The City of Moline is rebooting its search for a new high-speed broadband provider today by enlisting the services of a technical consultant to take a fresh look at the city’s needs and the services available to meet them.
Moline City Administrator Bob Vitas and Margaret Kostopulos, corporate counsel from the firm Ancel-Glink, are scheduled to meet Friday with representatives of CTC Technology & Energy to relaunch the two-year-old service provider search. Ancel-Glink serves as the city’s legal counsel.
CTC bills itself as a woman-owned, Maryland-based consulting firm boasting decades of tech experience, including in network engineering, rural broadband solutions and broadband grant writing. According to its website, the company specializes in providing technical guidance to nonprofits, universities, as well as state, county and local governments.
Moline’s broadband search reset comes as the state of Illinois and the federal government work to determine how to spend billions in public dollars recently made available to build out the nation’s and Illinois’ infrastructure including broadband.
“Access to high-speed, reliable internet is not a luxury – it’s a necessity for health care, success in school, and to compete in a 21st century economy,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Dec. 1 in announcing the Accelerate Illinois Initiative.
“Keeping our communities connected has never been more important than it is today and this pilot will help communities play a direct role in delivering broadband infrastructure improvements to close the gaps in service,” he said. “With an historic amount of funding available thanks to our own Connect Illinois initiative (part of 2019 Rebuild Illinois infrastructure program ) and with new federal infrastructure dollars coming from Washington, we are committed to reaching our goal of delivering universal broadband access across our state.”
Moline City Council has been working since at least 2019 to ensure that all residents and businesses within the city have access to at least 1 gigabyte fiber service, according to the city’s website.
After negotiations failed with one company and other providers’ proposals didn’t meet the requirements laid out in a December 2020 request for proposals (RFPs), city staff hit the reset button on the search.
Those previous negotiations and the RFP process failed because none of the proposals fully met the coverage requirements the city was seeking, City Administrator Vitas said.
In addition to high-speed broadband coverage of at least 1 gigabyte for all residents and businesses from border-to-border, the city also wants a provider that offers a full range of services, including high-speed internet, phone and television service, he said. In particular, Mr. Vitas said each of the proposals showed significant gaps in providing service to the city’s low-and-moderate income areas.
“It is very important to get the implementation of a network right,” he wrote in a memo to Moline City Council earlier this year. “Moving forward quickly with a service provider without understanding the marketplace, the needs of the community, technology changes and best practices could result in failure of this initiative.”
Aldermen recently approved spending $25,000 to hire CTC as a consultant. The services the city said CTC is expected to provide include:
- Conducting a broadband needs analysis for all potential users within Moline’s boundaries.
- Providing a report detailing those needs and recommendations for how to proceed with a service provider search.
- Helping the city prepare a new request for proposals based on the needs assessment.
- Vetting the vendors’ returned RFPs and recommending which provider best meets the city’s RFP criteria.
- Helping the city identify and apply for federal and state grants to assist in covering the cost of new, city-wide broadband coverage.
After meeting with CTC, the goal is to complete a needs-assessment as quickly as possible and move forward with a second, more informed RFP before the end of the first quarter 2022. Mr. Vitas said the city’s goal is to select a provider that will launch the project by August.
That timeline, he added, also will allow the city to identify potential state and federal grants to help cover the cost of the new agreement.
“The primary goal is to provide the best-possible service to our city at the lowest-possible cost to taxpayers,” Mr. Vitas wrote in his earlier memorandum. “Speed counts in broadband service; not in choosing the right service provider.”