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Lincoln announces plan to install downtown fiber grid

Lincoln mayor Chris Beutler (at podium) was joined by (from left) Bradley Walker of Nanonation, Ben Kiser of NelNet and Bruce Bohrer of the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce for today’s announcement.

Unite Private Networks and the City of Lincoln will form a joint public-private partnership to place a grid of telecommunication fiber in downtown Lincoln.

Lincoln mayor Chris Beutler outlined the plan during a press conference today, where he said that the city will finance a grid of conduits that will ultimately hold fiber from Unite and be open to any other communication company. The city will own the conduit, and Unite will maintain it. Any telecommunication service providers will be able to install fiber in the conduit.

The mayor is proposing to the City Council that the city fund the $600,000 conduit project with Fast Forward funds. Fast Forward funding is set aside for infrastructure projects that help drive economic development and job creation.

“My goal is to keep Lincoln among the most competitive economies not only in Nebraska, not only in the United States, but the entire world,” Beutler said. “Today’s announcement will stamp Lincoln, Neb. as a national leader in critical communication infrastructure and further our goal of being a city that can compete with anyone, anytime, anywhere. It will be a game-changer.”

At the press conference, Beutler outlined some of the anticipated benefits of new fiber for Lincoln:

  • Increasing competition for internet services, creating pressure for lower prices and expanded services.
  • Providing critical redundancy for businesses that depend on internet service.
  • Enabling the city government to implement new technology aimed at saving taxpayers money.
  • Allowing the city to preserve an existing investment by installing the conduits this spring, when crews are already scheduled to re-surface downtown streets.

Bruce Bohrer, executive vice president and general counsel for the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce, said that the Lincoln Partnership of Economic Development conducts yearly business conditions surveys and in 2010 the business community articulated having challenges with Lincoln’s capability for high-speed internet access. Bohrer also talked about what this type of project does for existing businesses in Lincoln and also for attracting new businesses to the city.

“The installation of conduit will encourage further development of the telecommunication and high speed fiber capabilities of Lincoln, which will in turn solve the specific problems with downtime and system reliability experienced by businesses now,” Bohrer said. “This type of investment by the city will become another highlight as we showcase this community to companies considering Lincoln as a place to expand.”

Bohrer also said that with additional investment that may occur as a result of the project, business owners can anticipate that the entire city will see increased options, which will hopefully create lower costs.

The project has the potential to provide benefit to all business sizes throughout the entire city, according to Jason Ball, director of business development with the Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development. “The up-front capital investment required for a dedicated high-speed fiber line is typically cost prohibitive for small and medium sized businesses,” Ball said. “Having a conduit grid in the downtown area will significantly reduce capital investment costs for providers and downtown business.”

Ball said that even if a business would not require that much capacity, this project will still provide businesses more carrier choice options, a more redundant system and over time should reduce cost of service through competition. He anticipates impact of the project will be felt city-wide. “The eventual addition of a carrier neutral hotel would leverage the investment the city is making and provide these benefits to the entire city,” Ball said, “not just the downtown.“

The resolution to use the Fast Forward Fund will require approval from the Lincoln City Council and will be put to a vote later this month.


Disclosure: Kate Ellingson, is the marketing and media manager for the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce.

Image credit: Photo by Kate Ellingson.

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