Arlington TX OKs fiber optic broadband internet deal

Amora R Jelo

Arlington leaders have approved a deal with SiFi Networks for a fiber optic broadband network.

Arlington leaders have approved a deal with SiFi Networks for a fiber optic broadband network.

Arlington neighborhoods may have quicker, more reliable internet connections under an agreement to build a citywide fiber optic broadband network.

The city tapped international developer SiFi Networks to build, operate and maintain a network that can support multiple service providers offering broadband speed plans ranging from 100 megabytes to 1 gigabit. The company expects to install 10.2 million linear feet of cable near as many as 172,000 residences and businesses, according to city documents.

SiFi will also seek out service providers as part of the agreement, which could encourage competition to provide better deals to residents. The network can also remove socioeconomic barriers by making reliable connections more affordable and creating more city hots pots, SiFi CEO Ben Bawtree-Jobson said in a phone interview.

“That infrastructure that we put in on day one is capable of delivering anything and everything that the city’s going to need for the next 100 years,” he said.

Arlington will be SiFi Networks’ first “fiber city” in Texas and its largest municipality served, according to a city press release. SiFi has two years to install cables and five years to build the network under the agreement. The city projects receiving $758,000 from licensing fees.

City officials in Dallas and Fort Worth are similarly working on plans to improve internet access through wi-fi transmitters in areas with low internet access.

Nearly all Tarrant County residents have access to three or more service providers that provide the Federal Communications Commission’s definition of broadband services, according to agency data. Broadbandnow.com estimates around 2,000 people in Arlington have broadband access to no or only one wired internet provider at their address.

The FCC considers download speeds of 25 megabytes per second and upload speeds of 3 megabytes per second adequate broadband. The base speed generally accommodates streaming on one device and basic web browsing in a one- or two-person household, according to broadbandnow.com. However, households need faster broadband connections to accommodate smart homes, heavy streaming and high-resolution video chats.

City Manager Trey Yelverton said in a May 18 council meeting only “true broadband” could be provided through a fiber optic network.

“I think it’s really an important evolution in our city’s infrastructure,” he said.

During the meeting, council members unanimously approved the 90-year plan.

Residents or business owners interested in the service can fill out an online interest survey at www.arlingtonfibercity.com. SiFi Networks will try to prioritize areas with increased demand, Bawtree-Jobson said.

“We are building out the entire city, but if there are particular hot spots in town that show exponentially more demand than another part of it, then we will be able to try and prioritize those in the build, if we can, to make sure we get out there and serve those parts of the community that want service,” Bawtree-Jobson said.

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Kailey Broussard covers Arlington for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as a Report for America corps member. Report for America is a national nonprofit program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered cities and issues. To support this reporter’s work, and to support local journalism in Arlington, consider donating here: https://bit.ly/3gYyuOQ

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