On October 13th Erie County released its RFP for a broadband feasibility study. We are happy this moves the process along, and that we now have a timeframe for the work to be done. What we are looking at is a final submission of the work by the chosen consultant by midway through next year (June 30th, 2016 to be exact).

To briefly sum up our thoughts on this proposal--we think it looks good. It's simple, concise, and insofar as it its not asking a simple yes or no question regarding building a municipal network, we think they did the right thing by asking for the potential consultant to give a nuanced answer about what potential exists in the County.

Per the RFP,

The final report should also make formal recommendations for Erie County to proceed with to provide solutions to the broadband service gap in Erie County. These recommendations could include public/private partnerships, a publicly owned system, incentivizing private sector expansion or partnering with New York State on the New NY Broadband program. Substantiation for any recommendations must be included along with order of magnitude cost estimates and timeframes for implementation.

Beyond that, we also want to commend the County for including public meetings in the consultant's work:

  • section 2d: "Conduct a public meeting presenting the preliminary findings of the market analysis and solicitation of public comments",
  • as well as section 4f: "Hold a minimum of two public meetings to gain input on the Erie County Broadband Project".

Though of course we don't know to what extent public input will be taken into consideration, we can only see public engagement as a good thing in the process; the more people that pay attention and get involved, the better the likelihood of a network being developed that is in the community's best interests.

All in all, yes it's a good RFP. And yes, though it's a slow process and we all want our gig now, this does move us one small step further along in the process of bringing more competition and more robust fiber infrastructure in our region.

(Lastly, if you haven't already, don't forget to fill out our survey to help fill in our gaps in knowledge about the community)

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So you don't have to sift through the whole proposal, we pulled out the grist of it that's midway through the document in Section III. Check it out:


III. SCOPE OF PROFESSIONAL
SERVICES REQUIRED

The following is a description of the Services to be performed and completed by the successful Firm:

1) Overall Project Expectations

a. Research all available public and private providers of broadband service in Erie County for availability of service throughout Erie County

b. Research potential infrastructure which may be available but currently underutilized or unused for broadband service in Erie County

c. Obtain information from existing providers of broadband service (public or private) as to plans for expansion of service including locations and timeframes

d. Perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of Broadband service in Erie County

e. Analyze the acquired data for determining levels of service throughout Erie County

f. Propose options for filling gaps is service Countywide and provide order of magnitude cost estimates for such activity

g. Product – Report #1


2) Alignment with New York State Broadband Program

a. The consultant shall become familiar with all phases of the New York State Broadband Program and establish contacts in the Broadband Program Office

b. The consultant shall investigate ways that the Erie County program and research can be aligned with and provide data for the NYS Program

c. The consultant shall maintain contact with and keep up to date on all activity by the NYS Broadband Office throughout the study period, incorporating all NYS programs and activity into the Erie County Program

d. Conduct a public meeting presenting the preliminary findings of the market analysis and solicitation of public comments.

e. Product – Report #2


3) Public Sector and Private Sector Roles in Broadband in Erie County

a. The consultant shall research existing public broadband systems and public/private systems, analyzing such examples for positive and negative outcomes

b. The consultant shall review the existing private sector providers within Erie County and determine whether any potential for public/private partnerships exist.

c. Product – Report #3: The consultant shall prepare a report on the potential for a publicly owned broadband system within Erie County or the potential for public/private partnerships with the potential for providing increased service to Erie County residents.


4) Additional Project Tasks

a. Inventory all assets related to Erie County broadband including active fiber, underutilized or unused fiber, conduit suitable for fiber use, towers, right of ways or utility poles.

b. Inventory all networks operating in Erie county, whether public or private, providing local individual service or other

c. Provide all data on asset type and location is a GIS format compatible with Erie County Office of GIS standards

d. Determine broadband demand in sub-sectors of the County

e. Identify potential partners (public and private) likely to have an interest in cooperative upgrading of systems within Erie County

f. Hold a minimum of two public meetings to gain input on the Erie County Broadband Project

g. Product – Report #4: Erie County Broadband assets, location, demand and partners.


5.) Final Study Report

The final report should aggregate the findings of all previous sections and reports. The final report should also make formal recommendations for Erie County to proceed with to provide solutions to the broadband service gap in Erie County. These recommendations could include public/private partnerships, a publicly owned system, incentivizing private sector expansion or partnering with New York State on the New NY Broadband program. Substantiation for any recommendations must be included along with order of magnitude cost estimates and timeframes for implementation.



If you want to sift through the entire report it can be viewed here.