Shenandoah City Council authorized its internet committee to continue final contract negotiations on the fiber internet project during its meeting July 26.
Fiber internet uses a fiber optic cable to directly connect a central point to individual buildings, providing high-speed internet access. The possibility of Shenandoah having access to this service has been a topic of discussion for residents and council members alike, since 2015.
“We recognize today that internet is considered a utility; it’s an infrastructure and it’s something we ought to have,” Council Member Mike McLeod said. “It’s just below electricity in terms of how important it’s become in today’s society.”
The city surveyed residents about their internet service and of those who responded, found that 77 percent were not satisfied with their current provider, due to speed issues, intermittent service or customer service.
Fifty-five percent of respondents said they would be wiling to pay more per month for faster, more reliable internet.
“The problem we’re trying to solve is spotty, irregular, unreliable internet service that was generally slow,” McLeod said. “The survey showed that we are having significant, ongoing problems with internet infrastructure and we’ve had many residents come to the council to talk about it.”
The city conducted town halls in 2016 to further gauge resident’s interest in potentially implementing fiber internet access citywide as it would provide a faster, more reliable connection.
Tachus—an internet provider already serving the Shenandoah neighborhoods of Silverwood Ranch, Silverwood Ranch Estates and Boulevard Green—was the only company to submit a request for qualifications and pricing on the project.
In a 4-1 vote, the council authorized the internet committee to continue final contract negotiations with Tachus on the project. Council Member Ron Raymaker voted against it.
Upon implementation, fiber internet service would be an option for all single-family homes in Shenandoah for a flat monthly rate equal to or less than $100. Installation would be provided at no charge to residents.
Tachus officials estimated it would take approximately 16 months to complete the project throughout the entire city and cost roughly $1.5 million. To fund the project, the city proposed a unique funding model in which it would pay for conduit construction with reserve funds. Over time, Tachus customers who opt-in the fiber internet service would pay a monthly $15 franchise fee, included in the $100 monthly fee, to pay back city reserves.
However, Council Member Byron Bevers proposed the council look at other funding methods to pay for the project.
“I don’t like the payback mechanism that’s been proposed,” Bevers said. “I don’t feel like we should toll our residents for services we provide. If it’s a good project I’d like to see us fund it for the community and not look at charging our residents.”
City Administrator Greg Smith said going forward with the project, the city will conduct additional town hall meetings to keep residents up-to-date.