Bountiful contracts for fiber feasibility studySep 09, 2021 02:02PM ● By Tom Haraldsen
BOUNTIFUL—Fiber is the subject of a lot of debate among residents of Bountiful – both the need for better internet connectivity and the company or companies that can make that happen. The city council has taken a step forward in the process of determining where to go next.
Council voted on Aug. 24 to enter into a contract with Magellan Advisors for a broadband feasibility study. The study will cost $67,500 and should take about six months to complete. The goal is to determine if Bountiful City should have a city owned and operated (O&O) system, or work with a provider owned and operated system. A third option would have the city taking no action at all and let the free enterprise system continue to be the provider for residents, but council agreed that was not a preferred option.
In April, the city formed a RFI Committee (RFI standing for Request for Information) which released a list of 12 potential providers for fiber. From there, four providers were identified to meet with the committee for further discussion and to provide more information.
Two providers, Google and UTOPIA Fiber, submitted proposals for a Provider O&O Network. Two other vendors, EntryPoint Networks and Strata Networks, submitted proposals to work with the city in a Bountiful O&O Network.
Alan West, the city’s I.T. director, reported to council that the RFI committee reached out to Lehi City, which is just starting to build out its own fiber to home network. He said Lehi used Magellan to do feasibility studies on the concept, after which the city’s council voted to approve a bond to build the network. That bond would be paid for with revenue the city receives as customers subscribe to the network.
“The major advantage of hiring a firm like Magellan is their ability to provide an independent evaluation of our fiber network options,” West said in his report. “This will help us fill knowledge gaps by staff and the council and avoid the pitfall of relying solely on vendor-provided information (and sales pitches).”
Magellan submitted a proposal that includes $65,000 for the broadband feasibility study, and $2,500 for travel and incidental expenses. The company said it could complete the study in six months.
Several residents spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting, expressing their frustration over perceived delays in the city getting a fiber network going, and a couple saying Bountiful should contract with UTOPIA for the entire community. UTOPIA currently provides fiber to several community services and has since 2019.
Council member Kendalyn Harris said that if the feasibility study was conducted, she’d like to see the RFI Committee expanded to include more residents. “Citizen input could be very valuable, especially since we do have residents who are experts in I.T.,” she said. “I don’t think we should close the door on having that input in this decision.”
There was pushback on that idea. Council member Millie Segura Bahr said only “the city council should be the decision makers. I’m opposed to a city-sponsored citizen committee.”
Another concern was the six-month timeframe for the analysis to be completed. Council member Kate Bradshaw spoke about the city’s winter moratorium on street cuts, which runs from Oct. 15 until April. “That would affect our construction timeline anyway,” she said, adding the six-month study period wouldn’t delay the start of construction anyway.
City manager Gary Hill said that even after the Magellan study is received, the city could still contract with a company like UTOPIA if the council chose to go in that direction.
A motion to approve the contract with Magellan then passed by unanimous vote. So the next step is in their hands as they complete the study that the city should receive in February or March of 2022.