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Here's How LA's Citywide Free Internet Plan Would Work

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Newish City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield rode into City Hall with a mission to bring fast fiber internet to all of Los Angeles, and for once an ambitious, expensive, genuinely beneficial plan is moving ahead smoothly in Los Angeles???? Amazing! Yesterday the City Council decided to go ahead with a request for proposals that asks for private companies to submit plans to run a fiber network "to every residence, every business, and every government entity within the city limits of Los Angeles," as LA's IT head Steve Reneker puts it to Ars Technica. Whatever company eventually wins the contract will be required to pay the $3 to $5 billion costs (in exchange for the use of infrastructure and tons of new customers), but Reneker does say "If they're not willing to [pay to expedite permitting and inspection] our City Council may consider a general fund transfer to reimburse those [city] departments," which means that battle is probably already lost. Anyway, how will this actually work? -- Once the network is in place, it would provide free internet at speeds of 2 mbps to 5 mbps, possibly with advertising. That's slow, but still usable for someone who can't afford anything else.
-- Paid plans would be available in tiers up to speeds of a gigabit. (Businesses can currently get gigabit speeds now, but they're more expensive than in other cities; the hope is this would bring down the cost.)
-- There'd be WiFi hotspots in public places.
-- Don't worry, there'll still be plenty of theoretical competition--the vendor will be required to sell access to its fiber network wholesale to other companies so that they can turn around and charge you for it. (This is already the way some internet companies do it, although most around here do own their own networks.)
-- "The winning bidder would not be required to offer landline phone service or television, but it's likely that they would." That way they can sell you those horrible bundle packages and make a lot more money.
-- "The RFP would favor companies that can offer not only fiber Internet but also cellular service and data center hosting. That makes AT&T and Verizon possible candidates." Without cell, Time Warner, Cox, and Charter would also be in the running. Google Fiber is probably out, since they only do residential right now (they've also never responded to an RFP in the past, preferring to just bestow their internet gifts on hand-selected cities prone to stupid stunts).
-- "LA wants the winning bidder to make donations of home broadband equipment to nonprofits that distribute them to needy residents."

In a nutshell: there'll be free, wired access to the internet everywhere in the city (and WiFi in a lot more places), but most people will still end up paying one of a handful of companies for home/business internet access. The tech will be better and the plans might be cheaper.

The RFP will probably go out in January, bids will be accepted for three months, and then negotiations could go on for six to nine months, so it'll probably be at least a year before any work begins.
· Bigger than Google Fiber: LA plans citywide gigabit for homes and businesses [AT]