Fiber Frequently Asked Questions
The following questions and answers are provided by the Providence City Fiber Technical Advisory Committee (TAC).
Quick Q&AWhat is fiber internet?
Fiber-optic internet, commonly called fiber internet or simply “fiber,” is a broadband connection that can reach speeds of up to, and exceeding, 1 Gbps. The technology uses fiber-optic cable, which sends data using light waves. Fiber has immense capacity as a single strand of fiber can be used to transport multiple paths of data using different colors of light.
What does “gigabit” or Gbps mean?
Fiber internet can deliver speeds of up to 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps), or 1,000 Megabits per second (Mbps). This means that 1 billion bits of data can be transmitted in one second. One byte is made up of eight bits. For comparison, your favorite song may be 2-3 Megabytes (MB), and a high-definition movie might be 3-4 Gigabytes (GB).
Is Providence City going to compete with the private businesses like Comcast, CenturyLink, or others?
Providence city is not trying to compete with private businesses. Providence City is only providing the fiber-optic network (i.e., physical infrastructure) and will (at least initially) contract with Strata Networks to oversee quality network operation. The fiber network will use an “open-access” model whereby any internet service provider (ISP) can utilize the fiber optic network to provide internet services. This improves competition and results in better service, pricing, and content. This also allows smaller companies to compete that can’t afford to create their own physical network. Providence City plans to allow any ISP that wishes to join the fiber network as long as the ISP is willing to agree to basic terms which are meant to ensure quality service to residents on the fiber network.
How much is this going to cost residents?
A basic internet service will be included with a planned $10/month utility fee. The basic internet plan is intended for email and basic web browsing (not media streaming). Additional speeds up to 1 Gbps will be available through internet service providers. Rates may vary slightly by service provider, but it is anticipated that 1 Gbps will be available for $75/month and 250 Mbps will be available for $65/month.
What if the planned $10 utility fee causes undue burden on my family?
The city is considering criteria and opportunities for residents which could experience unnecessary hardship caused by the additional $10 utility fee. If you feel that this added fee would cause you undue burden, please reach out to the city staff to help them understand your situation.
What services will be available over my fiber connection?
When the fiber connection to your home or business is completed, you will have access to several internet service providers (ISPs). Each provider will offer internet as a primary service and may provide voice, video, or other services as additional options for your consideration.
When will the fiber internet be available to me?
Construction plans and timelines are still being determined. The community will be divided into fiber zones and each zone will have a specific construction schedule that will be publicized and advertised through the City’s website. It is anticipated that construction of specific zones will be prioritized based on areas of the City where higher subscription is expected.
Is fiber internet “future proof?”
Fiber optic internet has been around for almost 60 years, and although the digital environment has changed dramatically, fiber won’t be going out of style anytime soon. Not only is fiber the best internet you can get right now, but it’s also the best option when looking to the future. Since fiber uses light to transmit its data, it loses less energy over long distances. This means that fiber can carry more information much farther than is physically possible across metal cables.
Will the Providence City Fiber Optic Network Project raise my property taxes?
No, there is no plan to raise property taxes in Providence City to support the fiber optic network. Rather, the fiber optic network will support itself with the utility fee and subscribers. Additional income from the fiber optic network is anticipated and can be used to further support the city’s needs.
I already have an internet service provider (ISP). Will I still be able to use them?
You may choose to continue utilizing your current ISP.
What does the build-out/construction process look like?
Fiber will be brought through neighborhoods where it will either be buried underground or attached to above ground utility poles. Fiber will be pulled from the access fiber bundle to the Network Interface Unit (NIU) on the outside of your house using aerial and/or underground facilities. After that, installers bring cables directly into your home or business, connecting them to fiber internet. Great care will be taken to minimize impact to residential yards and landscaping.
What are the financial implications to the city?
The City is considering a bond to pay for the construction of the network. Financial forecasts indicate that utility and subscriber fees will cover the costs of the bond for the construction and the ongoing maintenance and operation of the fiber network. If subscription rates are greater than anticipated the City expects a net margin that may be utilized to improve the City in a variety of ways.
With 5G becoming available, isn’t it a replacement to fiber?
You might have heard as 5G technology rolls out in coming years; it will replace fiber. However, this is not strictly correct. Future mm-wave 5G wireless networks require the availability of a very dense fiber network at every City block. These 5G wireless networks and fiber optic networks complement each other, together offering a more cohesive internet experience across fixed and mobile applications than either could alone.
Will Fiber increase the value of my home?
