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Louisville Takes a Step in Quest for Faster Internet


Louisville officials are taking another step in an effort to bring ultra high speed internet service to the city.Following up a request for information issued in late 2013, the city’s office for Economic Growth and Innovation has issued a request for proposals to franchises that provide internet services, hoping to spark the installation of a gigabit bandwidth fiber that could lead to internet speeds 20-100 times faster than what is currently being offered.As a result of the request for information, city officials had to make “two major changes” in order to attract companies that install the gigabit fiber, said Ted Smith, the director of the office for Economic Growth and Innovation.One change was to extend the term of agreement between the city and telecommunication companies from 15 to 20 years, Smith said.“That is important for the companies that are making a capital investment,” he said.  “They want to be able to advertise that investment over the longest timeframe possible.”Smith said the second change was to “relax” the bonding requirements “fairly substantially,” which would make acquiring needed licenses for installation easier.“It’s not like there is any big infrastructure challenge with any risk to it,” he said.Once the two changes were initiated, the request for proposals, or RFP, was sent out.“RFPs are usually associated with procurement, with buying something,” Smith said.But, he said the city won’t actually be buying anything.“The city is not going to invest anything,” he said.  “It is a strictly private sector opportunity; there is no public money involved.”Smith said some franchises that provide internet services have already expressed an interest in investing more than $150 million to make the high speed upgrade a reality.There have been other offers, as well, but Smith said regardless of which franchises are selected to install the gigabit fiber, “nobody will actually get exclusive franchise rights for providing internet access in Louisville.”“Our interest is to be competitive with other cities in the United States to provide higher bandwidth at lower cost,” Smith said.And the cost for the high speed internet is not expected to be much more than what you may be paying now, Smith said.“For gigabit internet access, we are seeing between $75 and $95 a month, which is what many Louisvillians are paying now for a tenth of that speed,” Smith said.Officials expect that once the gigabit fiber is installed, the price of the lower speed internet should go down.Smith said the search for franchises that are willing to install gigabit fiber in the city is not a way to “get around” current internet service providers already working in Louisville, it is just way to bring more options to residents and remain competitive.“We have to have a competitive city,” Smith said.  “There are technology professionals leaving our city today to go to these cities that have cost effective hub in with internet and other things in their community that people enjoy and they’re able to work for companies all over the world because of their high speed, at home, internet access.”To see a map of where the highest demand is for ultra high speed internet, go here.

Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.