Mayor outlines next steps for a municipal network

Our coalition met Wednesday with Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz and Antonio Pagan, the city’s Chief Information Officer. The Mayor confirmed that he wants the coalition to help draft an RFP (Request for Proposal) that the city will use for the first phase of the study for a municipal network.

The first phase will study the degree of interest by residents and businesses for a municipal network. If this first study documents an acceptable level of interest, an engineering study to understand its costs and other details will follow. Both studies will help the Mayor and City Council decide if a municipal network should be created.

This RFP will act as a statement of what work the city expects to be done by potential vendors, and will outline the scope of the study’s first phase. Mr. Pagan would like to issue the RFP in the fall. The Mayor said that Mr. Pagan will be creating the RFP and overseeing the project. Our coalition will review the RFP drafted by Mr. Pagan and offer suggestions. Mr. Pagan is researching RFPs issued by similar cities as a starting point.

Our coalition will also help ensure that the survey answers pertinent questions that we’ve identified as important to the success of a municipal network (see our FAQ). Another important aspect of the survey is to identify which areas in the city are most interested. Municipal networks often begin building networks where demand is highest, in order to create a quick revenue stream.

Our conversation raised some interesting points:

  • The Mayor indicated that a number of communications companies have contacted him. If the city provides the infrastructure, these companies might want to use the network to provide their services over it. This could potentially create some revenue streams to reduce the costs of the network. In addition, these companies would not have the burden of maintaining a network.
  • Some municipalities allow subscribers prepay for services, creating a pool of capital to help fund its construction. Northampton might want to explore this approach.
  • The Mayor wants any municipal network to be self-sustaining, so that revenues from subscribers pay all its costs. We agree that it should not be a financial burden on the city and should pay for itself.
  • The Mayor see some advantages to creating a municipal light plant (MLP) as a mechanism for managing the proposed network. Additionally, he is not opposed to advancing a MLP proposal before both studies are complete to speed up the process if appropriate. It takes two votes by two-thirds of the City Council over two fiscal years, plus approval by voters in a city referendum, to create a MLP. A MLP is a relatively simple way for a city to manage such a network.

You are invited to provide your input by leaving a comment.

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