With today’s news that Huntsville, Alabama will build fiber optics throughout its community, and that Google Fiber will lease much of that fiber in order to provide gigabit services to residences and small businesses, communities throughout the United States have entered into a new era of possibility — that of robust, sustainable broadband public-private partnerships.
The partnership model announcement today between Huntsville and Google Fiber is on the model of that pioneered by Westminster, Maryland in 2014 and by Santa Cruz, California last year. We extend our congratulations and admiration to the City of Huntsville, Huntsville Utilities, and The Broadband Group, which provided extensive consulting for Huntsville Utilities throughout this process.
We at CTC are proud to have advised the City of Huntsville on public-private partnership models and to have written the request for information (RFI) with which launched its search for a private partner.
This innovative, shared-risk partnership model puts the locality in the business of building infrastructure, a business it knows well after a century of building roads, bridges, and utilities. The model leaves to the private sector (in this case, Google Fiber and any other provider that chooses to lease Huntsville fiber) all aspects of network operations, equipment provisioning, service delivery, and customer service.
While playing to the respective strengths of both public and private sectors, this model allows a community to take its long-term destiny into its own hands, rather than waiting for private investment to materialize (in the form of a Google Fiber build or a network upgrade by an incumbent).
This locality-driven model enables the community to build, own, and maintain the fiber infrastructure of the future — while still benefiting from private sector competition and innovation.
In our view, Huntsville, as well as Westminster and Santa Cruz, are demonstrating a thoughtful, innovative, and replicable way forward for localities throughout the United States.
For more information on broadband public-private partnerships, see the P3 library of the Coalition for Local Internet Choice (CLIC).
For a full discussion of P3 business models, including the one adopted by Huntsville, Westminster, and Santa Cruz, see the white paper published last week by CLIC and the Benton Foundation.
To learn more about P3 business models, sign up for CLIC’s webinar on Thursday, which will survey the P3 environment, including today’s announcement.