Fiber-to-the-Home could increase the value of your home by as much as $5,000, according to the Fiber-to-the-Home Council. This investment in your home means more money in your pocket. More importantly, fiber to your home means a higher quality of life for you in this digital information age, where so much of what we do to enrich our lives has moved online.
Do we really need faster connections?
Some within the city may feel that their internet speeds are adequate but many feel that additional speeds and reliability are necessary and critical. When Eisenhower decided to push the Interstate system, it was not with the idea that everyone would have to use it. However, business and government functions were greatly improved by this massive infrastructure project. Over time, more and more people recognized its value. We need more choices and those that need fast and affordable connections should have the option.
Can I use a wireless connection with fiber?
Yes, you can combine wireless (Wi-Fi) with fiber internet although the connection speed can be slightly less than a direct connection depending on your Wi-Fi router capabilities. The speed of wireless will depend upon the type of equipment you are using to establish connectivity, your distance or proximity to the router, and the influence of physical barriers or interferences between your wireless device and the router.
What is “symmetric internet speed”?
Symmetric internet speed means that the download and upload speed are similar or the same. Many internet service providers typically market only the download speed or the speed of information you can receive in your home. These speeds are typically much greater than the upload speed that is actually received. In many cases, the upload speeds are 10 times slower or worse! With more and more demand for upload speed (e.g., computer backups to the cloud, video doorbells, cloud-based video cameras, etc.), both the download and upload speeds matter. The Providence City Fiber Network Project will provide symmetric internet speeds.
Will there be options other than 250 Mbps and 1 Gbps for internet speeds?
For initial offerings, the city is planning to offer 250 Mbps or 1 Gbps as symmetric internet service speeds. As the city rollout completes and the number of customers is better known, the city may choose to add additional offerings. The initial speed offerings are chosen to ensure a great customer experience and that the city has a high enough take-rate to pay for the bond.
If I have a problem with my internet service on the Providence City Fiber Network, who would I call?
Customers will call their chosen internet service provider (ISP) to resolve any issues. If the issue has to do with network operation or physical maintenance of the fiber network then the ISP will work with the city’s contracted Network Operator to resolve the issue.
Will deploying the Providence City Fiber Network damage roads, gutters, walks, utilities, and landscaping?
The construction techniques planned for deployment are intended to minimize damage using various techniques such as micro-trenching and directional boring; however some damage is likely to occur. Contractors will repair in-kind damages to infrastructure/landscaping during the deployment process.
Learn MoreWhat is the Providence City Fiber Optic Network Project?
Providence City is working towards providing a fiber optic network throughout the city. There are typically three general components to a fiber optic network, namely:
- The Network Provider
- The Network Operator
- The Internet Service Provider (ISP)
Providence City has received a public-private partnership (PPP) proposal from Strata Networks. The city is pursuing this proposal and refining the details to ensure it meets the needs of its citizens. As part of this PPP, Strata Networks would be the Network Provider (i.e., would put in the physical infrastructure). Strata Networks would also be contracted to be the Network Operator (i.e., maintain network operation) for a designated period of time which can be renewed at the city’s discretion. Internet access will be available through third-party ISPs in an “open-access” model on the Providence City Fiber Network. This means that any ISP that wants to join the network can equally utilize the fiber network to provide internet services.
Will fiber become obsolete with other emerging technologies like 5G, satellite services, or other options that may be available in the future?
The short answer is that it is unlikely that the fiber optic network itself will become obsolete in any reasonable timeline. The equipment that is used to transmit data over the fiber optic network will undergo regular maintenance and upgrades as technology improves and matures based on the income received by subscribers. Other wired technologies or wireless technologies typically also use a fiber optic network to connect to internet services at some point because of the greater speed and bandwidth capabilities provided by fiber optics. More specifically, a fiber optic network communicates by sending light waves through optical transmission lines (i.e., light pipes). Fiber optic networks allow very fast speeds because light-waves have much higher frequencies (i.e., are much higher on the electromagnetic spectrum) than other wired methods using copper (e.g., cable / DSL). Even wireless electromagnetic waves used in technologies like Wi-Fi, 5G, and satellite operate at much lower frequencies than light and therefore are more limited in transmission speed and bandwidth capabilities. To date, the speed and bandwidth limit of transmission via optical methods has not yet been achieved. Both wired and wireless technologies that are being deployed or touted as future technologies typically also require a fiber optic network connection at some point.
Why is Providence City seriously considering building out a Fiber Optic Network?
As with any utility, having the most capable and reliable infrastructure provides more value to the community and its residents. Having the option for substantial network and internet capacity attracts businesses that require large amounts of bandwidth for their operations. This may be the case for residential customers as well. Communities are constantly needing and demanding higher amounts of bandwidth in their homes. This has especially been true with the recent pandemic that has forced many to work remotely from home. This fiber investment prepares us all for the future.
