How Do I?...
Click to Home
Go To Search
Tri-Cities Broadband Project
           

While the scope and reach of this project remained the same since April 2003, the method of finance changed for the 2004 vote.

Where the City of Geneva had planned to use General Obligation Bonds to fund the build of this utility in 2003, the citizen group Fiber For Our Future that brought this item to ballot again in 2004 had precluded the City of Geneva from using any tax backed financing.

With that in mind, while the three referendum questions posed in 2004 contained much of the same wording, the ordinance behind the questions changed substantially. Perhaps the most important language comes in Section J of City of Geneva ORDINANCE NUMBER 2004-54 which stated:

"The City does not have on hand and lawfully available sufficient monies to pay the related expenses of the Project and the City Council commits that the full faith and credit of the City will not used to finance the City’s share of the Project; therefore , it will be necessary that the costs of the Project be paid by private financing or revenue bonds;"

 

Below, please find the wording of the questions Geneva residents saw on the Nov. 2, 2004 General Election Ballot. Also please find the ordinance referenced above.

1. “Shall the ordinance authorizing the City of Geneva, Kane County, Illinois to acquire, construct, own, or operate a community antenna television system take effect?”

Under the terms of the City’s ordinance requesting this proposition and if it is approved by the voters, the City of Geneva would be authorized to establish a new cable television system for the residents and businesses within the City of Geneva which would be financed without the issuance of general obligation bonds and not be supported by property taxes.

2. “Shall the ordinance authorizing the City of Geneva, Kane County, Illinois to acquire, construct, own, or operate a public utility for telephone service be adopted?”

Under the terms of the City’s ordinance requesting this proposition and if it was approved by the voters, the City of Geneva would have been authorized to establish a public telephone system for the residents and businesses within the City of Geneva which would be financed without the issuance of general obligation bonds and not be supported by property taxes.

3. “Shall the ordinance authorizing the City of Geneva, Kane County, Illinois to operate for hire a public telephone service for the use or benefit of private consumers or users, or charge for such consumption or use be adopted?”

Under the terms of the City’s ordinance requesting this proposition and if it was approved by the voters, the City of Geneva would have been authorized to establish a public telephone system for the residents and businesses within the City of Geneva which would be financed without the issuance of general obligation bonds and not be supported by property taxes.

2004 Broadband Ordinance to accompany referendum questions

 

In addition, please find information from the 2003 referendum. While some of the info would have changed for the 2004 (ex. pricing for most internet services would be lower and offer higher rates of download), much would have stayed.

Have any further questions or comments, please call 630-232-1743

Estimated service offerings and pricing for the April 2003 Ballot

General Questions from April 2003

Market Feasibility from April 2003

Financial Questions from April 2003

Technical Questions from April 2003

Programming Questions from April 2003

2003 Feasibility Study and supporting documents

 

 

 

Municipal Broadband Project Frequently Asked Questions

 

RATE COMPARISONS

* Please note that these numbers are calculated projections from the broadband feasibility study. These may not necessarily be the exact rates offered if and when these services are available.

Tri-Cities & Private Service Providers
Broadband Services Rate Comparison

Tier Description

Tri-Cities Rate

Tri-Cities Services

AT&T Rate

AT&T Services

Basic Service

$10.95

18 Channels

$10.50

27 Channels

Expanded Service

$23.00

57 Channels

$28.49

43 Channels

Basic & Expanded Service

$33.95

75 Channels

$38.99

70 Channels

Digital Basic Tier

$10.95

35 Video/45 Audio

$12.00

13 Video/10 Audio

HBO Group

$11.95

6 Channels

$13.24

4 Channels

Cinemax Group

$9.95

4 Channels

$13.24

2 Channels

Showtime Group

$10.95

5 Channels

$13.24

4 Channels

The Movie Channel Group

$8.95

3 Channels

$13.24

2 Channels

STARZ Group

$8.95

6 Channels

$9.84

2 Channels

Encore Group

$5.95

6 Channels

$3.84

6 Channels

Showtime & TMC Digital Combo

$12.95

Showtime, TMC,
Flix & Sundance

$25.98

Showtime & TMC

HBO & Cinemax Digital Group

$19.50

HBO & Cinemax

$25.98

N/A

 

