The city should consider a public-private partnership, a consultant said.
Palm Coast has 60 miles worth of broadband in its FiberNet network, but the network has gaps, capacity issues, and declining revenue since 2013-2014, according to Courtney Violette, a former city staff member and current representative of Magellan Advisors.
Still, he said, “Essentially you’ve accumulated significant assets over the last 10-15 years through FiberNet. … You have nearly 60 miles of fiber throughout the city … available pretty much on all the major corridors in Palm Coast.”
The city has been leasing dark fiber, and the FiberNet revenue was high when it started a $600,000 contract with the school district to provide fiber to the schools, but as the years have gone on, other bidders for that contract have been able to offer lower prices, causing the city’s rate to stagnate.
But all of the city’s major corridors have FiberNet capacity, and there are 120 network access points and more than 100 connections on the network currently, including 20 city of Palm Coast facilities, 15 school district facilities, 45 commercial organizations and 44 traffic controllers.
Violette laid out some options the city could use to move forward with its network: It could go “full retail; he said, and run a broadband network that sells straight to consumers using its own employees. But that would run into regularly barriers and be risky and challenging.
Instead, Violotte said, the city should consider a public-private partnership, which he referred to as the “P3” option.
“The operating costs really are drastically different,” Violette said. “You’re shifting most of the operating costs off to your partner, and at the end of the day your expense is increased through the P3 as you build more assets ... whereas in a retail model, your costs increase as you add. ... more customers.”
If residences were connected to FiberNet, Violette said, the city could see 23,500 connections; expanding the network to allow that capability would be $70 million. “So this is not a simple, easy project; this is very capital intensive,” he said.
“It’s an advantage for us to also have that offering for workforce and work-at-home type of settings, so I think it’s a conversation we should be having,” Mayor Milissa Holland said. “I want us to make sure we’re focusing on the newest opportunities and modernizing our technology platform, not just going with a company that has done it maybe 40 times over but is limited, maybe, on what we’re trying to do here.”