Ammon, Idaho, is a community of approximately 15,000 outside Idaho Falls in eastern Idaho. Ammon has struggled to boost economic development in part because providers in Ammon offer slower, more expensive services than are available in Idaho Falls. For years, Ammon has sought to expand access to next generation networks, including an application to the broadband stimulus program in 2010.
However, it became clear that the City would have to move ahead without assistance from the federal government. Having studying their options and existing technology for years, they were well equipped to begin building their own network and have embraced an incremental approach to building the network they need.
Ammon is currently building the core of a network that will eventually connect all residents and businesses if the vision succeeds. In the meantime, they are expanding the open access network opportunistically to keep costs low.
An article in the City’s newsletter offers a more official explanation from City Council member Brian Powell:
On Friday, May 6th, the City lit the first 2.5 mile section of its new City-owned and operated fiber optic system and quietly took its first steps towards fulfilling a commitment made over 2 years ago to assure that broadband services in our community meet our needs, are competitive and provide the broadband access that our vision of the future will require.
The City fiber system is a local private network spanning numerous locations within the City. This has become necessary due to increasing demand for network communications required to support essential City services and functions. The City stands to realize a return on its investment in the reduction of monthly operational costs and improved ability to provide for future services at almost no additional expense. However, while this financial reality is reason enough for us to invest in a community network; it is not the only benefit we expect to realize.
The Ammon fiber system will be operated as an open access network for the benefit of the entire community. We expect the early beneficiaries of this ‘open’ policy commitment to be community anchor institutions, such as law enforcement, public safety, emergency responders, and our local schools. We are already working to help a number of these agencies meet their broadband needs. It is our hope that creating this open network will also entice businesses which require robust and affordable broadband services to consider settling their operation in Ammon. We also anticipate being able to give you, the Ammon residents, more choices in broadband services and providers and at better rates and much faster speeds than currently available through fiber technology.
These are the many reasons why the City of Ammon will soon own and operate its very own fiber optic, open access community network. The result will be a win – win for everyone.
To be clear, this will be an open access network wherein the City has no plans to offer retail services directly to residents. The City is building the infrastructure and will lease capacity to independent service providers that will provide the retail services.
Fiber Optic System Ordinance
Ammon adopted an ordinance [pdf] to govern the network, portions of which we want to highlight. Starting with the purpose of the network:
The purpose of this Chapter is to establish a City owned Fiber Optic System which provides broadband access to meet the needs of:
- City Departments
- Public Safety Organizations
- Other Publicly Owned and Operated Facilities
- Community Anchor Institutions
To protect the public right-of-way by improving both the management and regulation of competing demands through the elimination of duplicate fiber optic facilities within the public right-of-way.
To protect the economic vitality of the City by providing the broadband transport service and fiber facilities leasing required by broadband service providers.
To reduce the cost of maintaining the sidewalk, pavement and public facilities located within the public right-of-way by minimizing the number of pavement cuts and dislocation of other public facilities necessitated by the construction or installation of fiber optic facilities.
To foster competition among retail broadband service providers by providing open Access to the City Fiber Optic System.
To protect the cost of broadband services by eliminating anti-competitive pricing schemes or monopolistic practices which contribute to higher costs for broadband services.
To protect the ability of retail broadband service providers to reach subscribers and provide service without undue competition or regulation by a tax-supported entity.
And on the subject of ownership, control, and management:
The City shall have exclusive and complete ownership, control and management of the Fiber Optic System within all Demarcation Points, which shall include the device or interface provided for interconnection. The City may make such rules and regulations as are necessary for the operation of the Fiber Optic System both inside and outside the City limits.