Tri-Cities Telephone Packaging and Pricing Comparison

Packages & Features

Tri-Cities

SBC/Ameritech

Residential

Commercial

Residential

Commercial

Basic Touchtone Service - Primary Line

$16.95

$24.95

$19.85

$25.69

Basic Touchtone Service - Secondary Line/Addl. Line

$12.95

$24.95

$19.85

$25.69

Basic Additional Line - Roll Over

$9.95

911

Free

Free

Free

Free

Call Waiting

$4.00

$6.50

$2.95

$5.00

Caller ID (name & number)

$4.00

N/A

$5.95

N/A

Caller ID Deluxe

N/A

$10.00

N/A

$10.00

Caller ID Enhanced

N/A

$15.00

N/A

3-Way Calling

$4.00

$5.00

$2.25

$5.00

Call Forwarding

$4.00

N/A

$2.25

N/A

Preferred Call Forwarding

$4.00

N/A

$3.50

N/A

Call Forwarding - Busy Line

N/A

$4.25

N/A

$5.00

Call Forwarding - No Answer

N/A

$4.25

N/A

$5.00

Priority Ring

$4.00

$9.00

$4.00

$9.00

Distinctive Ring

$4.00

$9.00

$4.00

$9.00

Selective Call Blocking

$4.00

$5.00

$4.00

$6.00

900/976 Call Blocking

Free

Free

Free

Free

Last Call Return

$4.00

$5.00

$3.95

$5.00

Call Trace

N/A

$6.50

N/A

$6.50

Speed Dial 8

$3.00

$4.00

$5.00

$4.00

Speed Dial 30

$4.00

$5.00

$5.00

$5.00

Non-Published Number

$2.75

$2.75

$2.75

$2.75

Listing Omitted from Phone Directory

Free

Free

Free

Free

Standard Directory Listings

Free

Free

Free

Free

Additional Directory Listings

$1.55

$2.00

$2.00

Foreign Directory Listings

N/A

$2.00

N/A

$2.00

Inside Wire Maintenance

$2.00

$4.00

$3.95

$4.00

Continuous Redial *66

$2.00

$2.00

$2.25

$5.00

Anonymous Call Rejection

$0.00

$2.00

N/A

$2.00

Customer Code Restriction

$0.00

$2.00

$2.00

$2.00

Voice Mail

$4.00

$15.00

$5.95

$17.45

Voice Mail with Extensions

$4.50

$17.50

N/A

Voice Mail with Page Notifications

$6.95

$20.00

$21.45

Voice Mail with Page Notifications & Ext.

$7.95

$22.50

N/A

Information at 411

$0.75

$0.75

$0.75

$0.75

Courtesy Complete for 411

$7.50

$7.50

$7.50

$7.50

 

Note: City of Geneva rates are exclusive of taxes but include all other charges.

Note: Ameritech rates are exclusive of taxes but include FCC and Universal Service Fund charges.

 

Tri-Cities Residential Data Packaging and Pricing Comparison

Tri-Cities

Ameritech

Packages & Features

Rates

Packages & Features

Rates

With Cable:  

Platinum Service - downstream to
3.0 Mbps

$64.95

Fast Access DSL Service (with any pkg.)

$29.95

Gold Service - downstream to
2.0 Mbps

$44.95

Fast Access DSL Service (without any pkg.)

$49.94

Silver Service - downstream to
1.0 Mbps

$34.95

 

Standard Service - downstream to
512 Kbps

$26.95

Without Cable:

Platinum Service - downstream to
3.0 Mbps

$69.95

Gold Service - downstram to 1.5 Mbps

$49.95

Silver Service - downstream to
512 Kbps

$39.95

Standard Service - downstream to
256 Kbps

$31.95

 

Tri-Cities Commercial Data Packaging and Pricing Comparison

Tri-Cities

Ameritech

Packages & Features

Rates

Packages & Features

Rates

Standard Business Service - Level 1

$49.95

Fast Access DSL Service (with pkg.)

$39.95

Standard Business Service - Level 2

$69.95

Fast Access DSL Service (without pkg.)

$49.95

Business Plus Service - Level 1

$89.95

Business Plus Service - Level 2

$99.95

Business Elite Service - Level 1

$129.95

Business Elite Service - Level 2

$169.95

 

 

 General Questions

 

1.   How did this broadband discussion among St. Charles, Geneva and Batavia come about and how long have the representatives been researching this issue? 

