San Francisco Is Quietly Building an Open Access Fiber Network

By Karl Bode Apr 06 2018; Original article here.

With Google Fiber pausing deployments to consider a pivot to wireless, San Francisco is one of several cities left standing at the altar. The city had been part of an effort by Google Fiber to deploy service to a few key locations where fiber was already deployed. But with Google Fiber apparently now fascinated with next generation wireless technologies like millimeter wave, the city is considering one of the biggest municipal broadband deployments ever conceived.

Like Seattle, San Francisco is tired of broadband being defined as being forced to choose between two companies whose service pricing and quality clearly reflect a disdain for paying customers.

As such, the company is promising to connect every single home and business in the city to fiber optic broadband. A consultant’s report (pdf) recently released by the city indicates that the cost of doing so would be somewhere around $1.9 billion. But the cost of that investment would result in numerous, direct benefits to the city, the report concluded.

The Columbia Telecommunications Corporation/IMG Rebel Report says:

“The opportunity The City is about to present to the private sector is unprecedented . . . There has never before existed in any American community an opportunity for a private entity to lease fiber or broadband infrastructure to reach 100 percent of the homes and businesses in the community.”

The effort has moved on to the bidding and planning stages, with several local companies like Monkeybrains vying for the city’s attention.

“We recognize that if we win, Monkeybrains customers in San Francisco will be fully consumed by the municipal fiber project and Monkeybrains as you know it will cease to exist,” Monkeybrains founder Rudy Rucker tells the San Francisco Examiner. “Alex and I are thrilled to evolve our operations into a city wide project.” A decision on who’ll win the project is expected on April 30.

Harvard Law Professor Susan Crawford over at Wired notes that San Franciso hopes to use the open access model where the city works to build the network, then numerous ISPs and other companies come in later to compete over the top. The FCC’s own data (data promptly ignored by the agency over the years) has shown that this approach often results in faster, cheaper service.

Susan Crawford:

“What’s great about this suggestion is that it removes any political argument that the city is somehow undermining the private market for internet access services . . . At the same time, a dark fiber public-private partnership would dramatically lower the cost for the private market to do what it does best: directly serve customers in a competitive environment that, on its own, produces low costs and innovation.”

As is often the case, these cities wouldn’t be exploring this route if they were happy with existing broadband service.

Instead of offering a cheaper, better product, large ISPs like Comcast and AT&T have worked tirelessly to quite literally write and buy protectionist state law preventing locals from being able to decide on these local infrastructure issues by themselves. Incumbent ISPs’ recent attacks on net neutrality and privacy have only driven an even stronger interest in community owned and operated broadband networks.

Competing to Build Citywide Fiber Broadband Network

By Joshua Sabatini on April 2, 2018; Original article here.

San Francisco officials may be tight-lipped about what companies are vying to build a citywide fiber network, but one company has disclosed that they submitted a proposal — local internet service provider Monkeybrains.

Rudy Rucker, who founded Monkeybrains in 1998 with Alex Menendez, confirmed to the San Francisco Examiner Monday that they are part of one team of companies that submitted by last week’s deadline a proposal to build a citywide fiber-to-the-premises network.

“Monkeybrains has teamed up with Black and Veatch, Zayo and Nokia,” Rucker said in an email. “I don’t know all the other teams … but I think we have a very strong team.”

Combined, Monkeybrains and their partners go by the name of Bay City Broadband Partners.

“We recognize that if we win, Monkeybrains customers in San Francisco will be fully consumed by the municipal fiber project and Monkeybrains as you know it will cease to exist,” Rucker wrote. “Alex and I are thrilled to evolve our operations into a city wide project.”

According to Monkeybrains’ website, the company operates “a hybrid network of fiber optic and high capacity wireless links servicing over 5,000 locations with 25 new locations coming online every week.”

The City posted a request for qualifications in January for companies to submit a proposal to compete to build a fiber network connecting all homes and businesses as well as operate wireless services in public spaces. The effort is being led by Mayor Mark Farrell, who pushed for the initiative when he was a member of the Board of Supervisors with the late Mayor Ed Lee.

Those who submitted a proposal were told “respondent Teams must receive a minimum score of at least 70 percent (56 out of 80 points) on the written proposal evaluation. If this condition is not met, the Respondent Team will no longer be invited to move on to the oral interview phase.”

Oral interviews are expected the week of April 16, with a decision before April 30.

“The City received several bids and we are impressed by the seriousness of the bid teams and their submissions,” Farrell told the Examiner last week. “We look forward to reviewing the bids in detail and moving full-steam ahead with our procurement process.”

The Mayor’s Office is not disclosing any of the submissions, including specific number of submissions and name of companies, but have said “several” submitted proposals. They said city code allows them to withhold that information until a contract has been awarded.