Commissioners Differ on Urgency of Digital Divide Request
Oct 30, 2020 - City commissioners differed today on how fast to move on a pilot project to bring free wifi to some of Lakeland’s poorer neighborhoods. Some commissioners urged urgency to help students do homework and seniors access telemedecine; others wanted to make sure plans for free access won’t detract from a private vendor’s pending efforts to market high-speed Internet.
Commissioner Stephanie Madden led the charge for urgency on projects to bridge the “digital divide” that separates Internet haves and have-nots. As head of the city’s Broadband Committee, she sat in on the recent initial meeting between city staff and the private provider, Summit Broadband of Orlando.
tops the City's list
LAKELAND — Lakeland officials are pursuing a deal that promises to bring broadband service to the city without costing millions in taxpayer dollars.
City commissioners voted 4-to-2 Monday to open negotiations with Summit Broadband, Inc. for a public-private partnership to create a high-speed internet service at the broadband committee meeting. If a contract is struck, the company believes it could start serving its first customers within three months.
Franklin recused himself from voting on this issue
"The City Commission will be ranking and advocating preferences for the City of Lakeland's potential Public Private Partnership with ﬁrms to establish a city broadband platform. Summit Broadband, Inc., one of the 8 RFP's submitted, is wholly owned by Grain Management. a private equity ﬁrm founded by David Grain. its founder and CEO.
"Mr. Grain is an acquaintance from many years past when we were both members of the Florida chapter of Young Presidents Organization (YPO). He, along with a number of my other fellow YPO members from throughout Florida. contributed ﬁnancially to my campaign for the United States Congress. As such. it potentially could be viewed as a conﬂict of interest if I participate in the rankings of the RFPs or potentially inﬂuence the votes of the other commissioners by weighing in with my opinion.
"This was completely unforeseen and unfortunate. but I don't want even the appearance of any impropriety."
EDITOR'S NOTE - Lakeland City Manager, Tony Delgado, when asked about this, encouraged us to seek comment directly from Mr. Franklin, who did not respond. City Attorney, Palmer Davis, without further prompting, provided the official document.
Network map shows progress and issues for municipal broadband projects
Communities invest in telecommunications networks for a variety of reasons - economic development, improving access to education and health care, price stabilization, etc. They range from massive networks offering a gig to hundreds of thousands in Tennessee to small towns connecting a few local businesses.
This map tracks a variety of ways in which local governments have invested in wired telecommunications networks as well as state laws that discourage such approaches.
In response to our inquiry, the city’s Finance Director, Michael Brossart, its IT Director, Terry Brigman, and Gina Jacobi the Assistant General Manager, Fiscal Operations, provided a clear picture of testate of the city's fiber network.
Broadband Forum: Speakers Differ; Commissioners Seek Partnership
October 2, 2019 - City commissioners heard Tuesday evening from 21 citizens with strong opinions about whether the city should launch a broadband utility at a public forum attended by about 100 people. But commissioners spoke last, so they had the last word. And the words were: public-private partnership.
At least four commissioners out of the six who spoke mentioned “p3,” shorthand for public-private partnership.
Mayor Bill Mutz seemed to be addressing Charter Communications, whose Spectrum Internet is the sole provider for many Lakeland residents, in his remarks. His message, essentially, was that Charter should improve its service and speed in Lakeland, perhaps in partnership with the city, if it wants to avoid having a broadband competitor.
City broadband committee supports $97,000,000 middle option
Aug 5, 2019 - The scope of a possible city-owned internet service provider became more focused Monday as the City Commission’s broadband committee set a goal to build a fiber optics network to cover all of Lakeland city limits.
The proposed service territory of roughly 44,000 homes and businesses splits the difference between two other options, a more deliberate rollout based on pledged participation in individual neighborhoods and one that would cover the entire Lakeland Electric service territory of 112,000 homes and businesses.
Consultant recalculates city's cost to deploy internet service
By Sara-Megan Walsh
Jul 20, 2019 - The latest report on the city’s cost to launch its own broadband service has renewed supporters’ hope that it may become a reality.
Lakeland received an estimate of nearly $80 million to build a fiber-optic internet network within city limits. That’s $30 million less than the 2016 estimate provided by Magellan Broadband, the city’s broadband consultant.