The Tri-Cities have been discussing the possibility of a municipally sponsored broadband utility for the past two years.  Leaders in all three communities were concerned with the lack of viable competition among cable and telephone service providers in the area, as well as the limited options for high-speed Internet access.  All three communities had observed an increase in the number of complaints about current service providers, as well as several broken commitments on the part of the providers to upgrade their systems and enable them to meet the increasing demand of new customers.  One of the key reasons a municipally sponsored broadband utility was explored as a potential solution to these problems was that the cities already maintained fiber optic networks within their communities for internal purposes.  It is the belief of all three communities that state of the art telecommunications infrastructure is crucial to the long-term economic viability of the tri-cities region.  Residents of the Tri-Cities have continually looked to their city governments to take action.  Initial discussions revealed several areas never addressed by private providers:

§        Underserved Segments – commercial sector (e.g. doctors, hospitals, etc.), seniors, low income residents

§        Community Focus – address the specific needs of each community and support economic development

§        Competition – currently no competition for cable service

§        Future technology – the wired generation

 

Representatives from St. Charles, Geneva, and Batavia began meeting in early 2001 to discuss the issues and find ways to work together.  Early discussions focused on how linking the three towns via fiber optic networks might benefit the municipal governments of each town.  As the meetings continued, the scope of the concept increased to serve the needs of businesses and residents based on the concerns described above.  A resident survey was conducted in 2001 to determine future needs and gain a better understanding of how receptive residents would be to a new municipal broadband utility.  The survey was extremely positive and showed a high level of interest.  Representatives from each community also attended an American Public Power Association Telecommunications Conference to learn more about municipal broadband utilities and talk with other communities.  Site visits to three municipal broadband utilities (Spencer, IA; Thomasville, GA; and Palo Alto, CA) were conducted to learn more about their systems, financial implications and how they began.  Additional municipalities were interviewed by telephone.

After conducting a large amount of research, the group took the next step and hired a consultant to prepare a comprehensive feasibility study.  A request for proposals was prepared and interviews were conducted by a group of representatives that included staff and members of the city council of each community.  The feasibility study is now being audited by a second independent consultant to confirm its assumptions.

 

2.   What services would be provided by a municipally owned broadband utility?

A municipal broadband utility would have the capability to provide a wide range of services to residential and commercial customers in the community.   These services include, but are not limited to:

§        Cable television service

§        Local telephone service

§        Long distance telephone service

§        High speed Internet access

§        Local and wide area telecommunications networking

All of these services would be optional.  That is, no resident would have to subscribe to any of these services if he or she did not want to.  Residents would still be free to obtain these services from any other provider as well.

 

3.   Why has the City considered providing these services?

There are several reasons the City might want to provide broadband services:

1.  Increase Competition – As prices for cable, telephone and Internet access services increase, the City is concerned with the lack of competition and that the costs to consumers will continue to increase.  Without competition, current providers are able to base their rates on a pricing strategy of “whatever the customer will bear.”  Since the demand for cable, Internet and video services are relatively “inelastic,” where price does not dramatically affect the demand for these services, there is a strong consumer tolerance to pricing increases.  Firms that operate in an environment of limited competition will take advantage of this high degree of consumer tolerance for pricing changes. 

2.  Improve Customer Service – As many residents have experienced, the customer service for current providers is most often centralized in customer service centers that service hundreds of thousands of customers from across the country.  A municipally owned utility would service only those customers in the service area.  Most importantly, accountability rests with elected and appointed officials.  How does a citizen hold a national or multi-national corporation accountable?

3.  Provide Business Applications – Many of the broadband services currently offered and expected to be offered by private companies to residential customers would not be provided to businesses.  For example, the new cable modem services under development and construction by the existing provider will not be offered to business users.  Important business applications could, however, greatly benefit everyone, such as doctors, hospitals, manufacturers, and small businesses.  A municipal system would be available to the business community.

4.     Enable Future Technology – Compared to existing providers, a municipal system would provide superior technology that will offer greater potential for new, more advanced applications. 

5.      Enhance Economic Development – The importance of broadband applications continues to increase for business (i.e., at-home work, home-based businesses and travelers staying at local hotels), education and individual need.  This will translate into unique competitive advantages over other municipalities in attracting and retaining businesses as well as positively influencing home values.  We have already experienced this with our electric utility.   Along with the City’s natural beauty, history and architecture, it will add another element to Geneva’s strong sense of place.

