Plans for the City of Superior to build a municipal broadband fiber optic network that would provide high-speed internet access and cost savings for residents continues to move forward. It's also going to cost more than originally anticipated.  A lot more.

Original cost projections for the plan were $31 million. One year later that number is $52.6 million - and potentially growing.

During the last year, Magellan - the consultant firm hired to outline the groundwork for the broadband plan - has worked to research and plot the course that the city could eventually take towards making the proposal a reality. Under terms of the design, Superior would spend the funds to build a municipal network of fiber optic cable that would (eventually) cover the entire city. Once operational, that network would not only provide the necessary method of transportation for the fast internet access, but it's municipal-ownership would "level the playing field", allowing for competition between providers, to help drive monthly rate costs down for customers.

The cost differential information came to light when Magellan presented their updated findings - which included "a high-level design, [those] refined cost estimates, and potential grant opportunities to help the city pay for the network should it be built over the next five to ten years".

According to details shared in an article in the Superior Telegram [paywall], these potential grant opportunities could become a big part of the plans - especially due to the projected significant cost increase.

Originally, the city had planned on using "$5 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act" to kick-start the effort, launching "the first phase" - which "would reach about 1,000 homes in a high-density neighborhood".

There are also other potential grant opportunities that could be utilized - including the Broadband Equity Access and Deployment Program; with that program, Superior could ask for a share of the $42.5 billion that is available to municipalities nationwide.  According to the Telegram article, "a conservative estimate" is that Superior has the potential to see "$5 million to $10 million" from that fund; while it's a large sum, it would still leave the city on the the hook to secure the remaining funds.

Securing those funds is important - especially as the city looks towards phase one of the project.  That first phase could be coming soon. The article in the Telegram details that "the [City] Council could be considering a recommendation for the pilot neighborhood where construction would begin". City leaders would make a determination based on where the plan would have the most impact and provide a good testing ground. "The recommendation will come through the city's communications and information technology committee".

While the increase in costs may have taken some by surprise, current market situations detail that it's not out of line. John Honker, the Project Manager with Magellan, explains:

"'Broadband is hot right now. We've seen over the last two years costs rise pretty considerably'. [And that o]n projects the company has been working on...costs have increased 20% to 30% over the last year or two."

Once finished, the project would connect an estimated "12,200 homes and 1,100 business" in Superior, with almost 240 miles of fiber optic cable being installed.

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