“I’m excited about the figures, it’s more manageable,” Commissioner
Justin Troller said. “The original $110 million was manageable, this is even more manageable.”
John Honker, president and CEO of Magellan, said the estimate to construct a broadband network was refined and reduced using detailed data on the city’s assets provided by Lakeland Electric. Key properties included the city’s existing 350 miles of fiber-optic cable and the utility poles.
“When we looked at the cost estimates, this is a major asset already in the ground, on the poles and ready for use,” he said.
Will the net work? Lakeland resident Paul Cunningham challenges the assumptions and strategies that support the city's ambition to use its existing fiber-optic network to launch a broadband internet service. Mr. Cunnigham referenced the Taxpayers Protection Alliance in support of his position.
Consultant tells commission the city is ready to be an ISP
Jun 27, 2019 - Urgency inflected a meeting of the city’s broadband task force Thursday, and though little new information emerged about the ongoing process to create an internet service business plan, the city’s consultant assured commissioners it was on schedule to meet the Aug.5 deadline.
That business plan, being created by the city’s broadband consultant, Magellan Advisors, is expected to answer many of the big questions and outline the what-ifs if the city decides to undertake the creation of a new public utility.
Lakeland's infrastructure and plans get good marks from the city's consultant.
High-speed internet service debate gets new life
The process of evaluating the responses to the city's request for a proposal (RFP) to develop a strategy for a public broadband utilty concluded and was presented to the Broadband Task Force for consideration.
LAKELAND — For the second time Lakeland is hiring a broadband consultant, this time to get deeper into details about building a city-owned retail internet service provider.
The City Commission on Monday is expected to award a $139,000 contract to Denver-based Magellan Broadband to create a plan.
The plan, according to Information Technology Director Terry Brigman, is expected to take six months to put together.
“We’re looking at June,” Brigman said.
“There’s lots of models out there. We’ll look at the plan and decide what the risk levels are and the level of risk that we’re willing to take.”
“It’s going to pay for itself quicker than the airport or the tennis courts or anything else we do. It’ll be profitable for the city.”
Dark fiber taking on more prominence in Polk’s two largest cities
WINTER HAVEN — East Polk’s largest city is looking to make dark fiber a profitable endeavor while the county’s biggest municipality is looking to take it to the next level.
For the current fiscal year and the coming one, Winter Haven has budgeted more than $3 million in its dark fiber enterprise fund. About $1.3 million of this year’s $1.57 million budget was part of a partnership agreement with Florida Department of Transportation to run dark fiber along U.S. 27 for 30 miles.
Broadband business plan at least a year out
Potential plans for a public broadband utility remain at least a year out as fresh-footed commissioners marched through well-trod territory Friday. (May 18)
But there was forward marching as the Broadband Task Force, the committee that has been at the center of the city-owned internet service discussion, laid out a loose timeline for building a business plan that would help the City Commission decide whether it wants to take a $100 million dive into a new public utility.
At the direction of the task force and the commission, City Manager Tony Delgado said the city will solicit broadband business planners by July and hopes to have a company selected by Thanksgiving. In about a year, they want to have a decision on what to do.
The video at the top is a "trailer" for the one below it which is the entire meeting. We recommend both. Actually watching the city staff and commissioners freely engage in the appropriate give-and-take of city management and objectives is the best way to understand how we get where we wind up.
The city of Lakeland is about to take a deep dive into whether it will be financially feasible to set up a utility providing high-speed Internet service to residents and businesses.
[ During the second day of their May Business Planning Retreat ] city commissioners gave their staff the go-ahead to recruit a consultant to develop an “investor-grade” business plan that will help determine whether the city can expand its 330 miles of fiber optic cable into a viable broadband service.
Commissioners also decided to let a variety of consultants submit proposals, not just Magellan Advisors, the organization that worked with the city in 2015 and 2016 on a strategic plan for city broadband.
Broadband task force meeting
The City's Broadband Task Force met on Tuesday, January 16, 2018 at 1:00 p.m. in the City Commission Conference Room. Staff prepared to follow-up with the Committee regarding direction given to modify the previously discussed plan to RFI a potential public-private partnership and acquire a consultant to establish cost for a pilot area project as well as identify the expense for developing a business model for the Lakeland International Airport and their tenants.