What are the planned options for internet service speeds and how does this differ with my current internet service provider?
The fiber network will provide residents with internet speeds up to 1 Gbps for an anticipated $75 per month, though this could vary slightly depending on the ISP and services you select. Additionally an option for 250 Mbps is planned for ~$65 per month. If residents do not want or do not need the faster speeds then they will be able to receive basic internet service for the $10 utility fee included in the monthly billing statement. One notable difference in the quoted internet speeds on the Providence City Fiber Network is that these speeds will be symmetric. This means that the upload and download speed capability to the resident will be nearly equal. Most services available through cable or DSL today do not offer nor quote symmetric speeds. Usually the quoted speed is the download speed and the upload speed is substantially less (sometimes orders of magnitude less).
Can I choose not to connect to the Providence City Fiber Network and maintain my current internet service?
Yes, you can maintain your current internet service or choose something else. You are not required to use the Providence City fiber network. Since all Providence residents pay a basic fee for the utility, a basic internet service (allowable speeds that support basic web browsing and email) is available to those who choose. Some residents have expressed that they like the idea of having the basic service available as a cheap backup to their current service as well.
Will I be able to play television, radio, or other streaming media with the basic internet service?
Unlikely. The basic internet service is only intended for basic web browsing and email services which do not require high data rates. While there is no plan to limit the ability to download or stream media services, it is likely that the quality of such a service will be low given the slower data rate of the basic internet service.
Why is Providence City opting for a utility model to deploy the fiber optic network?
The Providence City Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) is a volunteer committee made up of citizens from Providence as well as invited experts. The TAC reviewed a large amount of information, including (but not limited to) the feasibility study by Zion’s Bank and the public-private partnership (PPP) proposal from Strata Networks. The TAC then made a first recommendation to the City Council. The City Council agreed with this recommendation which included choosing the utility model in order to maximize the benefit and minimize the risk to the citizens of Providence City.
Is the Providence City Fiber Optic Network planned to be available only for residents or will businesses be able to use the fiber network also?
Both residents and businesses in Providence City will be able to access the fiber optic network. The fee to businesses is expected to be higher based on additional support that may be required to connect and maintain the businesses. The specifics have not yet been determined.
How will billing for the Providence City Fiber Network and internet service work?
Details are still being finalized, but it is anticipated that residences will have an added amount to their standard utility bill which is used by the city to pay for the fiber infrastructure and operation. For residents that choose only the basic or no service, this amount is planned to be $10. For residents that subscribe to a faster internet speed, the amount on the utility bill will be increased according to the subscription chosen. The internet service provider (ISP) that you choose will bill you separately for their services. The total amount billed is expected to be ~$65 for 250 Mbps service and ~$75 for 1 Gbps service – though it is possible that the billing amount from the ISP may vary dependent on your chosen ISP and requested services.
Will Providence City need to add staff to operate, maintain, and run the Fiber Network?
Network deployment and operation will be contracted to a third-party (i.e. Strata Networks per the current public-private partnership proposal). Internet Service Providers will handle internet service to the customer. The city might need to hire additional employees or contract out labor in order to offset the extra bluestaking, inspections, and GIS needs during the deployment of the fiber network. Following network deployment the city will contract a Network Operator to handle network operation. Internet services will be handled by your chosen Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Articles on-line say that municipal fiber-optic networks in Utah should not be pursued. How is the Providence City Fiber Network different?
You may be referring to articles like this one from the Utah Taxpayers Association discussing the Kaysville City fiber network:
In review of this article, several numbered points from the article are brought out below. Differences or clarity for the Providence City fiber network are addressed for each.
- The city goes into debt to finance the build out of a government owned fiber network.
○ Of course a bond is required to build out city infrastructure. As opposed to other city infrastructure projects, this one provides the opportunity for yielding income to the city while providing residents with network options that may never otherwise become available strictly through private means. Key to a build out is the model used to ensure low risk, recognize the limits of city capabilities, and balance by encouraging enterprise opportunities through open-access.
- A municipal fiber network represents a “government ownership of society” which has shown to be a failure in history.
