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Broadband Initiatives
Saint Paul Wireless Technology Study

The first entry by the City into studying wireless and broadband options began with a request by the Saint Paul City Council in the fall of 2004 that requested the City’s Office of Technology to research and provide recommendations on WiFi/wireless. The Saint Paul Wireless Technology Study was presented in April 2005. The study provided a review, at that time, of current wireless technology, national wireless municipal activity, potential roles for the City, and options and direction for the City.

Broadband Technology Needs Assessment and Economic Development Impact Study (BITS)

As a follow-up to the Saint Paul Wireless Technology Study, the City engaged Springsted, Inc., in the fall of 2005, to examine in depth the City’s broadband technology needs in four key areas: resident disparity issues (Digital Divide), economic development, education and City operations. This resulted in the Broadband Technology Needs Assessment and Economic Development Impact Study (BITS) report, which was presented to the City Council on May 24, 2006. Included within this study was a telephone survey of Saint Paul businesses, open meetings/forums for residents and businesses, meetings and interviews with city leaders, and representatives of telecommunications providers, the Saint Paul school district, and colleges and universities in Saint Paul.

The Report on the Future of Broadband in Saint Paul

The BITS study laid the foundation for the establishment of the Broadband Advisory Committee (BAC). The 20-member BAC, appointed by the City Council, was convened in August 2006 and was comprised of Saint Paul representatives from K-20 education, government, business, residents, and non-profits. For almost a year, the BAC studied various broadband and wireless options with the end result culminating in the BAC’s issuance of the “The Report on the Future of Broadband in Saint Paul.” This is a summary of the report’s recommendation.

  1. Create a partnership of public institutions and build the core of a Community Fiber Network.

  2. Leverage the Community Fiber Network to facilitate construction of an open access fiber network throughout Saint Paul.

  3. Ownership of the open access fiber network would either be a non-profit or a public corporation.

  4. Any wireless system would be provided by a private service provider, would augment the fiber network, and be reliant on its infrastructure.

  5. Establish City policies that advance broadband service in Saint Paul.

The Broadband Advisory Committee (BAC) Report: Future of Broadband in Saint Paul, 26 September 2007, (PDF)

Broadband Technology Opportunities Program

The City, Ramsey County, Saint Paul Public Schools and the State of Minnesota’s Office of Enterprise Technology began to assess how to approach creating a partnership. While this was happening, in early 2009, the Knight Center of Digital Excellence, (a combination of Knight Foundation funding and One Community broadband knowledge) approached the City of Saint Paul indicating its interest to assist the City and the community of Saint Paul in advancing the goals of the CFN partnership. During this same period, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) with $4.7 billion to support the deployment of broadband infrastructure, enhance and expand public computer centers, encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service, and develop and maintain a nationwide public map of broadband service capability and availability. This program known as the Broadband Technology and Opportunities Program (BTOP) has focused on two rounds of grant funding, with the current and last round of applications due on March 26, 2010.

With the assistance from the Knight Foundation, the City of Saint Paul and Ramsey County determined that it would seek BTOP funds for the development of the Community Fiber Network. The City and County issued an RFP (Request for Proposal) for a private partner to assist in their efforts to obtain funding “for the construction of a next-generation, fiber optic, broadband infrastructure and to provide a turnkey implementation of this Community Fiber Network (CFN) and associated Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for City of Saint Paul, Ramsey County and possible other Public Partners.” The City and County selected as their private partners Unitek Global Services and Minnesota Fiber Exchange

On March 26, 2010 the Ramsey Broadband Coalition, now representing the City of Saint Paul, Ramsey County and the City of New Brighton, working with Unitek and MFE, submitted a BTOP application for a Comprehensive Community Infrastructure grant. BTOP Summary Grant Application.

City of Saint Paul Submits a Google Application

On that same date, March 26, the City of Saint Paul submitted an application proposal to Google’s Fiber for the Communities Project. Google states they are “planning to build, and test ultra-high speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the country... [and] will offer at a competitive price to at least 50,000, and potentially up to 500,000 people.” The City of Saint Paul’s application, supports a three prong strategy to; serve the operations needs of local government, advance economic development by making cost effective, high speed broadband connectivity available to local businesses and community based organizations, and accelerating broadband adoption by attracting additional investments in last mile fiber to the home deployments. The application was one of 1100 proposals Google reportedly received. There has been no timeline announced by Google as when they will announce their selections.


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