6.      Reinvest Resources – As a local enterprise, with employees living and shopping within the area, the money that users pay for these services and supplies to construct and maintain the system will be reinvested throughout the community.

7.      Provide Community-centered Services - After achieving financial stability, a municipally operated broadband system can provide other important benefits to the community.  For example, it could partner with other governmental and non-profit organizations to provide equipment and training for those who have not had the opportunity and/or money to join the Internet era.

 

4.   If this is such a good idea, are other municipalities doing it?

Yes.  Over the last 20 years, more than 100 municipal broadband systems have been built and are currently in operation offering combinations of telephone, Internet and cable services.  Some of these systems include Thomasville, GA; Spencer, IA; Cedar Falls, IA; and Lebanon, OH.  The success rate has been extremely high.  The most common thread among the municipalities with broadband systems is the existence of a municipal electric utility.

The experience and resources available as a result of owning and operating a successful electric utility reduces the cost of building a broadband network as well as successfully operating it.  In the case of St. Charles/Geneva/Batavia, the focus of the electric utility has always been exceptional reliability, excellent customer service and a very competitive price.  The electric utility has been successful in large part because it is local, and the employees take a great deal of pride in their work for the citizens of our community.

 

5.   What is the timing for this project and when would the City begin to offer broadband services.

If the referendum question is approved by voters and the City Council also votes to move forward in April 2003, services could be offered to residents within the City limits in 2004.

 

6.   Why would citizens subscribe to the municipal broadband services instead of using private providers?

Subscribers to the municipal broadband services will have the assurance that the subscription rates will be the lowest possible, and their data capabilities will be able to keep up with the newest technology for many years to come.  Administration of the system would be community-focused, with a citizens committee to determine channel offerings, so subscribers to the system could address their programming concerns directly to the board that makes the decisions.  Residents who work from home and local businesses would have the latest technology available to them for the best quality and fastest downloads, streaming video, and real-time video conferencing.  A municipal broadband utility would also provide the same personalized, efficient services residents currently enjoy with their electric, sewer and water service.

 

 

Market Feasibility

 

7.   What assurance do we have the broadband feasibility study is correct?

We looked to many other communities across the country for guidance as to the assumptions used in the feasibility study prepared by United Telesystems Inc (UTI).  In particular, we examined these communities’ success with similar systems and their market shares.   Their experience supported the assumptions used by UTI.  Also, an independent firm is in the process conducting a formal audit of the study.

 

8.   How price competitive would the City’s services be with existing providers?

The municipal broadband services will be priced very competitively with existing providers.  Projections on monthly pricing from the Broadband Feasibility Study recently completed can be evaluated on the comparison charts attached to this document.

 

9.   How will the taxes and fees for the municipal telephone service compare with private providers?

The rates for taxes and fees will remain the same regardless of the provider. 

 

10.  If AT&T-Comcast lowers their prices, how will the municipal utility survive?

It is unlikely that our fees would ever be higher than current providers, but even if there were a marginal difference, the level of service, reliability, local focus and customer service will always be competitive.  There is little evidence that AT&T-Comcast could significantly undercut the prices of a municipal broadband utility.  If they priced below their cost, they would be subject to prosecution for predatory pricing.  Because a municipally owned broadband utility would be locally focused, the margins between cost and subscriber fees need only cover ongoing operating and capital expenses for a small area.   The proposed municipal rates stated in the attached tables do not indicate our lowest possible break-even cost, as they are intended to be competitive and give a return for future upgrades. 

 

11.  How reliable would municipal infrastructure and service be compared to what we currently have from other providers?

The delivery of services to customers through the proposed municipal broadband infrastructure would be over a 100% fiber optic network.  Fiber-optic cable does not have to contend with electro magnetic interference problems like the copper coaxial cable AT&T-Comcast uses and proposes to use in their upgrade.  Fiber optic cable does not need electric powering and is immune to lightning and other transients.  These properties of the fiber not only make it the most reliable option for broadband services, but it also leads to the lowest powering and operational costs (such as maintenance, provisioning and facilities planning).

