Davenport aldermen on Wednesday approved a deal with an Indiana company offering ultra-high-speed internet to build a citywide fiber-optic network, furthering a long-held desire of city officials to make the service widely available.
Aldermen approved the measure by a vote of 9-0. The company, MetroNet, estimates the city’s network will cost between $33 million and $40 million to complete under a three-year deadline agreed upon between the company and city.
Early work toward installing the network is scheduled to begin in October, and services — including high-speed internet, TV and home phone — could become available in some areas as soon as April, company officials say.
In response to growing demands for the service nationally, cities around the country are seeking ways to build publicly owned networks or find private companies willing to do so. With its service, MetroNet boasts the ability to provide connection speeds as fast as one gigabit per second, meaning an average full-length movie could be downloaded within a few minutes.
The agreement contains no up-front cost to residents. On its end, the city has agreed to provide a low-cost and simple construction permitting process to the company for accessing rights of way and utility easements. The company also gets a tax rebate on the city's portion of property taxes assessed on the miles of wire MetroNet runs through the city, a state-required economic development grant specific to telecommunications companies.
The tax breaks end after 20 years or when the refunds add up to $11.7 million, whichever comes first.
The lengthiest part of the construction process involves installing fiber-optic cables along the city’s spaces designated for utilities. With new networks, the company generally follows a city’s electrical grid, placing the cables above ground where utility poles exist and underground where they do not, said Kathy Scheller, a spokeswoman for MetroNet.
The deal was struck collaboratively with Bettendorf officials, who approved a near-identical agreement Tuesday night. Officials from both cities say area businesses and residents stand to benefit greatly from heightened availability of gigabit-capable high-speed internet and more service providers to choose from.
Davenport has previously explored other options to create a fiber-optic network without success.
A few years ago, city officials considered fully building a publicly owned network, but decided against it because of the cost. Alderman Kyle Gripp, at large, applauded the method of getting a private company to install the cables across the city, saying “the vast majority of that risk has been taken away from the taxpayer.”
Gripp added that the build out in Bettendorf and Davenport is “a win-win for both communities.”
While the proposed fiber-optic service would reach the vast majority of Davenport's residents and businesses, the initial build-out territory does not include some of the less-densely populated areas on the city’s northwestern edge. Under the agreement, the company is not obligated to provide service to neighborhoods with fewer than 25 “qualified households” within one half of a linear route mile.
In other news:
- Eight police officers were sworn in during a pinning ceremony administered by Mayor Frank Klipsch and Police Chief Paul Sikorski. Appearing in their dress blues, the recruits vowed to uphold the laws of the country, state and city as they join the department ranks. Each officer received a shiny new badge, pinned on by a family member. Sikorski called it a “monumental day” for the officers, adding he hopes to get them “on the street as soon as we can.”
- After weeks of protest from area residents, aldermen gave a real estate developer the go-ahead to use a 6.5-acre piece of land for a restaurant plaza that could become the home of the region’s first-ever Portillo’s, a popular Chicago-based franchise restaurant. Meanwhile, neighbors upset about some of the particulars have said the city’s infrastructure should first be improved to address traffic and flooding concerns that they believe would be exacerbated by the new addition.
- The city is looking for bidders to complete an estimated $3.2 million expansion of its railroad cargo transfer facility. Most of the project is being paid for with a $2.2 million federal grant. City officials say the construction is necessary to avoid extensive delays that could be caused by increased production at the newly-minted Sterilite factory on Davenport’s northern end.