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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Friday, Mar. 24, 2017 1 year ago

Winter Park looks into installing fiber network

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Winter Park has taken a step toward installing its own fiber network backbone.
by: Tim Freed Associate Editor

Winter Park residents want faster internet. But what will it cost?

City Commissioners voted during their March 13 meeting to take a closer look at installing its own fiber network backbone within the city, which would allow residents to surf the web at greater speeds.

Mayor Steve Leary appointed a task force of five members who will investigate the cost of installing a fiber network and recommend whether or not it makes financial sense for the city to pursue it.

The pursuit of a fiber network backbone comes in response to many Winter Park residents complaining about the speed and price of providers like Century Link and Spectrum, City Spokesperson Craig O’Neil said.

“This is something that has been discussed at the city and the City Commission for a decade,” Leary said.

“If you’re like me, you hear from people multiple times about a dissatisfaction with the (internet) service that they are offered, a fairly singular service.”

“The question is what does it cost and how do we execute it,” City Commissioner Peter Weldon said.

O’Neil said that the city estimates the cost to cover the entire city sits between $18 million and $27 million, though the task force will be looking at multiple alternatives and details, including how much residents will have to pay to use the internet.

The fiber network task force includes former Winter Park City Commissioner Tom McMacken, former Orange County Commission Bill Segal, former Winter Park Mayor David Johnston, Economic Development Advisory Board Member John Caron, and Steve Mauldin of CNL Financial Group Inc.

Their work will build off of an October 2016 consultant’s report done by Magellan Advisors, who assessed Winter Park’s ability to install a broadband network.

The report read that over 1,000 cities across the U.S. have their own fiber networks.

“The way we interact with our education, healthcare, government, and entertainment service providers is evolving regularly,” the report reads. “For communities like Winter Park, the question is whether the city will plan for these changes through the proper planning processes or whether unmanaged outside forces will determine the city’s future.”

Leary insisted that now is the time to investigate fiber networks.

“We’ve been talking about it long enough, and if we started this a decade ago, we would probably already have a backbone for the city that could be utilized,” Leary said.

The task force has a window of six months before they must come back to the City Commission with a recommendation.

Tim Freed is an Associate Editor with the Winter Park/Maitland Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Central Florida.

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