The city of Davenport is to begin looking for partners to provide the fastest possible Internet service to businesses and homes.
Aldermen heard a report Saturday from Magellan Advisors, a consulting firm that has been studying the city's broadband needs. The consultant's recommendation is to seek proposals from private companies to help the city develop a larger network plan.
Aldermen gave what appeared to be unanimous verbal approval of the recommendation.
Davenport has for many years been laying a fiber-optic network, up to 100 miles of it, to accommodate faster Internet speeds for city offices and buildings. Aldermen now must decide to what extent they wish to continue to expand the network. They also must decide whether to partner with one or more Internet-service providers to share the cost and the revenues that are at stake.
"You have assets that are very valuable," John Honker of Magellan told the council, adding, "Davenport is falling behind."
He said the broadband study showed that an increasing number of Davenport and Quad-City businesses find their Internet speeds inadequate. In addition to many business needs not being met, he said, an increasing number of residents are using more Internet-driven devices at home, slowing speeds. Fiber-optic cable is the fastest and most reliable vehicle for carrying voice, data and internet signals.
At the Davenport Community School District, multiple private service providers are used, because connections can be so unreliable, he said.
In some Iowa communities, the cities themselves are becoming Internet-service providers, but, Honker warned, "It's a challenging business that's not for everyone."
Incumbent providers, such as Mediacom and CenturyLink, also have underground networks of fiber that could be used in conjunction with the city's network to provide more expanded coverage. Honker recommended seeking the public/private partnership, along with promoting smart public policy to go with it, as the city's best first option.
One example of good policy, he said, is to be aware of any occasion when the ground is being disturbed as an opportunity to lay more fiber. When trenching already is being done, the savings is around 80 percent.
An RFQ process, Request for Quotations, "should be an almost-immediate initiative," Honker said.
Rob Henry, the city's IT director, urged, "We need to keep the (energy) going here ... get broadband into the home."
Mayor Bill Gluba, who acknowledged having a limited understanding of broadband technology, categorized fiber-optic broadband speeds as "the wave of the future."
One audience member, Mediacom Regional vice president Todd Curtis, said his company "absolutely" will be a candidate for a partnership. He noted the cable company and the city have fiber in different areas of the city, which could work together.
"Our position is we'd prefer to partner with the city," Curtis said. "We can build this out together."
Added Honker, "Everyone needs to bring their assets to the party."