Bountiful begins exploration of fiber optionsJun 24, 2021 02:48PM ● By Tom Haraldsen
BOUNTIFUL—Earlier this year, Bountiful City sent a Request for Information for fiber optic providers. Now, four of those companies that responded will move into a second phase of the decision-making process as an evaluation committee will interview them.
On Tuesday, the council heard from IT Director Alan West and city manager Gary Hill. The RFI requested providers evaluate their ability and willingness to consider three different options regarding fiber optic services to homes and businesses in the city. Those were a provider owned and operated system, a city owned and operated system, or a public/private partnership. There were eight proposals received, and the evaluation committee selected four of those companies to be interviewed starting the second week of July.
Hill and West told council members that several criteria will be used in evaluating the provider that may eventually be chosen.
“We’re first and foremost interested in the financial risk to the city, in terms of bonds, financing, exposure, etc.,” Hill said in a preliminary report. He said other factors to be considered included time for the buildout, cost to residents and availability for choice and options, flexibility for other city infrastructure and how fiber could benefit them, potential revenue for the city, support by the provider for start-up of city operations, and other benefits and advantages to the city and residents.
“We felt there were some gaps in the responses to our RFI that we want filled in. There are also areas where adding broadband could be hugely beneficial to certain areas of the city operation, such as the landfill. We’re interested in finding the best delivery model and the best provider,” Hill said.
Council asked if part of the fact-finding included speaking with other cities who have or are planning to have fiber optics. Hill said that has been part of the study – speaking to other cities about their experiences.
Previously, West had told the council that part of the evaluation of pursuing fiber in the city would also hinge on resident “take rate,” the willingness of Bountiful’s population to sign up for services. A survey of residents is likely once a projection of costs and timeframes are defined. One entity who has built fiber optic systems for cities is UTOPIA, which told West he thought even a 30 percent take rate would make the system viable for Bountiful.
In addition to Hill and West, the evaluation committee includes city attorney Clint Drake, public works director Lloyd Cheney, power director Alan Johnson, assistant city manager Galen Rasmussen and city councilman Richard Higginson.