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L.A. Guns for Gigabit Partners

Pushing ahead with a plan to expand the reach of broadband services, the Los Angeles City Council this week approved a request for participants (RFP) to identify one or more providers to commit to deploying wireline and WiFi networks that can provide speeds of 1 Gbps, and complete the job within the next five years.

The project, called CityLinkLA, also urges proposers to provide a free level of service, including free basic wireless services, holding that more than 30% of families in the city still don’t have broadband Internet access.

Estimating that it would cost a bidder $4 billion to $6 billion to deploy such a network spanning Los Angeles, the city is separating the project into four quadrants. Interested participants can bid on one or more quadrants, and can offer to provide the services themselves, or provide the underlying infrastructure and enter into deals with others that would sell the actual services. “Joint Proposals are encouraged,” the city’s RFP notes.

In a briefing on Wednesday (June 10), city officials said it’s open to receiving bids from incumbent providers, which include Time Warner Cable and AT&T, as well as new entrants. Google Fiber, which has identified San Jose as a potential expansion city, declined to comment on whether it intends to put in a bid for CityLinkLA.

But CityLinkLA’s RFP does give a cautious nod to the deployment model that Google Fiber is using in markets such as Kansas City (Mo. and Kan.) and Austin, Texas. 

“The City will entertain demand-based Proposals, under which a Proposer offers to build out portions of its proposed service area based on the demand for services,” the RFP reads. “Any Proposal taking this approach will need to be crafted in a way that ensures that advanced networks will be available in all parts of the area to be served, including low-income areas.”

The RFP specifies several requirements, including: 

-Wireline access to homes and businesses must be capable of delivering of symmetrical speeds of at least 1 Gbps.

-A free wireline service, subject to data caps, that offers at least 5 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up.

-A WiFi service that delivers 5 Mbps or greater for every connected device, with “sufficient backhaul connectivity to support 200 simultaneous users at 5 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream.”

In exchange, Los Angeles said it’s prepared to offer incentives and perks designed to accelerate the pace of the buildouts, including a central group that will provide for “expedited handling of applications for construction,” provide space on some city property that’s suitable for hubs and central offices for a rate as low as $3 per square foot, and to provide access at “favorable bulk rates” to city street light standards with appropriate power suppliers for WiFi access points.

Research showed that expedited permitting “was an extremely important element for potential bidders,” Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield said in a press briefing Wednesday. “In exchange, we’re asking for investment with a purpose.”

The city also said it is “strongly committed to promoting net neutrality, and expects each selected Proposer to agree to operate its network consistent with net neutrality as defined by applicable FCC regulations.”