Survey: Loveland residents, businesses favorable toward municipal broadband
City staff will present council with analysis on risks, rewards of developing utility
By Julia Rentsch
Reporter-Herald Staff Writer A survey of Loveland residents and businesses shows a favorable reaction toward prices and speeds of city-run broadband services, providing support for the city’s exploration of the feasibility of a municipal fiber-broadband network. The Loveland City Council will hear about the initiative for municipal broadband in Loveland during a study session Tuesday.
With a municipal system, which is being explored as a public-private partnership, fiber-broadband internet would be managed as a city utility, like water or electricity. Brieana Reed-Harmel, broadband project manager for the city, will present to council on the broadband initiative in Loveland. Council will then direct staff on how to proceed.
The presentation will consist of information on the final financial modeling, results of a city survey intended to determine the viability of city-managed broadband in the customer market, information on the process of requesting a public-private partnership proposal, and recommendations for next steps from the Broadband Task Force. In August, city staff distributed surveys to assess the market viability of city-managed broadband plans. The survey asked respondents to rate hypothetical descriptions of plans from different companies, including the city, at different price points and different speeds.
The survey received responses from about 4,300 residents and 273 Loveland businesses.
The survey reported that nearly all city residents — 97 percent — subscribe to home internet services, whether a la carte or as part of a bundled package with phone and TV. Broadband offered by the city of Loveland scored above other options on the survey in most comparisons. “Overall, for resident and business survey participants, The City of Loveland scored most favorably in terms of current /potential internet service providers evaluated,” the survey reported. “Results suggest that, in the event the City of Loveland were to offer internet services, creating tiers of offers (i.e. each with different speeds and price points) for both residents and businesses would enhance overall take rates.”
Currently, Comcast is the dominant service provider, serving about two-thirds of Loveland customers, the survey states. Most survey respondents reported their current internet service to be reliable in speed and customer support, but responses were mixed based on which company a respondent used. The survey reported that 67 percent of Loveland residents described their internet service reliability as being good or excellent, 54 percent said their speed was good or excellent, and 34 percent said their customer service was either good or excellent.
The results also suggest that pricing thresholds at or below £79.99 a month, combined with speeds at or above 100Mbps would be favorable in the current competitive environment. The models will be compared in the Utility Business Concept Plan, which contains financial modeling information and a high-level business plan for initiating and operating a broadband utility in the city. City staff will also present an analysis to council explaining the risks and rewards of developing a broadband utility according to several possible business models.
The city has received responses to its request for proposals for the public-private partnership from 10 companies that were classified as incumbent providers, infrastructure companies, start-up fiber networks or operators of fiber networks. Applicants include Allo Communications, CenturyLink, Comcast, Fujitsu Network Communications and Zayo Group. Council will receive executive summaries of each proposal as well as a staff report containing a financial model of a proposed system.
During this study session, representatives of Platte River Power Authority will present to the City Council results from a recent study on a plan for becoming net zero carbon producing by 2030. Platte River provides wholesale electricity to the cities of Loveland, Fort Collins, Longmont and Estes Park. The Loveland City Council will hold a special meeting with possible executive session at 5:30 p.m. in order to conduct a performance evaluation of the municipal judge, Geri Joneson.
The council will hold a study session at 6:30 p.m. Council meetings are held at 500 E. Third St. in Loveland.