City of Rockford Seeks to Become an Internet Service Provider

ROCKFORD – Internet service may soon become something akin to a public service in Rockford.

Municipal authorities are exploring the possibility of entering the area by providing residents and businesses with high-speed Internet access.

“Having reliable, comprehensive Internet service with reliable speed these days is becoming a basic feature that all residents need,” said City Administrator Todd Cagnoni.

Rockford has issued a call for tenders seeking a private company to partner with to provide “white label” high speed Internet service. Responses are expected next week.

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This is an exploration made possible by Morristown, New Jersey-based SiFi Networks, which plans to launch a $ 200 million fiber-optic cable network this spring, officials said. The underground network would be capable of download speeds in gigabits per second.

Cagnoni said providing internet access would be somewhat similar to how the city provides water service, but the backbone of the service – the fiber-optic cable network – would be privately owned. It is possible that all the money the city collects from above-cost operations will be invested in Internet access to low-income households or to the city itself.

Workers at Eau Claire-based Underground Systems Inc. bury a fiber optic cable in Hager City.  The project was partially funded by a state utility commission grant of $ 444,211 to Hager Telephone Co.

Other Internet service providers are also expected to lease fiber lines on SiFi’s planned 1,100 mile network. It would cover the city, bringing a fiber-optic cable close to every residence and business in the city.

Internet service providers would then tap into the network and bring the Internet to Rockford homes and businesses. The hope is that multiple vendors are operating in the city, giving residents more choice, Mayor Tom McNamara said.

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McNamara said if SiFi starts laying the cable as planned in the spring, the network could be completed in 2024 or 2025. Rockford wants to be ready by then, the mayor said, to offer residents an Internet choice run by the city.

“This is something that we think needs to be looked at in depth,” McNamara said. “It could be a huge victory for us to bridge the digital divide, provide another option and also generate revenue for the City of Rockford so that for years to come we don’t have to raise property taxes. or to seek other sources of income. “

Jeff Kolkey: [email protected]; @jeffkolkey

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