Los Angeles kicks off process of getting free Wi-Fi to residents

In what city officials believe is a model unique to Los Angeles, the city is pursuing a long-term initiative that will make city assets available to broadband providers, cellular operators and anyone else that wants to deliver 1 Gigabit broadband speed to more of the city's residents and businesses. 

The LA City Council last week voted to approve a Request for Participants (RFP) to identify one or more providers to deploy advanced wireline and wireless networks that will deliver the 1 Gigabit service.


The RFP was issued as part of CityLinkLA, an intiative led by Mayor Eric Garcetti and City Councilman Bob Blumenfield. City officials say more than 30 percent of families in LA still don't have broadband Internet access.

The long-term objective? The city of Los Angeles wants to be the most connected city in the country, maybe even worldwide, Blumenfield told FierceWirelessTech. The idea is the city will provide the street poles, lights, buildings--all the public infrastructure at its disposal that it takes, and the company or companies that win the challenge will need to provide a baseline service that would be free to residents. On top of that, the company or companies can offer higher-tiered services for which they can charge and make money.

"We're going for an ambitious idea," Blumenfield said. "It's a big challenge but it's a big need. We can't really afford not to do something."

Blumenfield said a mandatory proposers' conference will be held July 16, and responses to the RFP are due to City Hall by Nov. 12. Bidders could be one company that wants to deliver it all, or companies that want to partner up--one could provide the wireline component, another the wireless. But the process is meant to be open to all and not necessarily written specifically for a Google or AT&T to swoop in.

The risk? "We don't know if anyone will respond," he said. "We're hopeful. Los Angeles is the second-largest city in the nation, and we have a lot going for us." But, he added: "This is a new model."

Other cities, like New York, are using phone booths and advertising to support their rollout and delivery of Wi-Fi services.

Los Angeles' plans didn't develop overnight. Blumenfield said he first introduced a measure to develop a citywide broadband and wireless network back in July of 2013. City leaders undertook an extensive research project to figure out what they wanted to do. A Request for Information issued in April 2014 collected feedback from potential bidders, so city leaders have some idea of what's going to fly. They also looked at other cities' models. 

Due to the sheer size of the city, they divided it up into four quadrants and proposers may bid on one or more quadrants. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) and the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles also identified property that could be used to deploy infrastructure, and Metro is offering to lease excess capacity on its own fiber network.

For more:
- see the release
- see FierceTelecom's take

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