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Palm Coast Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 1 week ago

Palm Coast considers fiber network agreement with Joytel

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SBA Communications is also interested in locating an EdgePOP facility in Palm Coast.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

So far, Palm Coast has largely been going it alone on fiber: The city has built an extensive network called FiberNet that serves dozens of businesses as well as city facilities and some connections for the school district and Sheriff's Office, and has done so without a public-private partnership agreement with major service providers or telecommunications companies.

But the city is looking at new options, including an agreement with fiber and wireless internet company Joytel.

In previous years, the city had considered public-private partnerships with companies that could help build out the fiber network in exchange for a portion of the revenue from users, city IT Director Doug Akins explained to Palm Coast City Council members at a Jan. 12 council workshop. But the proposals the city received after going out to bid weren't palatable. There had been two proposals, both requiring a 20-year commitment: One left the city with ownership of the network after 20 years but required an initial investment of $40 million; the other didn't require a large upfront investment from the city, but left the ownership of the expanded network in the hands of the partner company

Now, the city is leaning toward going with an open-access network type, but hopes to reinvigorate the process with providers and ISPs hopping on the network and then selling fiber to consumers, Akins said. (The city can serve as an ISP for governments but not for private consumers.)

Joytel, Akins said, has a record of success in Jacksonville, and the city would like to draw them here.

"They are very interested in becoming a provider here," Akins said. "They offer very competitive pricing; they have been successful in a very competitive market up in Jacksonville."

The city is working to develop a standardized agreement that could be used for Joytel and other internet companies, he said. 

SBA Communications, one of the largest tower companies in the country, is also looking to create collocation facilities called "EdgePOPs" in every Florida county, and is interested in placing a flagship facility in Palm Coast near the Flagler County Executive Airport, Akins said. Edge computing PoPs, or points of presence, can be used to decentralize data across a network.

"I think the opportunities there for us and for FiberNet are very exciting," Akins said. 

City Councilman Nick Klufas said he'd previously supported the use of a public-private partnership for the buildout of the fiber network, but now, with the expected expansion of broadband delivery by satellite, does not favor that, as satellite will likely supersede fiber.

Mayor Milissa Holland warned Akins against any agreement that would involve the city ceding control of the existing fiber network, which the city uses to lower its operational costs by an estimated $300,000 per year. 

"I don’t want to put us into a position where we’re beholden to other companies when we have invested heavily in this piece of infrastructure," she said. "I just want to be sure we’re being very strategic in our thinking and not just giving away our entire asset."

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