Seoul. Tokyo. Hong Kong. Brentwood. Yes, Brentwood.
Strong high-speed Internet, or broadband, is crucial for cities of all sizes to succeed. Good broadband can help attract entrepreneurs. It can provide bandwidth for those who want to work from home. It can help educate our students so that they are ready to compete in our changing economy. And broadband can help communities improve public health and safety.
Today, while many other cities have discussed the problem of increasing broadband access, Brentwood has implemented a plan to become a gigabit city. Getting to this point was several years in the making.
The Bay Area, a region that includes Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, and many other cities, clearly understands the importance of broadband. However, it has been economically challenging to build the next generation of Internet infrastructure. And the access gap is real. The recent Field Poll showed that nearly one in four Californians do not have high-speed Internet in their home, with those numbers even lower among Latinos and seniors.
When people learn that Brentwood is a national broadband leader, they often ask, "Why Brentwood?"
The answer is simple: We have been making modest investments to prepare for broadband since 1999, and as a city with a significant amount of new development we've been able to incorporate our broadband plans into all of it. The time to get infrastructure in place is when development occurs, and as a newer city we have been able to take advantage of these opportunities.
As trenches were dug to install electrical cables and other necessary infrastructure, we required developers to invest as little as $1 per foot to place empty conduits, which are pipes buried underground, to be used for future Internet fibers. Now we have 120 to 150 miles of conduit available for our partnership with Sonic.net to provide gigabit Internet, which is 40 to 500 times the speed of what most other cities offer.
Thanks largely to this small investment, Brentwood has been able to launch a partnership with Sonic.net to deliver ultra high-speed Internet to over half of the city's homes and businesses, including all future new construction. More than 8,000 households will have the ability to receive phone and gigabit Internet service for as little as $40 a month (plus tax/equipment fees).
We will also have lower-speed copper service to those parts of the city that do not have conduits available. Additionally, certain public facilities will connect to the gigabit network, which will save the city $15,000 in annual Internet service costs.
When Brentwood started this journey, there was no template for how to be a gigabit city. We learned as we developed, but we knew there was great potential in the work we were doing.
One of the best first steps that communities can make to plan for high-speed broadband is to update building codes to require conduit.
In doing so, they are making an investment in their economy.
Also, to attract broadband partnerships, cities will need to facilitate the network build-out. An example would be expediting the permitting and inspection process for a third-party provider during construction.
By doing this, cities will make it possible for broadband providers to stay ahead of the curve and quickly respond to their community's needs.
The benefits that come from investing in broadband are huge. Studies have shown that having access to high-speed Internet boosts property values and is a key factor that businesses consider when determining where to locate.
In Brentwood, we are ready to join the global community of cities providing high-speed Internet to their residents. It's time for all cities in this region to join us.
Paul Eldredge is the former city manager of Brentwood.