Subscribers to the municipal utility would enjoy the same responsiveness, integrity, value and service all residents now enjoy with the City’s electric, sewer and water services.  Technicians and customer service representatives for the municipal utility would be local and have the same vested interest and commitment to quality our current City employees demonstrate.  We feel that subscribers to the municipal utility would receive superior overall service (technical capabilities, responsiveness, value, customer service) to those provided by private companies.

 

12.  We have a commitment from AT&T-Comcast that they plan to upgrade the cable system and begin offering cable modem service and other expanded services by summer of 2003.  SBC Ameritech also has set plans to upgrade and expand DSL services before a municipal broadband utility would be in service.  Why would municipal broadband services still be needed or desired?

A municipal broadband utility would provide competition for services that otherwise would not have any additional service providers in this area.  As previously mentioned, competition, customer service, business applications, future technology, economic development, reinvestment of resources and community-based focus are all issues that will not necessarily be resolved with the planned upgrades and improvements outlined by current providers.  As previously discussed, the upgrades planned by AT&T and SBC will not meet the level of technology that the municipal system will be able to offer.

 

13.  Would the City be working with current providers to provide these services or will the municipal system be independent?

The municipal broadband utility will work independently of all other broadband service providers and will rely on our own infrastructure, staff and services.   The broadband utility will be similar to our electric utility that purchases electricity wholesale from a larger company, distributes it through our own electric lines and maintains it using our own electric crews.  Just as other providers “purchase” access to the Internet, cable channels and telephone services for distribution to their customers, the municipal broadband utility will purchase cable channels that will then be offered in packages to customers.

 

14.  Will the City be the sole provider for cable and other broadband services or will residents have a choice?   Will residents be able to switch services easily if they desire?

Because other providers currently operate in the Tri-Cities, the City will not be the sole provider for cable and other broadband services.  Residents will have a choice and will be able to switch services easily.

 

15.  Would the same services be available for businesses and residents alike?

Yes.  Cable, local telephone, long distance and high speed Internet access would be available to residents and businesses alike.  All users would also have the option of choosing additional services suited to their specific needs to accommodate faster data transmission, more users, and specific business applications.  AT&T-Comcast plans do not anticipate provision of service to the business community.

 

16.  What benefit, if any, would this system provide to citizens who stay with current providers or do not choose to utilize municipal broadband services?

Citizens who stay with current providers, rather than switching to municipal broadband services, will benefit because current providers will have competition.

Citizens who stay with current providers, or do not order these services from any of the providers, will benefit from the economic opportunities this utility will provide for the municipality.  With the creation of the proposed utility, our community would have the most advanced network infrastructure available, making it easier to attract and retain businesses that require these types of services.  A balanced commercial base is critical to keep taxes down and public services up.

 

 

Financial Questions

 

17.  Wouldn’t it be more cost effective and easier for the City to renegotiate its franchise with AT&T-Comcast, require them to provide better service and establish controls on their fees?

No.  The authority for cities to control fees is limited by regulations.  There are some customer service standards for cable companies; however, these represent minimum standards.  Non-compliance with customer service standards can only be addressed through a lengthy bureaucratic process.  The following discussion provides more specific information about cable regulation.

The Telecommunications Act of 1996 promised competition in local telephone markets and cable TV services.  More competition would typically mean tempering the rise in cable rates and stimulating private investment in deploying broadband.  According to an FCC report, though, cable television rates in 2001 rose at more than twice the rate of inflation.  This was due largely to a rash of industry consolidations and mergers.  When a few companies dominate a specialized market, providers adopt similar strategies.  Either they offer an inferior product at suppressed prices (to discourage rivals from entering the market), or they provide high quality service at prices higher than could be sustained in a competitive market.  In either scenario, consumers face limited choices.

 

18.  How much will this project cost and what is the financial impact going to be on residents if this project proceeds?

The City does not intend a municipal broadband system to impact taxes.   Similar to electric and water utilities, the broadband utility would be self-supporting.  If Geneva, St. Charles and Batavia all decide to move forward with the project, link the three infrastructures and share some of the costs, the project will cost a total of $62 million for all three communities.  The cost will be shared proportionately according to the size of the community.   Geneva’s share of this cost would be approximately $15 million.  If Geneva moves forward with this project independent of St. Charles and Batavia, the project would cost $20 million.  An independent feasibility study, which was also independently audited, concluded that the General Obligation Bonds issued to fund this project would be retired by user fees. 

