CityLinkLA (formerly referred to as Los Angeles Community Broadband Netwrok or LACBN) is an initiative designed to make broadband available in all areas within the City boundaries of Los Angeles and at speeds comparable to other innovative communities around the world.  It will include both a connection to every facility that will allow connection, as well as a wireless component for outdoor coverage.  So regardless of whether Angelenos have a computer inside a residence or business, or a mobile device  outdoors, CityLinkLA  is intended  to ensure access to the Internet anywhere and at any time in Los Angeles.

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The Need

Broadband access is essential to the City’s and Nation’s global competitiveness. It drives job creation, promotes innovation, expands markets for American businesses, and supports improved education, health care, and public safety. Today, however, too many areas in Los Angeles still lack adequate access to this crucial resource.

Nearly 30% of all Angelenos either do not have access to broadband or cannot afford it. Our Los Angeles Unified School District is looking to change our education system through the deployment of electronic text books on tablet computers. However, it is projected that nearly 35% of all students do not have access to broadband at home, which inhibited those students from being able to do their homework and studies in the safety of their home.

Many households still use universal service telephone lines for dial-up access to the internet to get basic e-mail and internet services. However, many households are moving away from land line communications in favor or mobile devices which can provide faster services at comparable prices.

The Internet has become an essential utility as is water, power and gas. Business and residential locations are most desirable based on high speed affordable broadband. The City of Los Angeles is looking to be the location of choice  to attract business with good paying jobs and to entice graduates from our local universities to be able to reside and work in Los Angeles.

The Goal

Many cities around the United States now have the ability to purchase broadband services up to 1 Gbps. Other communities offer free services at speeds between 512Kbps to 5 Mbps so long as it does not infringe on the competition of carriers that have made large investments in broadband services. Competing with the existing carriers will stop further investments in infrastructure for communities and limit competition of getting competitive pricing for current and future services. CityLinkLA is looking to create a network which is the first of its kind, deliver high speed 1Gbps or higher broadband service to all residences, multi-unit dwellings, and businesses (including non-profits, educational institutions, and government facilities). In addition, CityLinkLA is looking to provide ubiquitous outdoor WiFi in all developed areas within the City limits of Los Angeles.

The concept of Universal Service began in 1837 with the postal service and became self-sustaining with the creation of the postage stamp.  In 1907, the term universal service for phone lines was born and the US national policy was established by the Communications Act of 1934 with rates regulated by the US government through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  The latest update to the Telecommunications Act was done in 1986 which began to abandon rate regulation and permitted expanded competition.  The United States lacks a Broadband Universal Service, where other countries like Switzerland, Finland, Taiwan and Britain currently have Broadband Universal Service.  In 2009 President Barrack Obama made the following statement:  “one key to strengthening education, entrepreneurship, and innovation in communities…is to harness the full power of the Internet, and that means faster and more widely available broadband”.  Since the United States has not adopted a Broadband Universal Service strategy, CityLinkLA is Los Angeles’s answer.

CityLinkLA is to provide an open network which respects the investments of the carriers and their market share.  The goal is for CityLinkLA is to support net neutrality, meaning that  CityLinkLA will attempt to treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication.  CityLinkLA will provide both free and paid high speed options to all residences and high speed paid business solutions.  The term open network refers to the ability of any existing carrier or new carrier entering the Los Angeles market to continue offering their services over the network being provided  CityLinkLA.  A wholesale rate will be negotiated to give the winning bidder an opportunity to recoup their infrastructure investment with nominal margin to sustain business, while ensuring that competition from others are able to leverage the infrastructure and offer competitive solutions with the ability to make profit without the need for huge infrastructure investment.

The Approach

Cities have assets and permitting abilities that that can be used to encourage vendors  to consider a project like CityLinkLA.  The City is offering to expedite permitting and providing access to street lights, City’s Right of Way, City Buildings, in an effort to enable a build out of this project within 5 years.

Even though access to the infrastructure is an important aspect of this project for vendors to consider responding to CityLinkLA, but market penetration is critical to long term sustainability.  The winning bidder will likely need to realize at least a 40% take rate in paid services in order to consider a build out that would recover construction and operational costs.  Allowing a free component poses challenges to the project, however in an effort to bridge the digital divide and have a Digital Inclusion program that is a model for the United States, a free component is required.  CityLinkLA will consider an ad-supported model for the free components.  Residences looking to take advantage of streaming media would likely need to upgrade to paid services in order to take full advantage of the entertainment industry (music, video and gaming) options.

The other enticing elements the City of Los Angeles will offer are being an anchor tenant on their high speed fiber.  The City currently spends a large amount of money annually for older and slower speed circuits and could provide that same revenue to the winning vendor and upgrade all connections to City facilities with high speed service at the same costs.  In looking at other services which may be the core competency of the winning vendor, the City is willing to consider staff augmentation or managing services to operate its data network, voice systems, cloud based service, disaster recovery and e-mail and office solutions hosted as a software as a service model.  It is anticipated that over $1B in service could be committed to the vendor over 10 years without increasing the current costs for those services today and also leverage new technology that is more reliable and state of the art.

The Commitment

The City is willing to provide a 10-year commitment with options up to 20 years to winning vendor.  The City expects the build out to take up to 5 years and understands that it must allow for expedited permitting and inspection to not delay the process.  City departments have estimated the dedicated resources that are required during the build out and are requesting the winning vendor to reimburse the City for those resources as not to require general fund impacts.

The Build

The City of Los Angeles will be renovating streets and replacing aging electrical and water infrastructure over the 5--year build out, so the construction will attempt to align those efforts. A bond measure for repairing streets may be considered in the future. If this should come to pass, any construction work will be closely coordinated with the CityLinkLA effort. The preference is for CityLinkLA construction to commence concurrently throughout all 15 City Council districts within the City.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1) What security will be offered on the network?

The network will be an open and unfiltered network. Access will require and e-mail account and acceptance of terms and conditions. Digital Inclusion programs, the City’s 311 center, and a web site will be created to  demonstrate how security features can be established on various devices : encryption, anti-virus, personal firewall, and internet browser settings.

2) What environmental considerations are being considered to avoid health risks of adding additional WiFi access points?

The goal for CityLinkLA is to build fiber attached access points rather than a mesh network which dramatically reduces the amount of wireless back haul needed to build out the network. The selected vendor will be required to provide health related impacts for all components they intend to install.

3) Does the vendor need to provide cellular, data center, data and voice network, and disaster recovery services to respond to the RFP?

No, only if desired and the vendor has this core competency.

4) Why wouldn’t the City have LADWP build out the fiber network and offer internet services?

The City of Los Angeles does not want to compete with private business, and the City prefers to have a separate network handling its essential services (water, electric and public safety).

5) Will the Fiber and WiFi be available to every facility and space in Los Angeles?

Households, multi-unit dwellings and businesses (including school campuses) will have the option of not connecting to CityLinkLA. Areas that are  undeveloped will not likely have WiFi access since there aren’t assets to which install devices.

6) How fast will the FREE WiFI and fiber broadband be?

It is expected that the free WiFi will be half the speed of the lowest paid package from the leading Internet Service Providers.

7) Will there be a monthly cost for a customer premise device (CPE is also referred to as a set top box, router or wireless modem)?

Vendors will be allowed to charge a monthly fee for a CPE, but there must be an option for non-profits to pay for a unit that could be provided on a one time basis for low income households.

8) What impacts the performance of the wireless connection?                                                         

Wireless is impacted by trees, buildings, stucco, window tint, and other wireless devices that could be broadcasting wireless signals.

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