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Los Angeles takes step toward free citywide broadband

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As broadband projects go, this is a biggie. If all goes to plan, residences and businesses of LA….wait, scratch that….all residences and businesses of LA could before too long be jumping online by way of free citywide broadband. The rollout would make LA, population 3.8 million, the largest city in the US to offer such a service.

The idea has been bouncing around for a while now, but on Tuesday the ambitious plan took a significant step forward when the City Council voted to proceed with the drafting of an RFP (request for proposals) which, if issued next month, “would require fiber to be run to every residence, every business, and every government entity within the city limits of Los Angeles,” LA Information Technology Agency GM Steve Reneker told Ars Technica this week.

Once up and running, free Internet access of between 2Mbps and 5Mbps (possibly with ads) would be offered to everyone in the city, with paid tiers of up to a gigabit also offered. The plan includes the introduction of free Wi-Fi hotspots in public places, too.

$3 billion to $5 billion

As you might expect, a project this huge will cost a few bucks, with current estimates looking at around $3 billion to $5 billion. However, the city says the winning bidder will be expected to pay for the rollout, which it should promise to complete “in a timely fashion”.

The company responsible for the service wouldn’t necessarily offer a landline phone service or TV package, though the option would be there. Other revenue could come from, for example, taking care of the city government’s broadband, phone, cellular, and data center requirements, a service for which the city would pay.

Ars Technica said that the city would look favorably upon companies “that can offer not only fiber Internet but also cellular service and data center hosting,” adding, “That makes AT&T and Verizon possible candidates.” However, Google Fiber, for example, can’t be considered as it currently only serves residential areas, not businesses.

LA intends to collect bids over a three-month period, after which there’ll be a review and negotiation period of around six to nine months. Once that’s done, the winning bidder can get finally start work on the massive undertaking.

[Image: Konstantin Sutyagin / Shutterstock]

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