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.
At the first official house in Centennial to receive fiber-optic internet from Ting, a provider spreading service across neighborhoods in south part of the city, Isaac Herman said he's excited to see Centennial “building into the future.”
“From a citizen standpoint, this kind of stuff really excites me,” said Herman, a 43-year-old video game developer who lives in the Willow Creek neighborhood. His home near East Dry Creek Road and South Yosemite Street got a small facelift: a gray Ting box on its side that doesn't look like much, but that promises to make a difference in Herman's family's thoroughly plugged-in household.
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, according to Mark Gotto, Ting's city manager for Centennial.
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, said Gotto, also a former Centennial city councilmember.
Ting is able to deliver the service by connecting to the City of Centennial's fiber-optic cable system, an underground infrastructure that runs through the middle of the city — roughly from Interstate 25 to South Jordan Road — and is expanding through Centennial's east and west parts. Ting builds its own local fiber network in certain neighborhoods by connecting to the city's fiber system, and it's the first internet provider to use Centennial's system. Some Willow Creek areas can have service installed soon, and the fiber lines are expected soon for nearby Walnut Hills and Hunters Hill areas, according to Ting.
Ting installed service for some "beta" customers first to work out kinks in late August, but Herman was the first to receive it as a non-beta customer, Gotto said.
Herman ordered the internet service last year — customers can pre-order — and expects it to improve life in more ways than one.
“I work out of my house, so I have pretty high internet needs,” said Herman, who has a video game company that develops software for cellphones and desktop computers. “I have employees in other states.”
Video calling and desktop sharing are difficult with bad internet connection, Herman said. His first impressions of the service were positive after the installation on Sept. 5.
“We're definitely a modern family,” said Herman, whose two young children use tablets and devices for streaming music.
His wife, Erin Herman, who just started school for a master's degree in health administration, might benefit, too.
“It's quite a bit of online videoconferencing — hopefully that'll improve,” said Erin Herman, 41.
Isaac Herman, who also makes educational video games for students, said one of the biggest limitations he sees in schools is bandwidth, and fiber-based internet could improve that.
As a consumer, he paid around the same price per month for a slower service — Ting charges about $90 per month for much faster internet, Herman said. Ting is based in Canada.
But Ting's progress holds broader significance for Mayor Stephanie Piko, who still serves on the city's Fiber Commission, the body in charge of developing Centennial's fiber program.
The city “council recognized fiber was the next infrastructure a city needs,” Piko said, adding, “I really have to give credit to our staff for being innovative.”
That forward thinking aligns with the city's values, Piko said, reflecting on the five-years-long process to get where the city is today. The east and west “rings” of fiber in the city will be finished around December, Piko said. The completed system is expected to yield benefits that range from making traffic lights more responsive to car flows, to possibly driving competition among service providers, which could help attract and retain businesses in Centennial, according to Allison Wittern, city spokeswoman.
Police and fire officers could also benefit from better updates about traffic and car accidents, and the fiber system could help connect the city's multiple public safety agencies by improving communication during an emergency.
Herman said moving toward fiber opens doors down the road, too.
“The cool thing about fiber is it's (1 gigabit) today, but there's nothing to say it couldn't be 10-gig speed” in the future, Herman said.
“The speed of light is pretty fast,” he said.
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