LA City Fiber, Request For Proposals (RFP)

Late last year, in November 2013, LA City Council officially requested that the Information Technology Administration (ITA) department issue a Request For Proposals (RFP) for an open access fiber network installation, along with the provision of free low bandwidth wireless services for the entire city (where higher bandwidth or uncapped WiFi services can charge arbitrary fees).

The only incentives the Council provided are accompanying contracts to provide LA City institutions and buildings with long term Internet access and datacenter services. Unlike most community Internet incentive programs, they have not offered any discounts on rights-of-way passage or waivers for related permits and fees. The lack of real cost-saving incentives in this RFP have caused the press to equate this effort with a request for unicorns.

It is pretty clear that LA City Council have always taken the wrong approach to getting broadband or fiber to LA residents and businesses (otherwise we would already have it by now!). We already have a successful municipal utility in LA that could easily deploy fiber to every business and resident in the city, using their existing rights of way and pole attachments (because fiber can be strung right next to power lines without ill effects): LA DWP. In fact, LA DWP already has a web page advertising “dark fiber leasing” services, although they don’t respond to our calls or emails at the listed contact points.

Meanwhile, our new Mayor Garcetti just appointed a new GM of LA DWP, new board members, and a new “Tech Czar” — so why didn’t he give them all a mandate up front to get fiber out to LA residents as quickly and cost-effectively as possible, using existing LA DWP facilities? Why should the Council even contemplate a exclusive offer to telco and cable monopolists in the first place? The LA City Council RFP order actually contains instructions to “not significantly influence carrier competition”, and LA DWP has so far failed to provide any real competition to the telco and cable Internet duopolies in LA. Cost-effective services and innovation require true market competition, and that does not exist in the Los Angeles Internet access market today. Both the LA City Council and the Mayor Garcetti have a lot of explaining to do.

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