An open access broadband network is planned for the city of McKinney, according to a presentation at a Feb. 7 City Council work session.

SiFi Networks, a privately-owned telecom company that specializes in citywide fiber optic networks, is expected to invest over $100 million in the project, according to a presentation from the meeting. The network will offer 10 gigabit symmetrical broadband service to McKinney residents, businesses and other facilities through an open access fiber network. The network implementation requires no hard cost outlay from the city, McKinney Director of Strategic Services Trevor Minyard said.

“This [network] is operationalized in a fiber to the premises model, meaning that every premises, address in the city of McKinney would receive fiber to its sidewalk,” Minyard said.

The project includes over 1,200 miles of fiber optic cable that can connect every residence in the city to the network. The network is expected to take between 12 and 24 months to design and another 60 months to build, according to Minyard. The project could also include a smart city corridor along Collin McKinney Parkway.

SiFi Networks has implemented this type of fiber network in cities across the country, including in Texas cities like Arlington and Odessa, according to the presentation. SiFi Networks will design and construct the open access fiber system which would then be leased out to multiple retail internet providers to provide service to residents, Minyard said.

“The trunk line being an open access network, in our opinion, leads to more competition, which inevitably and hopefully, leads to lower pricing,” Minyard said.

SiFi Networks plans to host “eat-and-greets” to connect with McKinney residents and improve community awareness of the initiative, termed McKinney Fiber City, Minyard said. The license agreement was passed 6-0, with Mayor Pro Tem Rainey Rogers absent, as part of the consent agenda at a Feb. 7 regular council meeting.

The city determined the best implementation of the fiber would be in the softscape, meaning the fiber would be primarily laid in grass and dirt using a micro-trenching technique, Minyard said. The alternative would be in the hardscape, but city officials decided against that option to protect the city’s reinforced concrete streets, Minyard said. SiFi Networks has also made a commitment that any areas dug out will be filled the same day, according to Minyard.

“Given that we have so much reinforced concrete, we didn’t want to degrade the investments that we’ve made in those streets and roadways over the years, or even the sidewalks for that matter,” Minyard said.

The city is creating a new permit and associated fee to address how the project is permitted, Minyard said. The project is expected to be constructed in multiple zones that are roughly 1 to 2 square miles that will connect to two or more sheds that will serve as network endpoints, according to the presentation.

This project began in 2019 when the city began assessing the need for technological growth to support cellular and broadband technology. The City Council incorporated the initiative into their strategic goals in June 2021. HR Green, an engineering consulting firm, was hired to assess the city’s broadband and technology infrastructure needs. A request for proposals to develop the network was issued by the city in March 2022. Of the 11 proposals received, the city interviewed three candidates, including AT&T and NextEra, and ultimately chose SiFi Networks.

Another goal of the project was to address underserved areas of the community and improve resident adoption of services, according to city documents. To meet that goal, SiFi Networks has committed to begin the network buildout in east McKinney to provide coverage to underserved residents, Minyard said. The company also works with its local government partners to identify underserved areas and incentivizes the internet service providers on its network to offer discounts to those qualified residents, said Shawn Parker, vice president of business development and government affairs for SiFi Networks. All internet service providers on the network will be required to serve the entire city, Parker said.