can use (CIP funds).” 

He said he would return to City Council if additional funds were needed. 

The CIP is updated annually, and projects are determined from City Council goals, economic-development opportunities and other factors.

“We have held extensive conversations” with numerous ISPs, McCollough said. That includes those companies that already serve businesses and residences in Dublin and those with no footprint in the city, he said. 

“All of them have different proposed solutions to our central objective and ‘most connected city’ goal,” he said. “All of their solutions are viable but have very different costs and funding models.”  

McCollough outlined several options to City Council on March 1. He said he has discussed with each company ways it could help the city reach its goal. 

“Each has a different plan to increase speed and coverage,” he said. 

Under an “incumbent” model, the city would rely on current providers – AT&T, Spectrum and WOW! 

Under a “new entrant” model, McCollough said, the city could turn to providers that aren't yet serving the city, such as Starry Internet, Horizon Broadband, Point Broadband and Lit Communities. 

“Each of them has innovation to achieve speed, coverage and choice, including leverages (on) our existing fiber,” he said. 

A third option is a city-owned model in which the city would extend fiber optics to the curb or house and then, via an open-access model, choose any provider for the broadband access, McCollough said.

Whether the city or the consumer would make that choice is not yet known, as well as if the city would even place fiber optics in that manner, Weisenauer said.

The city has proposals from firms that could perform the study, but no time frame has been established to begin a study and no firm selected, Weisenauer said March 19.

Once the study begins, no definite timeline for completion has been established, but the city is committed to returning a recommendation to City Council by September, Weisenauer said.

A fourth option would be a hybrid of the first three, McCollough said. 

One of these four models “will allow us to make Dublin homes fiber-connected, competitive and relatively future-proof,” McCollough said. 

He said a study is needed so officials could decide which option to choose. The study also would determine costs, funding options and revenue potential because the broadband expansion – although not designed to make money – needs to be self-sufficient, McCollough said. 

“Building fiber to all Dublin homes will require new construction, and that construction will require a design,” he said. “No matter which model is used to construct the fiber, we need a construction design.” 

City Council members say they support the initiative.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I’m all for it,” council member Andy Keeler said. 

Council member Greg Peterson called the proposal “spot on, focused and direct.” 

“I support the effort,” he said. 

Mayor Chris Amarose Groomes, also a member of council, said she prefers a municipal-owned system. 

“We can lease fiber to anyone who’s interested” and maintain it, often better than others who own the network, she said.

For more information on the city's 2021-2025 capital-improvements program, go to tinyurl.com/yek8h979.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com 

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