8 ISPS Respond to Gigabit Network RFI

With the caveat that "interest" might not actually represent "intent to provide," eight Internet service providers have responded to a request for intormation on gigabit Internet access networks issued by the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government.

The request sought information about how a gigabit-capable network could be provided across the city or in targeted commercial corridors and in residential areas and how gigabit service could be delivered at prices comparable to other gigabit fiber communities across the nation.

City officials hope to lure a vendor who will provide commercial gigabit Internet service at symmetrical speeds, up and down. Time Warner Cable and AT&T are said to be among the firms that responded to the request for information.

City officials apparently are willing to entice would-be providers by allowing access to city rights of way, including waterlines, sewer lines and alleys.

In some ways, the RFI illustrates new thinking about ways municipalities can offer inducements to ISPs interested in creating new gigabit access networks. Municipal officials in this case do not seem to envision a full public-private partnership, but instead simply easier and presumably low-cost access to rights of way and conduit that would allow ISPs to cut the cost of building any such new networks.

What will be interesting is whether municipal officials are willing to allow partial builds only in parts of the metro area, instead of mandating 100-percent coverage, which might not be feasible.

In essence, that would mimic the way competitive local exchange carriers have tended to create new networks, building only where there is clear customer demand. In the case of CLECs focused on business customers, that has meant focusing on business districts and office parks, for example.

In a consumer context, the same approach might allow ISPs to build only in residential neighborhoods where customer demand was high enough to promise a potential financial return.

Though the concept clashes with historic notions about universal access, such approaches have proven effective at stimulating new network capacity.
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