 

19.  Isn’t there a better use of the City’s and taxpayers’ money than building this new utility?

The City is not proposing spending tax money on this project.  The borrowed capital will be paid back by the users of the broadband system through their subscriber fees.   As outlined in the feasibility study, the bonds used to build a broadband utility would be paid back from user fees (the subscriber fees).  It is not anticipated that the taxpayers would be burdened with the cost of providing broadband.  Failure to meet this goal would result in some burden for the taxpayers.

 

20.  How long would it take to pay off the bonds that would be issued to create this utility, and how does this timeframe compare to the technological life of the utility?

According to worst-case scenarios, it would take 15 years to completely retire the bonds at the estimated rate of 4.75%.  [Tax-exempt municipal bonds, as of 12/31/02, were slightly below 4%.]   This period of time is found in the feasibility study in which all bond interest and principle will be fully funded through user (subscriber) fees.  The estimated life of the physical (in-ground) infrastructure exceeds 30 years.  It is anticipated that the equipment will have to be updated over the years to keep current with customer demands, but that element is incorporated in the user fees.  It should be noted that the infrastructure we are considering currently has the ability to handle communications bandwidth hundreds of times faster than what broadband users have today.  The equipment to do this exists today, making this infrastructure as future proof as possible.

 

 

Technical Questions

 

21.  What does “broadband” mean and how will this differ from the cable/telephone/internet service we currently have?

“Broadband” is the generic name given to systems designed for very high-speed cable, telephone and Internet services.  Broadband provides greater capacity to send data than standard telephone networks.   Broadband services are at least 10 times faster than conventional “dial-up” connections, allowing connections at speeds in excess of 512 Kilobits per second (Kbps) (a standard telephone connection is 56 Kbps).   For example, an E-Bay screen that takes 20 to 30 seconds to display using a telephone modem would display instantly using broadband.

Several differing technology types reside within the spectrum of broadband.  Transmission reliability and speed of data transfer are the primary differentiations that determine the current and future potential of each type.  The four main types of high-speed broadband connections are: 

§        Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) - DSL technology uses ordinary copper telephone wire to transmit data at broadband speeds up to 1.5 Mbps (Mega bits per second). 

§        Cable Modem - Cable modems provide high-speed data distribution (between 500 Kbps and 2.5 Mbps) over the cable television system networks. 

§        Wireless - Wireless broadband uses a receiver on the outside of the house to transmit data with the current potential speed of 54 Mbps, depending on several factors. 

§        Fiber Optic - Fiber optic cable transmits data at a speed up to 100 Mbps, two times faster than the fastest wireless, 50 times faster than a cable modem, and almost 75 times faster than DSL. 

 

22.  What expertise does the City have in telecommunications that would qualify it to run a broadband utility? 

In attempting to solve our electric utility substation management needs, we found we could also solve our internal data and voice network needs.  Having our own Electric Utility enables us to have the equipment, resources, easements and expertise to do much of the fieldwork and maintenance in-house instead of relying on outside resources to provide these important services.   Electric utility staff already have the expertise to lay and maintain fiber-optic cable and have already received additional training to equip them with knowledge on the latest technology.  In the case of a new municipal broadband utility, the proper staff would be hired and assembled to run the new utility.

 

23.  How technologically advanced would the municipal infrastructure be?  Would it need to be upgraded 5 years down the line and end up costing more each year?

The municipal broadband utility would utilize the most current technology to run fiber-optic cable directly to homes and businesses.  The Fiber-to-the-Home/Fiber-to-the-Business (FTTH/FTTB) model ensures that new technology on the horizon (HDTV, streaming video, videoconferencing, etc.) would be available and accessible to every home from the time the infrastructure is built.  These new technologies are expected to become more popular during the next several years.  It is expected the FTTH/FTTB system will serve users well for in excess of 30 years.  Our business plan provides for upgrades and maintenance as a cost of doing business.

 

24.  What are the advantages of Fiber-to-theHome/Fiber-to-theBusiness (FTTH/FTTB) and how will this differ from AT&T/Comcast’s infrastructure rebuild and from DSL?

One benefit of being a start-up utility is that we can apply the latest technology and will not need to reconfigure existing technology.

