Wilsonville considers fiber options
Study will explore whether citizen use of fiber-optic network is appropriate
If youre fed up with your internet service provider, the City may have a solution for you.
The Wilsonville City Council gave staff the go-ahead at a Jan. 4 work session to carry out a study to determine what to do with the fiber optic lines that, at present, are used solely by the City. Among the options the study will consider is whether extending access to the Citys fiber network to residents would be prudent, potentially allowing for a third internet service provider in a city where service from Comcast and Frontier are the only options available.
Holly Miller, the Citys information technology manager, told the council that fiber was installed in 2013 from City Hall down Wilsonville Road, up Kinsman Road and to South Metro Area Regional Transit (SMART) Central on Boberg Road. Miller called the connection a backbone run that has allowed for new connections to be built along that route since, including a connection with Clackamas Countys broadband network.
The connection with Clackamas County has allowed for faster and less expensive broadband access by the Wilsonville Public Library and the police department. It has also allowed better connectivity for schools in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District. Miller added that the City of Wilsonville hopes ultimately to add more fiber between the buildings for the sake of redundancy.
While doing this work, a number of policy questions have arisen with respect to leasing fiber to other entities, both government and private sector, and just what the overall goal of Wilsonvilles fiber should be, Miller said.
Those options include continuing to reserve the network exclusively for City use; expanding the fiber network to commercial and industrial districts, which could help to spur economic growth; extending the network to residential neighborhoods, which could create competition for other networks by allowing the City to act as an internet service provider or by allowing the City to form a partnership with an internet provider; or trying to entice Google into building a Google Fiber network in the city for use by all parties.
Miller said that those questions were ones that would have to be decided by the City Council, and the decisions would be better made with more information. She asked the Council for direction on whether or not she should go about compiling that information by contracting with experts in municipal fiber to explore different fiber models available to the city. That would cost between $70,000 and $80,000.
City Manager Bryan Cosgrove noted that the City of Lake Oswego is one municipality that has been considering the question as well.
A lot of cities are getting in the game on this, he said.
Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp said that the question was an important one.
It really goes to the concept of how competitive we think our city should be across business interests and across industry, as well as the financial addition and even the residential participation in that, Knapp said.
As a city that has taken a lot of pride in its infrastructure, this is infrastructure and this is something that I think we need to take a good, hard look at, Council President Scott Starr said.
Councilor Susie Stevens asked how realistic Google Fiber would be. Miller replied that the Citys practice of laying fiber underground made it less competitive in vying to be one of the few cities Google plans to build fiber in.
(Underground fiber) is quite a bit more expensive than running fiber aerially, Miller said. She noted that a study would nevertheless consider Google Fibers feasibility, in part because it is a popular option among residents.
The council ultimately gave its blessing to the study, and asked Cosgrove to create a budgeting proposal to fund it.