Cost and Affordability
Building a fiber network can be an expensive undertaking without proper planning. In order to keep construction costs low there are multiple paths that Saint Paul can pursue. Whichever approach is chosen, it should also include a “dig-once” policy.
Dig once means that a city will install conduit beneath any roads, streets, sidewalks or bridges that are under construction or repair. (Dakota County has set a great precedent for this approach, having deployed thousands of miles of fiber during the past decade.) By combining fiber installation with other infrastructure projects, Saint Paul can reduce the cost of building a citywide fiber network by as much as 80 percent!
As a fiber-optic network is developed, the city will then have the capability to begin offering internet services to the community, whether as a direct provider of services to the end user or through an “open access” model that allows multiple ISPs to sell their services to customers by utilizing the city’s municipally-owned network. Either way, the result is increased competition, and the fees collected help pay the cost of operating the system.
Most importantly, a publicly owned fiber network is not beholden to a bottom line that puts profits before everything else. Because the “shareholders” are the public, revenues can be reinvested to upgrade services, expand the network, and subsidize services where necessary so that all residents have access to affordable high-speed internet.
That’s a win-win-win proposition for everyone!