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Traffic commutes, emergency responses and all the internet uses that often pile up under one roof — running video, shopping online, doing homework, sharing files and others — could all enter a new age of speed and efficiency as Centennial's FiberWorks project, along with a partnership with internet-service provider Ting, move forward in this and coming years.
Ting signed a lease March 1 to use the City of Centennial's fiber-optic cable system, an underground infrastructure that's currently built in the middle of the city — roughly from Interstate 25 to South Jordan Road — that the city is expanding to its east and west parts. Ting will be able to provide service by building its own local fiber network in certain neighborhoods by connecting to the city's fiber system.
Whether Ting can expand across the city depends on demand, but that is the goal, according to Mark Gotto, Ting's city manager for Centennial.
But the benefits of a completed fiber system stretch far beyond faster browsing alone. Here's a breakdown of how the project started, what it will do and what to expect in the next months and years.
Years in the making
In 2013, Centennial voters chose to opt out of a state law passed in 2005 called Senate Bill 05-152, which barred local governments from providing telecommunications services to residents or businesses. At the time, Centennial had a roughly 42-mile “backbone” of fiber-optic lines in many city streets to operate traffic-control signals.
Fiber communication generally works by sending beams of light down thin strands of glass or plastic, contained in a casing and running underground.
Now, the city is on its way to completing an additional 50 miles of fiber lines around the end of this year, bringing the project, which kicked off construction in 2016, to a close. The project to build the new fiber for multiple uses officially started in 2014.
Centennial's Fiber Master Plan, which guides the project and goals of fiber use for the city, will cost about $5.7 million to realize and aims to provide improved services to city facilities, schools, businesses, residents and public-safety institutions.
What it will do
Aside from allowing internet providers the access needed to supply faster speed to residents and businesses, the new fiber backbone could help improve the city's Intelligent Transportation System by sending information to drivers through dynamic messaging signs — the electronic customizable signs on roadways that display words with light.
Centennial can also enhance its system of traffic cameras and sensors, which will allow the city to time its traffic lights more accurately to traffic flows. Police and fire officers could also benefit from better updates about traffic and car accidents.
“The city's new fiber infrastructure can assist with interconnecting our multiple public-safety agencies,” said Allison Wittern, spokeswoman for Centennial. It can “improve communication in the event of an emergency.”
From an economic-development perspective, Wittern said, the backbone could drive competition among service providers, which could lead to better telecommunication services that would attract and retain businesses in the city.
Fiber could even allow residents to age in place — in their homes — more comfortably by allowing doctors to remotely monitor signs like their blood pressure, for example, and letting residents communicate with family in real time, Mayor Stephanie Piko said in September.
What Ting brings
As of mid-March, Ting is the only internet provider that has looked at a partnership with Centennial to lease its fiber backbone to provide service to residents, according to the city. The company is currently connecting to the fiber backbone. Centennial expects to complete the east and west rings of the backbone by the end of 2018.
A few hundred cities and towns have fiber-infrastructure systems throughout the country, many of which are municipal networks, said Gotto, Ting's city manager for Centennial. But the emergence of public-private partnerships — between government entities and private companies — as an avenue to bringing fiber to communities is more recent, Gotto said.
Those partnerships allow private companies to benefit from municipalities' ability to build common infrastructure or use existing city assets, which can be used by partners to create a network that “helps meet a city's goals of increasing economic development and quality of life,” Gotto said.
Ting is currently in markets in five different states, and among its first ventures into Centennial is in the Willow Creek area. Ting will move past the current handful of neighborhoods it's working on to neighborhoods with high pre-order levels — the demand in each neighborhood will influence where the system gets built next — and customers in Centennial could see service as early as June.
The company aims to service all residents and businesses in Centennial, Gotto said, but getting permission from homeowner's associations where required is a challenge in addition to having enough residents pre-order service.
“If you are eager to have fiber internet from Ting, it's important to pre-order and ensure your HOA leadership is supportive as well,” Gotto said.
Ting offers 1-gigabit service, which is 1,000 mbps speed for download and upload — performance that's impossible on cable and telecommunications networks that share bandwidth among large numbers of customers, Gotto said.
With cable internet, residents share bandwidth speed with neighbors, Gotto said, making for slower speeds amid high use. The “almost endless” capacity of fiber allows for internet use without compromising performance, Gotto said.
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