City moving ahead with $24K study on how to improve broadband service in Lawrence; city agrees on contract with nonprofit to provide Internet service to City Hall; AT&T launches 4G network in Lawrence
I know when you think of technology news, the first place you think to turn is Town Talk. After all, what other local journalist has an Apex 100 computer with a five and quarter-inch floppy drive in his basement? And indeed I do have some technology news to deliver today. Here’s a look at some recent developments I’ve noticed at City Hall.
• City commissioners still seem pretty intent on perhaps shaking up the city’s broadband market. Commissioners this week did give approval for a $24,000 consulting contract with CTC Technology and Energy to study ways to improve the community’s broadband service.
If you remember, the City Commission is interested in seeing if there are ways to capitalize off the several miles of fiber optic cable and conduit that the city owns. The city uses that fiber optic cable to connect city buildings and also to run the city’s traffic signal system, but it could be put to use for general broadband purposes as well.
This new study will look at ways to do that. But I get the sense it won’t stop there. The city memo describing the scope of the study says it will look at ways to “encourage better Internet/broadband services and prices for Lawrence residents and businesses.”
CTC, based out of Maryland, specializes in helping communities do that. It has been working a similar project with the University of Illinois in Urbana and Champaign, and it also was recently hired by the state of Kansas to conduct a statewide broadband analysis.
In a letter to commissioners, CTC officials said the company looks for ways to “enhance economic development and increase broadband competition by lowering barriers to entry for private sector providers.” Obviously, there are private sector providers in Lawrence today, so it will be interesting to see how they react to this. The study is expected to be completed in about six weeks.
• Indeed, it does appear the city is learning more about the pricing of Internet service all the time. Commissioners earlier this week approved a new contract with a new provider for the primary Internet connection for City Hall and other city offices.
After going through a bidding process, the city has agreed to drop its service with AT&T and switch over to service provided by the Lawrence-based nonprofit KanREN.
What the city found through the bid process is that the internet market has changed so much in the last several years that the city can now get internet service that is about five times faster than what it currently has for less money than what it has been paying.
For the past few years, the city has been paying AT&T about $25,200 per year for internet service that has a 20Mb bi-directional rating. With the city’s Internet usage growing, the city asked for a minimum of 100Mb bi-directional service, and ended up getting two bids less than what the city has been paying for the slower service.
KanREN had the low bid at $22,800 per year. KanREN, which has its headquarters on Wakarusa Drive, is nonprofit Internet provider that has focused on serving educational institutions. It provides the ISP services for KU, K-State, the KU Medical Center, Johnson County Community College and many other educational institutions.
But now the nonprofit has received approval from its governing board to expand its offerings into the city and county government arena. My understanding is that Lawrence will be their first venture into that market. So, KanREN may be a Lawrence company worth watching.
The city did receive bids from Lawrence’s three other major players in the Internet service provider market. AT&T’s bid came in at $25,526 a year. Knology had a bid of $24,000 a year. Wicked Broadband, which previously was known as Community Wireless or Lawrence Freenet, came it at $47,988 per year. The city has an option to renew the service at the current price for two additional years.
• There is good news for fans of AT&T in Lawrence. The company has announced that it has activated its 4G LTE service in Lawrence. The company claims the new service is 10 times faster than the 3G service it has offered in the area.
AT&T has invested about $725 million in its Kansas networks as part of the upgrade. The company launched 4G LTE in Wichita in July and in Kansas City in November 2011.
Probably not coincidentally, the company is in the process of opening a new wireless phone store at 33rd and Iowa streets in the new commercial building in the Walmart parking lot.