broadbandThe mayor of an Akron, Ohio suburb said yesterday that he plans to pursue a gigabit network for his community through a public/private partnership.

“Enhanced broadband services and fiber optic availability will strengthen and improve the delivery of police, fire and other vital municipal services and provide the City with access to cutting edge information technology,” said Fairlawn, Ohio mayor William J. Roth in a press release about the plans.

Roth told attendees at a Fairlawn Chamber of Commerce luncheon that he would ask the city council to authorize the issuance of requests for proposals for the project, to be known as FairlawnGig and which would support fiber-based broadband to every user in the coverage area, including the City of Fairlawn along with the Akron/Fairlawn/Bath Township joint economic development district. Additionally the project is expected to provide carrier grade Wi-Fi to the community. Roth said he hopes the city will be able to select a “qualified and responsible partner” this year, with construction beginning “as soon as possible.” He said the construction process could take up to five years.

The city of Fairlawn had a population of just below 7,500 in the 2010 census and has an median household income of $62,000.

Roth’s press release said he expects to finance FairlawnGig network construction with private money and that “our vision is for an open network that will be available to any qualified service provider who may want to offer their services through the system.”

Where the public partnership comes in apparently relates to Roth’s plan for the city to provide right of way access and “other real estate assets” to expedite the construction process.”

Roth’s goal is for FairlawnGig to support competitive fixed residential and business broadband services with symmetrical 30 Mbps speeds, along with “unique mobile Wi-Fi services” offering secure high-speed connections of 20 Mbps citywide. The city also expects to pursue a guest network that would allow visitors to use the Fairlawn network for “limited” 5 Mbps Internet sessions. The release notes that when the fiber network is completed, services at data rates up to a gigabit per second will be possible.

Not Totally Unpaved Ground
The City of Fairlawn isn’t the first community to pursue gigabit broadband via a private/partnership, nor is it the first to pursue an open access gigabit network model. A gigabit project under way in Urbana/Champaign, Illinois also is based on a public/private partnership and is planned as an open access network.

The people spearheading FairlawnGig may find, though, that they will be unable to attract a large established commercial network operator such as AT&T, which is the incumbent carrier in a large part of Ohio. AT&T and other major telcos generally are reluctant to invest in infrastructure that they would have to share with other service providers. The bid for the Urbana/Champaign project, for example, was won by a newcomer to the broadband network business.

Fairlawn Gig also won’t be the first gigabit network in Ohio. Some industry observers say the U.S.A.’s first gigabit network was the one built as a test bed near Case Western University in Cleveland. That network actually predates the one built by utility company EPB in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which many people perceive as the nation’s first.

Cincinnati Bell also has beaten out FairlawnGig in providing gigabit service in Ohio.

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