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Broadband construction to begin soon in Fountain

 

Last updated 1/23/2022 at 2pm

Underline

Installation of broadband infrastructure in Colorado Springs, shown here, is currently underway. The same company, Underline, will deliver high-speed internet to Fountain.

Residents in Fountain's electric service area can expect to see construction on a new broadband network beginning soon – the first step in bringing ultra-fast internet to the community.

Officials from a company called Underline announced that construction will commence this quarter. The first connections to customers should begin roughly three months later, and the entire process will be complete in two years. Customers will be added on a rolling basis throughout that time.

Fountain is Underline's second market in El Paso County, with construction well underway in Colorado Springs.

"Fountain City Council is very pleased to announce that the city has signed agreements with Underline to make broadband service available to all homes and businesses in the City of Fountain and the City's electric service area," Fountain Mayor Sharon Thompson said in a statement. "This deployment of improved broadband across our community will be the culmination of several years of work by the city and will complete a major Strategic Objective set by Council in 2019. This is a great day for the community of Fountain!"

The City Council approved the agreements with Underline in November. Part of the agreement is the city's willingness to commit to being an anchor tenant on the new system. The city will purchase services including internet and phone from Underline. This network will also serve Fountain Utilities.

That commitment is the city's only upfront "cost," as Underline is fronting the capital for this project.

Underline was selected by the city through a public RFI process to fully-fund and deploy this open access network.

Underline's open access system – a newer model for communities – means a shared, neutral network infrastructure can be shared by multiple service providers. The company touts several advantages to this model, including consumer choice and value through a competitive marketplace, and providers' ability to enter new markets without building their own infrastructure.

This will be the second open access network in the U.S. to deliver competition and choice all the way to the desktop, with residential speeds up to 10 Gig and 100 Gig for Enterprise customers, and the first to provide true consumer choice alongside service to a municipal utility.

Working collaboratively with the team from Fountain led by Lisa Godwin, Technology Services director, Underline developed a highly efficient network design providing connectivity to City Hall and various other city buildings including the Utility Operations Center. With the combination of this connectivity design and a proprietary network user interface, Underline will provide secure Layer 2 connectivity solutions to the Utility, empowering and securing their industrial automation and remote Utility location modernization strategy.

"We're excited to continue our expansion connecting homes and businesses in El Paso County through this partnership with the City of Fountain," said Underline CEO, Bob Thompson. "This project specifically highlights the power of our open access networks to provide private, secure connections for municipal utilities; with our second market, we're proving what's possible with a model so distinct from other offerings."

Underline delivers a turnkey solution to communities providing infra-technology, execution capacity, and private market funding, and has assembled a diverse set of industry partners to efficiently deliver on the mission. For this project, the Underline Infratech Consortium includes Mears Group, an operating subsidiary of Quanta Services, Inc., Fujitsu, Duraline, and a number of other industry participants.

Broadband pricing

For residential subscribers, the 500/500 mbps connection will be available for $49/month, the symmetrical gigabit connection will cost $65/month, and the symmetrical 10 gigabit option will be available for $295/month. In addition, in an important reflection of the company's mission, 500/500 mbps will be available at a reduced price for qualifying households as part of the Opportunity Program.

Micro-enterprises will benefit from 500/500 Mbps service for $79 /month and symmetrical gigabit service for $95 /month. Pricing for small, medium, and enterprise business customers will be dependent on specific needs with speeds up to 100 gigabits. All network members can select from a number of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) on a dynamic, competitive marketplace. The first three full-service ISPs on the marketplace are Adaptive Fiber, InfoWest, and StratusIQ. A specialty business provider, Capcon Networks, has also joined.

Residents should stay tuned for additional information about the project and how they can add their name to the list to join the network.

Eva Arevuo, Underline's head of communications and marketing, said specific benefits of fast and reliable internet connections include:

• Home-based workers will benefit from ultra-fast, reliable connections to work efficiently, conduct uninterrupted video calls, and upload/download large files in seconds.

• Students can attend online school and use the best resources on the internet to carry out research and complete homework.

• At home, connections can handle everything from video calling with friends, to streaming the latest television shows, and smart home uses like security cameras and thermostats-all at the same time.

• Gamers can take their experience to the next level with less lag and higher resolutions, and fully take advantage of cloud gaming platforms without worry.

"Ultra-fast and reliable internet connections have become essential to communities, empowering and supporting remote work, distance learning, all manner of household activities – e.g., streaming entertainment, distributed healthcare, modern utility solutions, business formation and more," Arevuo said. "The fountain for all of this is open access fiber capable of gigabit speeds, and that's what Underline is providing to the city and residents of Fountain. Moreover, these connections that will be provided ubiquitously, and with a reduced-price option for low-income families, will start to close the digital divide that COVID made apparent in all communities across the U.S."

Fountain is currently served by Comcast and CenturyLink.

"Neither incumbent provider can offer the speeds that this project will offer, at the price points we've set," Arevuo said. "Moreover, as a fiber network, residents and businesses will benefit from unparalleled reliability compared to legacy networks. The point about multiple ISPs is that in our model, Underline provides the neutral network infrastructure and we recruit multiple ISPs (four currently) that compete on an online marketplace (think app store). On this marketplace, customers can select their desired services and switch between providers with the click of a button. No need to send back old equipment and wait for a new installation. What we're offering is true competition and true consumer choice: multiple ISPs from Day 1, and no barrier to changing services."

Underline is not an ISP, but it does set the prices for each tier of service. So, for households looking for symmetric gigabit connections, the all-in cost is $65 regardless of which ISP the customer selects. ISPs will distinguish themselves not on price but on their additional value-added services and other benefits offered.

Harville Small, chairman of the Fountain Economic Development Commission, lauded this milestone and its potential effects on the business community.

"The momentum by city of Fountain mayor and council on behalf of the broadband initiative will avail small, medium and large businesses to compete equitably in the market, to accelerate business growth for the municipality, and to bring new services into the community," Small said. "The Economic Development Commission is a partner in providing outreach and advocacy with the awarded broadband service provider, Underline El Paso LLC, to bridge awareness and to generate economic vitality within our community."

Having broadband throughout the city would be a boon for potential developers, Economic Development Director Kimberly Bailey previously stated. Heavy industrial and medical campus development could be around the corner if that materializes.

"Those are two pivotal projects that Economic Development is very entrenched in," she said. "If we gain that amenity, it actually will pay for itself five times in the attractiveness of that development."

 

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