Fiber-optic technology delivers Internet, voice and video at speeds from 128K to 100M bit/sec and beyond. On a fiber-optic network, data is transmitted as light impulses along thin strands of silica glass.  Unlike copper cabling and wireless, optical fiber is not subject to electromagnetic interference because it uses light, not electricity.  Fiber optics can also transmit data over much longer distances—exceeding 50 miles over fiber-optic cabling vs. a few thousand feet for copper cabling.  Beyond HDTV, gaming, movies and teleworking with full-motion videoconferencing, other applications could include 3-D TV, virtual art museums, and the ability to deliver thousands of TV channels, each focused on a niche audience.   A typical household will generally need a consistent 40 Mbps connection in order to utilize this next generation technology.   Currently, a fiber optic system is the only technology that meets this standard.

AT&T/Comcast’s infrastructure rebuild will run fiber-optic cable to the curb and utilize coaxial cable from the fiber to each home.  The coaxial cable cannot accommodate data transmission as large or fast as fiber, so speed will be sacrificed.  Additional “noise” and corrosion is also more likely to occur at the fiber/coaxial connection, which may be more likely to cause service disruption.  A fiber optic system does not have this limitation; all channels will be clear.  The Internet bandwidth on a hybrid fiber-optic and coaxial cable system is shared among a group of subscribers. Speed may decrease as more users make a connection.  A fiber optic system does not have this limitation.

 

25.  Will wireless technology eventually replace current wired and fiber optic technology?

When discussing wireless solutions, it is important to distinguish between frequencies that are licensed by the FCC and those that are not.  Most of the wireless solutions marketed by smaller and medium-size companies use unlicensed frequencies.  While an unlicensed frequency can meet the needs of many people, it is not appropriate as a broad solution such as the one being considered by the Tri-Cities.  A primary concern is that there is no control over the number of devices that share an unlicensed environment.  Devices that share these frequencies can be installed anywhere by anyone with no regulation and no recourse for interference (think about the old party line telephones).  Thus, it may be very difficult for people to truly depend on this service for business or other important applications.

Licensed frequencies provide the probability of more stability than unlicensed frequencies; however, this stability comes at a high price.  The Federal Communications Commission auctions the limited number of licensed frequencies.  Generally, the companies that purchase these frequencies are large satellite companies, and the frequencies are used for mobile phone companies.  Even these companies, however, are subject to mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies and instability.

Unlicensed wireless technology is currently being used successfully for Internet service, but it is not viewed as a viable or adequate replacement for video or telephonic technology for a number of reasons:

§        Analog cable television is not available with unlicensed wireless (Ex. local channels 2, 5, 7, 9, 32, etc.)

§        Only one or two high quality digital cable television channels can be offered at a time vs. hundreds of channels with fiber.

§        Wireless is not impervious to eavesdropping or interference from other devices, and performance is affected by distance, additional subscribers and line of sight.

§        High Definition Television (HDTV) is not available with wireless.

§        Wireless is incapable of high quality Video on Demand for multiple customers.

 

Although technology is always changing, the potential for higher future wireless performance is limited.  It may scale up from 128 Kbps to 1 Gigabyte per second (Gbps) in the future if restrictions on frequencies are lifted, but there is currently no known timeline or cost structure for that.  In comparison, FTTH/FTTB can offer a full range of analog and digital cable television capabilities, HDTV, privacy from eavesdropping, imperviousness to interference, Video on Demand for multiple-customers, and availability of 10 Gbps data transmission.

 

26.  If several different services are provided on the same fiber-optic cable line (cable TV, phone and Internet) and one service “goes out,” would the other services also be affected?

In the case of a cable line cut, as is currently the case with any cable running to a home or business, all services running through that cable will be affected.   Depending on your choice of service providers, telephone, data and cable TV could be running on the same fiber-optic line.  In the case of a single service, only one service could be affected at a time.  If a fiber-optic cable is cut, depending on where the cut is located, calls and data usage can be re-routed through alternate paths. In any case, you can be assured that the City would respond in timely manner because we are local, similar to the way we have managed our electric utility for over 100 years.

 

27.  Would residents be able to mix and match municipal services and services from private providers?

Residents will have the choice to subscribe to one of the municipal services offered, two of them, all three, none or a combination of municipal and private providers.  There will also be the opportunity to consolidate billing on one invoice for all subscribed municipal services.