In addition, Commissioner Troller is taking his "show" on the road to 23 neighborhood association meetings to present his view and findings on the value of "Gigabit Lakeland", a project to bring high-speed internet access to the whole city. In January he met with the Lake Morton neighborhood. He's coming your way soon!
Gigabit Lakeland - All seven commissioners weighed in, expressing optimism along with a healthy dose of caution. IT Director Terry Brigman's presentation to them is featured here unedited, and is followed by highlights of the commissioners' reactions and concerns. Review the entire discussion here
Broadband with a broad brush
By Steve Scruggs
October 11, 2017
What does broadband have to do with economic development? Companies across the country are making relocation and expansion decisions based on a long list of criteria such as real estate,
incentives, talent, etc. Is broadband on the list? If so, where, and how important, is broadband in the eyes of job creators?
Over the past two years, The City of Lakeland has been considering what its role should be with regards to broadband.
Would this be a wise investment for our community from an economic development perspective? What can we learn from those that have gone before us?
Troller reaches out for grassroots support for his "Gigabit Lakeland" vision
Detailed email sent to constituents
I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to give you an update on the City of Lakeland’s Broadband Initiative and ask for your help communicating with my fellow colleagues. The City of Lakeland administration is wanting to go out for a Broadband RFI and Partner Development bid (there is a heavy emphasis on a partnership and no real approach to gathering information on a city owner network). I have been presenting to a number of neighborhood groups and many residents would like the City of Lakeland to consider being an internet provider. We all recognize there are pros and cons of entering into this venture however, WE, the city, do not have any concrete information to base the decision on. Yes, we had a Strategic Plan developed in 2016 that gives highlights of many options but it doesn’t give us exact information about structure, technologies, expense, cost, fleet, back office details, etc.. like a Business Plan would do. I have included a Business Plan from Fort Collins, CO whose residents decided that they wanted their city to enter into the ISP business. This plan outlines all the details involved with owning and operating a municipal network.
Many of my colleagues believe that we should go out for a partnership to see if the city can get a great deal on the existing fiber that YOUR tax dollars paid for. I do not necessarily have a problem with that however, how do we know the partnership deal is the best for our city? Shouldn’t we have something to compare it to? That’s why a Business Plan is important. A Business Plan will answer many of the questions that you have about the initiative as well as answer many questions my colleagues on the commission have. How can we truly know what is the best direction for our city if we don’t have all of the information. Will a partnership reduce costs for rate payers or will rates go up because NOW the city wants a piece of the financial action?
The city administration is against a Business Plan because in my opinion, it will show how successful the City of Lakeland could be by owning and operating the system. Why is it so hard to believe that the city of Lakeland couldn’t provide faster speeds at affordable prices with better reliability? I don’t find it hard to believe at all. I believe that owning and operating our own municipal network will unlock the future prosperity of our community for generations to come. That prosperity includes economic development, bridging the digital divide, and reducing costs for residential and business customers. Remember about the hospital dividend going away in 2040. That will be roughly $25 Million dollars a year gone. What will replace that dividend? If it’s not going to be replaced then why aren’t we reducing our dependency on the hospital dividend now?
Anyone that has been in business or has thought about opening a business knows that aBusiness Plan is the first step in figuring out if the possibly exists for the business to be successful, what challenges exist and predicts financial metrics based on certain information. After a Business Plan is developed we, as a community, can discuss the pros and cons, and then decide if its best to seek a partnership or to move ahead with our own system.
I am reaching out to you because I am hitting roadblocks getting through to the city administration and my colleagues on the commission about a Business Plan approach. I am asking you to contact the city commission to let them know your thoughts and ideas, especially on the idea of moving forward with a Business Plan. A few of my colleagues say that they have spoken to NO ONE that supports the city owning and operating its own ISP network. Is that true? How can that be? Who are they talking to? Are people happy with their current service? Are people happy with their current price?
The current providers have said they are not investing in anymore infrastructure in our community! They will continue to jack up your prices every chance they get….AND THEY WILL…. Please reach out to my colleagues on the commission and let them know that there is another alternative. That alternative is the city owning and operating the system on a network that YOU, as a taxpayer, already paid for. Why can a few access that fiber and the rest of us can’t? How is that fair? Why is using our fiber to benefit everyone in our city such a fight?
