By R.A. Calhoun

Mayor Bibb’s administration submitted two pieces of legislation for Council approval. The first was a $20 million proposal from Digital C, a Cleveland-based, non-profit technology enterprise that provides fixed wireless internet citywide. The second proposed legislation was an agreement with SiFi Networks to privately invest over $400 million to deploy a citywide fiber optic network, without any public financing. Both were presented at the City Council meeting on Monday, May 8.

There was also a special presentation by Digital C just before the regular council meeting. Digital C states on its website that they have connected more than 1,100 households, including the homes of more than 900 Cleveland Metropolitan School District students.

Digital C  is bringing an additional $20 million-dollar grant received from the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Foundation and the David and Inez Myers Foundation.  Last July, Digital C was federally granted $3 million to provide affordable, high-speed (35 megabyte) internet to the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood in Cleveland.

A City of Cleveland press release states that Digital C already offers access to thousands of households in Cleveland.  They plan to expand their coverage to all 170,000+ households within 18 months of signing a contract with the city, pending City Council approval. They are a company that has taken 7 years to sign up 1,100 subscribers and 900 households.

Why would residents sign up now for a service not available for 7 years or 2 years minimum?

SiFi Networks is revolutionizing the US telecom market through private funding, building and operating citywide, open access, 10G fiber networks. For context, think about  how water travels in a pipe. A kilobyte is like a straw. A megabyte is like a 1/4″ copper pipe. A gigabyte would be a sewer in the street tall enough for a man to walk in. SiFi Networks offers an open-access network that enables service providers of all sizes to access new markets without the cost of constructing a network.

Why Digital C? Was there a Request For Proposals (RFP) process to choose a Provider? Was there community input?

Here are more questions that need to be answered for the City Council and the residents of Cleveland.

General Questions

  1. How long has SiFi Networks been building networks?
  2. How many projects in other cities are completed?
  3. Do they have other projects of this size?
  4. Is there any data available for the work they have completed?
    Issues? Accidents? Customer service?
  5. What is the Installation status of the current 11 cities where they are working?
  6. Is the infrastructure going to be available to all ISP’s?
  7. If SIFI is going to provide the fiber and ISP’s are providing the service, what is Digital C’s role?
  8. “The funds will also be used to expand Digital C nationally.” What does this mean? Is the city paying to promote them nationally?
  9. In terms of labor capacity, will they bring in a full crew or hire locally? If locally, how many?

Technical Questions

  1. Is this a full-scale build out of a fiber network? If not, where is the focus? In what neighborhoods?
  2. How will they install the fiber? Above ground? Underground?
    Front Yard? Back Yard?
  3. How does the fiber get to the home from the Network Access Point (NAP)?
    Above ground? Underground? Digital C?
  4. Who is going to provide the installation of the fiber and terminal to the home? Does Digital C have experience in running cable? When and where?
  5. Where will the HUB or central office be located? Who will maintain it?
  6. How many ISP providers are already signed up in other cities?

Contractual Questions

  1. Once a contractor has completed a project like this, what is the contractor’s anticipated revenue? Is there a financial projection?
  2. Is Digital C open to Revenue Sharing or a percentage of your revenue as a community benefit?
  3. When will Digital C apply for state funding?

The premise is that the more information they provide assists the City Council in making a better decision on whether to pass legislation.

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