Q: Why is this study being conducted? A: The Webster City City Council has consistently heard complaints from citizens over the past several years about inadequate broadband service, including slow internet speeds, frequent outages and slowdowns, and poor customer service. The City decided to conduct a study to give citizens a chance to provide feedback on the current situation with the goal of developing a plan to bring better services to the community. Also, since the City already operates a limited fiber optic network, it makes sense to explore if that network could be expanded to serve the community as a whole.
Q: What are the options for better services? A: Several options will be explored during the evaluation process. Keep in mind that these are just options; no decisions have been made and no particular option is preferred at this time.
PUBLIC NETWORK/PUBLIC PROVIDER: Webster City expands its existing fiber to serve the whole community and provides services as the City. Iowa examples of community-owned networks include Cedar Falls, Waverly, Indianola, and Vinton. Voters authorized a telecommunications utility in a 1998 referendum, with 84% of voters approving of the concept. While that vote gave the City legal authority to build and operate a utility, it may not be the best path forward.
PUBLIC NETWORK/PRIVATE PROVIDER: Webster City builds a publicly-owned fiber network and "hires" another company to provide services to homes and businesses. The private provider pays the city to use the fiber optic network. Iowa examples include Mapleton and Adair.
PRIVATE NETWORK/PRIVATE PROVIDER: Webster City uses the information gathered during the pre-feasibility study and other efforts to attract a new company to build its own network to serve homes and businesses.
INCUMBENT UPGRADE: Existing providers in Webster City make a firm commitment to address the concerns identified in the study on a reasonable timeline
Q: What other towns in Iowa have built municipal telecommunications utilities? A: Quite a few! As the map shows, over two dozen Iowa communities have invested in their own broadband networks. Some of these networks were built as early as the 1990's and many of those are currently being rebuilt to fiber-to-the-home.
In addition to the cities that have already built networks, Pella and New Hampton are currently constructing networks, and other communities are in the planning stages. In each case, these communities realize that having reliable, fast, affordable broadband service is vital to their future and worth the investment of effort, time, and money to achieve better broadband for their citizens.
Q: What other companies have fiber optic networks in Iowa? A: Most of the fiber optic networks in Iowa are NOT municipally-owned. The vast majority are operated by small, independent telephone companies serving small towns and rural areas. These small, community-focused providers have invested in their networks to upgrade them to all-fiber to create the best possible experience for their customers.
Private companies such as ImOn Communications (based in Cedar Rapids), ALLO Communications (based in Nebraska), and MetroNet Fiber (based in Indiana) are also building fiber networks in some cities and may be interested in providing service in Webster City if sufficient demand exists. One of the goals of the pre-feasibility study is to help identify demand and possibly attract one of these providers to Webster City.
There are limited areas where incumbent telephone companies such as CenturyLink have built fiber-to-the-home, but these upgrades are largely limited to new developments in larger metro areas.
Q: I have services from WMTel and am very happy with them. Why do we need another provider? A: WMTel has done a good job of serving portions of the community with their fixed wireless service. However, that wireless technology has limitations such as total capacity and speed, and the fact that their signal can't go through trees or buildings. The City plans to include WMTel in our discussions of a possible solution.
Q: We have a provider with gigabit internet today. What do we need with another provider? A: Having another provider in Webster City gives consumers a CHOICE. Also, a new provider would address the reliability and customer service issues that consumers have complained about over the years.
Q: How quickly could this become outdated (too slow) and what are the existing options to update it in the future? A: It is highly unlikely that fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) technology will be come obsolete anytime in the forseeable future (20-30 years). Fiber provides almost unlimited capacity and unparalleled reliability. Other technologies, such as wireless, have significant technological challenges. The fiber optic cables themselves have a useful life of 20 years or more. Electronics and software upgrades will be necessary over time, but the core infrastructure itself - fiber - will not need to be changed.
Q: What kind of speeds could we expect from a fiber-to-the-home network? A: Fiber optics is capable of providing amazing download and upload speeds. Using today's available technology, speeds of to 10 Gbps (gigabits per second. 10 Gbps is 10,000 megabits per second!) are easily achieved with a fiber network. While most users today only need a fraction of that speed (100 Mbps internet is a popular choice among all-fiber networks), the ability to offer much higher speeds to customers who need it is a primary advantage of fiber.
Best of all, with a fiber network the download speeds and upload speeds would be the same, unlike copper networks and fixed wireless where download speeds are a fraction of uploads. This becomes increasingly important as we move more and more data from our homes and businesses to the "cloud", such as security cameras, Smart Home devices, etc.
Q: What about 5G? A: 5G wireless is coming. The big question is WHEN it will arrive and what it will best be used for. There are two important things to keep in mind about 5G that most people are not aware of:
The fastest versions of 5G will require a direct line-of-site between the tower/radio and your device. It is NOT designed to provide service inside of buildings without an external antenna and internal radio repeaters. 5G will be a great mobile solution but not a great solution for home or business internet access.
5G requires A LOT of fiber! When fully deployed (likely several years away), 5G will require small "cells" every 300-500', and each of these cells will require a fiber connection. If a fiber network is installed to provide services to homes and businesses, it can also be used to serve these 5G cells.
The presence of a community-wide fiber network would make Webster City a more attractive market for 5G services.
Q: How much would services cost? A: While it's early in the process to determine actual prices, a new provider will need to provide excellent service for a competitive price.