Q: What are the options for fiber optics in Fort Dodge?
A: Several options will be explored during the evaluation process. Keep in mind that these are just options; no decisions have been made and no particular option is preferred at this time.
- PUBLIC NETWORK/PUBLIC PROVIDER: Fort Dodge builds a community-owned fiber network and establishes a new city department/utility to provide services. Iowa examples: Cedar Falls, Waverly, Indianola. This would require a public referendum to establish a municipal telecommunications utility.
- PUBLIC NETWORK/PRIVATE PROVIDER: Fort Dodge builds a publicly-owned fiber network and "hires" another company to provide services to homes and businesses. Iowa examples: Mapleton, Adair. This would also require a referendum.
- PRIVATE NETWORK/PRIVATE PROVIDER: Fort Dodge uses the information gathered during the pre-feasibility study and other efforts to attract a new company to build its own fiber network to serve homes and businesses. Other Iowa examples of private providers offering fiber optic service include Davenport, Bettendorf, Iowa City, Dubuque, and numerous communities and rural areas served by independent cooperatives and mutuals.
- INCUMBENT UPGRADE: Existing providers in Fort Dodgemake a firm commitment to build fiber to homes and businesses on a reasonable timeline
Q: One of the options is a community-owned telecommunications utility. How would this work?
A: The first step would be voter approval of a referendum to establish a municipal telecommunications utility. If the referendum passes, the City would then need to conduct a detailed study to find out how much it would cost, how it could be financed, and whether it is financially self-sustaining. Then and only then could the City of Fort Dodge build a fiber optic network and operate it as a city utility. The network would be paid for with user fees from residents who subscribe to internet, cable TV, or phone service. People who choose another provider will not pay for the network.
Q: What other towns in Iowa have built municipal broadband utilities?
A: Quite a few! Over two dozen Iowa communities have invested in their own broadband networks. Some of these networks were built as early as the 1990's and many of those are currently being rebuilt to fiber-to-the-home.
In addition to the cities that have already built networks, Vinton and Adair are building networks in 2019, and Pella, New Hampton, and Charles City are expecting to launch projects in 2020. In each case, these communities realize that having reliable, fast, affordable broadband service is vital to their future and worth the investment of effort, time, and money to achieve better broadband for their citizens.
In addition to the cities shown on the map, another 30+ communities have approved a referendum but did not build a network. Some of the communities that passed referendums 15-20 years ago are not taking a second look as access to fiber optics becomes more and more important.
Q: What other companies have fiber optic networks in Iowa?
A: Most of the fiber optic networks in Iowa are NOT municipally-owned. The vast majority are operated by small, independent telephone companies such as Webster-Calhoun Cooperative Telephone Association and dozens of others. These small, community-focused providers have invested in their networks to upgrade them to all-fiber to create the best possible experience for their customers.
Private companies such as ImOn Communications (based in Cedar Rapids), ALLO Communications (based in Nebraska), and MetroNet Fiber (based in Indiana) are also building fiber networks in some cities and may be interested in providing service in Fort Dodge if sufficient demand exists. One of the goals of the pre-feasibility study is to help identify demand and possibly attract one of these providers to Fort Dodge.
There are limited areas where incumbent telephone companies such as CenturyLink have built fiber-to-the-home, but these upgrades are largely limited to new developments in larger metro areas.
Q: We have a provider with gigabit internet today. What do we need with another provider?
A: Having another provider in Fort Dodge gives consumers a CHOICE. Also, a new provider, whether public or private, would build fiber options all the way to the home or business. These all-fiber networks have higher capacity and reliability than networks that rely on copper to the home. Also, fiber networks allow upload speeds to match download speeds. Upload speeds are becoming increasingly important.
Q: How quickly could this become outdated (too slow) and what are the existing options to update it in the future?
A: It is highly unlikely that fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) technology will be come obsolete anytime in the forseeable future. Fiber provides almost unlimited capacity and unparalleled reliability. Other technologies, such as wireless, have significant technological challenges. The fiber optic cables themselves have a useful life of 20 years or more. Electronics and software upgrades will be necessary over time, but the core infrastructure itself - fiber - will not need to be changed.
Q: What about 5G?
A: 5G wireless is coming. The big question is WHEN it will arrive and what it will best be used for. There are two important things to keep in mind about 5G that most people are not aware of:
5G will require a direct line-of-site between the tower/radio and your device. It is NOT designed to provide service inside of buildings without an external antenna and internal radio repeaters. 5G will be a great mobile solution but not a great solution for home or business internet access.
5G requires A LOT of fiber! When fully deployed (likely several years away), 5G will require small "cells" every 300-500', and each of these cells will require a fiber connection. If a fiber network is installed to provide services to homes and businesses, it can also be used to serve these 5G cells.
The presence of a community-wide fiber network would make Fort Dodge a more attractive market for 5G services.
Q: What kind of speeds could we expect from a fiber-to-the-home network?
A: Fiber optics is capable of providing amazing download and upload speeds. Using today's available technology, speeds of to 10 Gbps are easily achieved with a fiber network. While most users today only need a fraction of that speed (100 Mbps internet is a popular choice among all-fiber networks), the ability to offer much higher speeds to customers who need it is a primary advantage of fiber.
Best of all, with a fiber network the download speeds and upload speeds would be the same, unlike copper networks where download speeds are a fraction of uploads. This becomes increasingly important as we move more and more data from our homes and businesses to the "cloud", such as security cameras, Smart Home devices, etc.
Q: How much would services cost?
A: While it's early in the process to determine actual prices, a new provider will need to provide excellent service for a competitive price. And the presence of a new provider in Fort Dodge will likely encourage existing providers to lower prices and improve services in order to try to retain as many customers as possible.