 

28.  How will the speed of a municipal Internet connection compare with a cable modem?

The potential speed for data transmission through a municipal Fiber-to-the-Home system is much greater than the Fiber-to-the-Curb/coaxial cable to the home, which will be built by AT&T-Comcast.   In addition, the municipal fiber system would be much more reliable since individual subscriber connections would not be shared.  The initial speeds will be comparable to cable modems and DSL but can easily be scaled higher as demand increases, and customers could choose service packages according to their data speed requirements.

 

29.  Will residents be able to keep their phone numbers or will a new number be assigned to subscribers of municipal local phone service?

Residents will be able to keep their current phone numbers.  The 1996 Federal Telecommunications Act mandates that there be local number portability from one carrier to another.  As a competitive carrier, the municipal utility would be able to offer this feature.

 

30.  What disruptions will occur during implementation of the plan?

All utility work will entail some initial disruption regardless of the provider.  This could include trenching/boring in public rights-of-way and easements or trenching through the yards of those who subscribe.  Because we are a local utility, a local representative will answer customer questions and resolve issues.  The municipalities can promise good communication, timely restoration of disturbed areas, and genuine concern for private property, as this is our community, too.  We feel we have exhibited excellence in these areas in the operation of our electric, sewer and water utilities.

  

Programming Questions

 

31.  Who will decide which cable television channels will be offered and how will the decision be made?

While the exact structure for operational issues like this is still to be determined, the feasibility study recommends that the City Council appoint a citizen committee to examine channel offerings.  If the Tri-Cities ban together, there is another alternative.   Each community could appoint citizens from their community to sit on a joint board that would decide programming for the Tri-Cities.  While the city council of each community will always have final responsibility for this utility, most communities that have implemented a broadband system have given broad discretion to the citizens’ committee.  Unlike a private company where the programming lineup is based on legal limitations and financial returns, a citizen committee’s decisions would add the element of local needs in their decision-making deliberations.

 32.  Will the City be able to offer the same variety of channels that current cable providers offer, and will locally broadcast channels (2, 5, 7 and 9) be available at no additional cost?

The municipal cable utility would work in a similar manner to current cable providers.  The City would subscribe and pay for individual channels that they then would offer to customers.  The municipal utility would purchase packages for local channels, digital channels, movie channels and pay-per-view options.  These would be collected by satellite and distributed to customers according to their subscription packages via the fiber-optic infrastructure.

 33.  Will local channels and public access channels be a component of the basic package?

Yes.

 34.  What would be the City’s position on censorship of cable stations?

A Geneva citizens committee or a joint committee of citizens from St. Charles, Geneva and/or Batavia would be formed to recommend the station lineup to the City Council or a joint board.  It has been suggested that someone from the Library Board or staff be a member of the utility board since they have been dealing with issues of local community standards for decades.  While a private company bases their programming decisions on legal limitations and financial returns, a citizen group’s decisions would add the element of local needs in their decision-making deliberations. 

 

35.  Will there be options for families to block inappropriate sites and programs for children?

The municipal utility will be compliant with software and options for parental controls.  These controls will be on an individual basis and will not be provided by the municipal utility, although staff will be able to suggest options and facilitate installation of controls.



FEASIBILITY STUDY
(in Adobe Acrobat format)

Geneva Broadband Business Plan.pdf  Size 7294135

 

Business Research Network Survey Results.pdf  Size 59672
Household Research Network Survey Results.pdf  Size 67081

City of Geneva Fiber Survey to Businesses
TriCity Residential Broadband Survey and Memo to City Council

Memo to City Council and RFP for TriCity Feasibility Study

Memo to City Council recommending selection of UTI,
Resolution 2002-10 Authorizing Staff to Draft Agreement with UTI, UTI Proposal, and Contract with UTI

Geneva Broadband Presentation to Committee of the Whole 11/25/02

COW Minutes 020114 - Authorize Participation in TriCity Study
CC Minutes - Authorize Staff to Draft Agreement with UTI
CC Minutues - Consider Contract with UTI
COW Minutes - UTI Study presented to COW by staff

If you have any questions about the TriCity Broadband Initiative that are not answered here, please feel free to send them to Mayor Kevin Burns, your aldermen, or Information Systems Manager Peter Collins.