November 2020 Update: The Project is Now Complete – (Read Below on How SBCCOG Got There)
How It Happened (Written October 12, 2019)
Councils of governments can combine the authority and purchasing power of their members to deliver better service. A textbook example can be found with the South Bay Cities Council of Governments (SBCCOG)’s effort to create a regional broadband network, which saves its member cities money while improving service.
The South Bay Fiber Network project will create a ring of “dark fiber” around the South Bay by summer of 2020. (Dark fiber is dedicated and unmetered connectivity that provides nearly unlimited bandwidth options). The system will provide high-speed connectivity for carrier-grade internet service. A ring architecture protects the core network and automatically re-routes traffic in the event of a disruption. Bandwidth availability starts with 1 gigabit (Gb) and will scale to 10 Gb (and even higher speeds as members require). The system will also have two diverse internet “points of presence” (“POP”) at world-class data-centers in El Segundo and Hawthorne.
The result will be that cities will be paying less for more service. The cities will pay about $1,000 per month for a minimum of 1 gigabit of service. The price will decrease as more services are linked to the system. Service (at slightly higher rates) will also be available for 2, 5, and 10 gigabits. To compare: A SBCCOG survey found that cities were currently paying an average of $3,627 per month for internet speeds well under one gigabit.
Put another way, cities will be able to access 10-gigabit levels of data for cheaper than they are currently paying for less than 1 gigabit.
Broadband to Support Smart Transportation, ‘Trips not Taken’
Perhaps the biggest challenge SBCCOG faced was how to pay for the initial capital costs. The original concept was to provide general municipal services that would include, among many other things, support for transportation systems management. However, the only funding available was LA Metro’s Measure M account, which set aside funding for each subregion in the Los Angeles County, including the South Bay Area. But in order to access these funds, the primary purpose of the initial connectivity must be for transportation. As a result, SBCCOG decided to use the connectivity for transportation purposes first. Afterward, SBCCOG can also use any additional capacity, to the extent its available, for other public and economic development uses.
SBCCOG submitted a $4.4 million funding request to set up the network that would be required for real-time traffic management, a range of road sensors, and enhanced signal synchronization between cities. In addition, the fiber would also support infrastructure and applications related to connected and autonomous vehicles. Ultimately, the funds could also explore connectivity that would support “trips not taken” encouraging telecommuting, telemedicine, distance education, and digital delivery of municipal services. In September, the LA Metro board approved the funds as part of a set of infrastructure improvements for the South Bay Area.
More Connectivity Ahead
How SBCCOG Did It
- They recognized that broadband was an issue and convened a broadband working group in 2016-17.
- SBCCOG partnered with the South Bay Workforce Investment Board to conduct a feasibility study. The report concluded that pooling resources would result in better service for less money if they pooled their resources.
- The partnership with SBWIB continued as they engaged local elected officials and businesses in an education effort around broadband resources.
- They collected letters from each city supporting the fiber network at the right service level and price. This was useful when engaging in discussions with potential contractors and providers.
- They adapted their priorities to fit the needs of the funding source. By focusing on transportation first, they found a way to meet the requirements of Measure M and their own objectives.
- SBCCOG issued an RFP and included the involvement and expertise of city information technology directors to select the contractor.