I have attached a number of items for your review so that you can inform yourself about this issue. Please pay particular attention to the Fort Collins, CO Business Plan as I envision a similar plan being developed for the City of Lakeland. We should have all the information to make a well informed decision.
prepared by Magellan July 2016
(of same report) opportunities/playbook
Broadband RFI & Partnership Development February 2018
Please email the Lakeland City Commission and City Administration and let them know that you want a Business Plan so that we can answer all of the questions involved with a municipal system before going out for a partnership:
This has to be a grassroots effort. Please get involved and have your voice heard. I will continue to speak with as many people as possible to get them the information about this initiative (if you know of other groups that would be interested in my presentation please let me know).
Please feel free to pass on this information to others. I compare this initiative to the decision to buy Lakeland Electric in 1906 and the building of Lakeland Regional Medical Center (Morrell Hospital) in 1916. Together those 2 enterprises alone have contributed close to $1,000,000,000 to our city to date. Yes, that’s right, that’s $1 Billion dollars. Having a municipal owned and operated ISP network will position our community for future success. Let’s leave our city in a better position than when we found it. Our kids, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren deserve nothing less!!
Thank you for your time in reading this email. I am passionate about this initiative and know that it can be successful. I just need more help. Will you help me?
Thank you for allowing me to serve,
Justin “Coach” Troller
Lakeland City Commissioner- At-Large
228 South Massachusetts Avenue
Lakeland, Florida 33801
Questions and answers about Lakeland's existing fiber network
After his presentation at the Lake Morton Neighborhood Association meeting in January, I wrote to Commissioner Troller.
Based on your comment about the 25 businesses who have "paid for the drop", why haven't others?
We do not advertise or solicit business. We respond to requests. Using dark fiber requires some level of technical support by the business. The business must install and support the communications equipment (switches) that is placed on each end of the subscribed dark fiber route.
Can I pay for a drop to my home at 835 Mississippi Avenue?
This would not do him any good. We only provide dark fiber.
What is the current monthly cost for the city?
Our dark fiber lease rate is $100 per fiber, per mile, per month.
What is the monthly cost for a customer?
Our dark fiber lease rate is $100 per fiber, per mile, per month. This is what we charge business customers.
In other words, why can't the city just hook up customers who are willing to pay for the infrastructure?"
The City of Lakeland is not an Internet Service Provider (ISP).
At the end of the planned discussion of the City Commission agenda for its regular meeting on Monday, December 18th, Commissioner Troller took the opportunity to prod his colleagues to take a public vote on the subject of the city's broadband internet initiative.
Troller expressed his concern that the current commission should lay the foundation for the city's next steps rather than leaving it to the newly-elected version which will be seated in January
His comments and the ensuing discussion are posted here. The entire session, as always, is available on the city's website, and as it turns out, is well worth watching in order to better understand how government gets done.
Monday, December 18, 2017 - Justin Troller leads the discussion prior to making a motion to move the city's "Gigabit Lakeland" initiative forward. The motion carried 5-2 with Yates and Walker dissenting.
Lakeland plans to test public broadband
Posted Dec 18, 2017 at 8:35 PMUpdated Dec 18, 2017 at 9:45 PM
LAKELAND — Lakeland’s commission took a small but significant step to redirect the city’s broadband policy closer to building its own “gigabit” retail internet service Monday.
The majority agreed to sideline the commission’s earlier decision to find a private-sector partner to improve internet service in Lakeland. With Monday’s decision, the commission ordered city staff to find a consultant that would design and price out a limited area to test the feasibility of a municipal broadband service.
Ft. Collins, Colorado will create a broadband utility
The city of Fort Collins, Colo., will build a system to deliver "high speed next-generation broadband to the entire community," after its City Council enacted a ballot initiative that voters approved in November. The move comes despite resistance from cable and telecom companies. READ MORE
Jul 6, 2021 - Minutes after city commissioners approved a 20-year partnership today with Summit Broadband of Orlando to provide high-speed Internet service to Lakeland residents and businesses, the CEO of the company told reporters the company should be ready to serve its first local customers within four months.
Kevin Coyne said it’s too early to say what Summit services will cost consumers. “I hate to say a number because we haven’t done the pricing analysis, but I can tell you that when you look at your current service provider, my guess is that it is going to be less than that one.”