○ The open-access model currently being pursued by Providence City is different from other models that seemed to have experienced failure or disappointment in other cities. The reality is that there are three main components to development and operation of a fiber network: 1) Physical Infrastructure build-out, 2) fiber network operation and maintenance, and 3) internet service provision. Providence City recognizes the lack of expertise solely within City Staff in each of these areas and has enlisted help from its citizens with subject matter expertise as well as other field experts in the form of a “Technical Advisory Committee (TAC)”. As recommended by the TAC and approved by the City Council, the TAC is currently working to establish standards and expectations for both the infrastructure and operation as well as minimum criteria for quality service through an open-access model for internet service providers (ISPs). In this model, the city will own the infrastructure (as it does water, road, and other public infrastructure) but will contract third-party businesses to operate the network (with a set of minimum quality criteria) as well as invite private ISP businesses to join the open-access network as long as they can meet basic quality requirements to ensure efficient use of the infrastructure and the resultant approval of residents for quality internet options.
- Previous attempts at government run fiber in Utah have been a failure.
○ Providence City has the opportunity to learn from these other fiber network build outs. Some instances have been deemed failures due to the disappointment of citizens with internet service (e.g., ISP) and others have been failures due to miscommunication or preset expectations for a fiber network. Some other models bond the fiber network build out under guarantee of subscription, however, in these same models, the city has no direct ownership / control of the network as a whole. While it is good to recognize expertise may not lie within a city, it is also important that the city can mitigate risk and has the opportunity to make modifications given that the City is bonding against the opportunity. Providence City has elected to move towards a different model which we believe will leverage outside expertise but allow reasonable control by the voice of the citizens as the fiber network is rolled out and maintained. Providence City welcomes suggestions to best improve this balance and ensure it represents a shining example for municipal fiber success.
- Provo City failed to recognize maintenance and upkeep costs for a fiber optic network.
○ Providence City has been working closely with Strata Networks to refine the financial model based upon the City’s needs and criteria. This model accounts for network operation and maintenance including periodic upgrade of equipment. Of course unexpected expenses can occur like they do for any individual; however, the finance model is built with the opportunity to have revenue above what is needed for maintenance. It is expected that the revenue could eventually also sustain these unexpected expenses and thus Providence City is planning to expect the unexpected. As part of this planning, the Providence City TAC has reviewed and continues to review risks and mitigation strategies to improve the chance of success.
- Utopia is a model being touted and considered by various Utah Cities. So far Utopia “has hemorrhaged cash and amassed debt for more than a decade now”. The model used by Utopia claims that risk is mitigated to the city but this has not been the case.
○ Providence City has reviewed and considered the Utopia method and model for municipal fiber networks. After review by the City Staff, the City Council, and the TAC, this model continues to not be recommended. Providence City has decided to pursue an alternative model that we believe will benefit Providence City citizens in the best way possible while mitigating risk to the extent possible.
- “One of the other major flaws in the projections for the Kaysville fiber project is the “take rate” they are assuming in their financial model.” Kaysville has assumed “wildly optimistic” takerates such as “50-58%”. Actual take-rates for other cities have been “between 20% and 30%”.
○ Providence City has assumed a modest take-rate of ~14-25%. This take-rate includes consideration for a percentage of “hardship” cases for families that might not be able to afford the modest $10 per month utility fee projected. This take rate is much more inline with the quoted actual take-rates and attempts to consider “worst-case” scenarios.
- “This idea is a solution in search of a problem. Kaysville already enjoys 99.6% broadband coverage by private industry and ranks 11th best in the state on that metric.”
○ Providence City residents currently have limited options for both internet providers as well as speed / bandwidth coverage. Furthermore, speed for broadband is often quoted as the download speed but little consideration is given for the much reduced upload speeds allowed. While this may meet some customer needs, the need for higher speeds, bandwidths, and symmetrical upload / download speed options is critical for some businesses and residents in Providence City. Furthermore, it can be expected that the need for faster speed and higher bandwidth will only increase as time goes on. This trend has been significant and will only continue. Old cable / DSL infrastructure has limited capability in this respect and a fiber optic network is the best opportunity to be able to meet these new future demands.
- “In addition to all these specific problems, on principle, government should not be competing with private enterprise. This is particularly egregious when private industry already delivers the product or service to virtually the entire city.”
○ Options to businesses and residents are limited. Primarily, the large nationwide corporations have a near monopoly and yet utilize older infrastructure. It is unlikely that this older infrastructure will support the future needs of all residents and businesses. Providence city is not trying to compete with private businesses. Providence City is only providing the fiber-optic network (i.e., physical infrastructure) and will (at least initially) contract with Strata Networks to oversee quality network operation. The fiber network will use an “open-access” model whereby any internet service provider (ISP) can utilize the fiber optic network to provide internet services. This improves competition and results in better service, pricing, and content. This also allows smaller companies to compete that can’t afford to create their own physical network. Providence City plans to allow any ISP that wishes to join the fiber network as long as the ISP is willing to agree to basic terms which are meant to ensure quality service to residents on the fiber network.