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Superior City Council to take up $31M broadband plan

The revised proposal of a municipal-owned broadband service will go before the city council Tuesday, Aug. 3.

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The final version of a plan designed to provide Superior with a faster, cheaper option for internet service is headed to the city council for consideration.

The Superior Communications and Information Technology Committee adopted the revised plan Monday, July 26.

“I have the meeting code memorized for this meeting,” said Councilor Jenny Van Sickle, who attended Monday night’s meeting online and shared her frustration with losing her connection three times in less than an hour. “I haven’t heard all the questions, but please send this to the (council) floor.”

Councilor Ruth Ludwig, who was appointed to the committee in May, said she agreed it’s time to move the plan forward.

RELATED: Superior panel files broadband plan, pushes for community listening sessions on proposed $31M project Committee agrees public education about the plan is the next step

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RELATED: The feasibility of fiber: What other places have experienced with municipal-owned broadband Municipal-owned broadband networks provide communities options for faster, more reliable internet when providers can't or won't, experts say. However, officials in cities with municipal fiber say getting public buy-in is crucial to a network's success.

The plan outlines the steps and costs for building an open-access fiber optic network that would allow internet service providers to compete for customers over the city-owned network. Users who opt in would pay the cost of building and maintaining the network that would provide users with upload and download speeds of 1,000 megabits per second for a cost ranging from $46 to $55 per month, depending on how the network is installed and how many people participate.

The revised proposal includes summaries of public and private meetings and information about recently available federal funding options that could reduce the cost of installing a municipal-owned fiber optic network.

“All in all, the comments we got back were — by far the majority of them — were positive and very excited about the possibility of the city moving forward with this initiative,” said Devin Cox of Entry Point Networks. The company, based in Salt Lake City, Utah, was hired by the city to develop the broadband plan.

Cox estimated that attendance at the public meetings was about 25% higher than meetings held in other communities they are working with on similar plans.

“My understanding is from all of the webinars and all the open house events, there was one individual … that essentially stated that he was against it,” Cox said.

“This is a good summarization that’s in the broadband report,” said Councilor Tylor Elm, who attended both open houses at the library. “It was positively received. For folks who didn’t know about it, they were excited about it and saw how this can improve their lives.”

Federal funding sources already available to Superior through the American Rescue Plan Act could be used toward the cost of building the network.

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Mayor Jim Paine said he’s considering budgeting $10 million in ARPA funding for 2022 toward the estimated $31 million project. The council would have to approve the allocation before it could move forward.

“Once the plan is approved and we’re funded, we’re really off to the races,” Paine said. “There will still be decisions to make after that, but it gets us started.”

The council will consider whether to adopt the unfunded broadband plan when it meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3, in the Government Center Boardroom.

Related Topics: TECHNOLOGYSUPERIOR
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