Santa Clarita looks to expand high-speed internet options


Santa Clarita City Council members helped the city take a huge step forward for internet service recently with the decision to invest approximately $217,000 for “dark fiber,” which has the potential to make download speeds exponentially faster.

The contract awarded to Crown Castle Fiber LLC allows the city to lease two of these dark fiber strands that extend the city’s network to Downtown Los Angeles.

There are a myriad of benefits to businesses, as well as the average Joe, according to Jason Crawford, planning, marketing and economic development manager with the city.

“We’ve been aware for quite a while now that businesses here in Santa Clarita have issues with getting high-speed internet,” Crawford said, “either because it would cost too much or because the speeds that they wanted were not available.

“For the bigger picture,” he added, “we’ve been looking at how can we improve the infrastructure for how it can allow for higher speeds at a lower cost.”

Dark fiber strands would definitely represent such an upgrade for a number of reasons.

“We started the broadband feasibility plan a couple of years ago,” said Benny Ives, city technology services manager with Santa Clarita. “It’s something that really started out in the business community.”

The city found one of the biggest challenges to a lack of high speed involved the lack of competition, by and large, outside of the two main providers.

“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 Corporation. “We are pleased that the city is making it a priority to improve our infrastructure.”

The dark fiber strands, which the city would control through its lease, potentially would allow the city to partner with an internet service provider, or ISP, to utilize the highest speeds available, Ives said.

“For all intents and purposes, it’s limitless,” Ives said in describing the capabilities that the dark fiber strands could provide. “The speed will be governed by the equipment at either end,” he added referring to the user and the ISP.

With this new access, the city would not only be able to partner with a provider to vastly improve the speed of its services, but it would also lower the barriers for entry into the Santa Clarita Valley market for other ISPs.

And the difference in speeds allowable would be significant and noticeable, according to city officials.

For example, just in City Hall alone, the investment would move the current speeds from about 150 megabytes per second, which is achieved through two circuits, to a gigabyte per second, about 6.5 times faster, according to Ives. However, the market offers speeds of anywhere from 10 gigabytes per second to 100 and higher.

The city’s intent is to create an infrastructure that will allow service to grow with the need for speed and market demands, Ives said, with the next step being the city putting out a “request for proposals” to interested potential partners.

“We want to make sure it’s something that will scale,” said Ives. “The fiber itself will not be the limiting factor, it will be the equipment.”

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