City approves high-speed internet agreement

Santa Clarita City Hall is located on the 23900 block of Valencia Blvd. File Photo

Santa Clarita businesses could soon have access to a wider range of high-speed internet service providers after the City Council’s approval Tuesday to improve the city’s network.

Council members unanimously awarded a contract to Crown Castle Fiber LLC for more than $217,000 for the city to lease two dark fiber strands from its network to downtown Los Angeles.

By extending its reach into L.A., the city would have access to a myriad amount of internet service providers, which would ultimately improve services provided by a growing Santa Clarita, according to a city staff report on the matter.

“The city of Santa Clarita, much like other businesses and organizations within it, has a growing need for a faster and more cost-effective internet connection,” the report reads. “As the city continues to move toward internet-based applications to provide improved and more efficient service options for its current, and growing, population, the need for faster and more diverse options for internet services becomes of greater significance.”

Access to higher-speed connectivity is easier from downtown L.A. as there are hundreds of internet service providers in the area, according to Benny Ives, a city technology services manager.

“This would establish a physical connection to downtown Los Angeles, where the city would have a presence in downtown that has hundreds of internet providers,” he said. “We’d be able to get internet at a fraction of the cost.”

The city’s primary internet circuit is a 100 Mbps leased fiber service, and the cost to upgrade to an internet connection of 1 Gbps or higher in Santa Clarita, “even where it is offered, is a poor value when compared to other cities and communities located closer to major metropolitan areas, such as downtown Los Angeles,” the agenda report reads.

One of the reasons for the disparity is due to a lack of internet service providers citywide, said Ives.

“We’ve heard from many for a number of years that there’s really only two primary ISPs (internet service providers), like Spectrum and AT&T,” he said. “But many businesses are confined to only one option and some may have the option to choose but others only have that single option. For that reason, the cost and value proposition is not advantageous.”

Investment in the agreement indicates a marginal increase of $15,000 to $20,000 per year in overall ongoing expenditures for internet service to receive 10 times faster connectivity, according to a staff analysis. The hike in costs is mostly attributable to required rack space, electricity and cross-connects for city-owned equipment that would be necessarily located in downtown L.A. There will only be a one-time expense of about $80,000 for the dark fiber equipment, which will be presented to the City Council for consideration at a later date, according to the agenda report.

Tuesday’s approval is “a step closer to a pilot project” for the city to reach its goal of exploring ways to ensure high-speed internet access to local business parks, which is listed in its Santa Clarita 2020 strategic plan.

And the business community is in full support, including the SCV Chamber of Commerce.

“In order to grow business and maintain our rating as a top business-friendly city, we need to assist our businesses, especially those in the industrial and commercial centers, to gain access to high-speed internet,” said Chamber chairwoman Nancy Starczyck in a prepared statement.

“Improving access to better and better broadband service is vital to our economic development and has long been a priority for the EDC,” said Holly Schroeder, president and CEO of the SCV Economic Development Corp.. “We are pleased that the City is making it a priority to improve our infrastructure.”

“The SCV Chamber hopes this agreement between the City and Crown Castle Fiber will serve as a successful pilot program to demonstrate the ability to successfully bring high-speed internet to Santa Clarita,” said John Musella, partner with Evolve Business Strategies, which manages the Chamber.

With Tuesday’s approval, city staff will explore the possibility of bringing more internet service providers to operate from Santa Clarita, said Ives.

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