San Francisco Eyes Municipal Broadband


San Francisco is considering a proposal that would provide gigabit internet service for all residents through a public-private partnership model. A newly released budget and legislative analyst report shows that a P3 could pave the way toward offering low-cost gigabit service.

San Francisco Supervisor Mark Farrell has also put together a “Municipal Fiber Advisory Panel,” appointing co-chairs Miguel Gamino, current head of the San Francisco government’s Department of Technology, and Jay Nath, head of the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation, to lead the panel. The panel will advise San Francisco policymakers on future municipal fiber network expansion.

Speeds of at least one Gigabit per second, the standard in next-generation broadband, are currently available to just 2.6% of San Franciscans. Some 50,000 residents are still using dial-up and another 100,000 have no internet access at home whatsoever.

According to the report, using a P3 to create a utility-like approach to providing broadband service will do the most to close the local digital divide and modernize broadband networks. “When you turn on the faucet, clean water comes out. When you turn on the light switch, the lights come on. And when you open your laptop, everyone should have access to a fast Internet connection – whether you live in Pacific Heights or the Bayview,” said Supervisor Farrell in a statement on the report.

Supervisor Farrell requested the report in order to answer key questions about the state of broadband access in San Francisco. According to the report, industry experts do not believe that a gigabit network would be deployed in the city without government intervention. With the utility-driven model, the projected costs to build a local gigabit network top $850 million. The city would make up some of the ongoing costs of the network by charging a utility fee and network subscription fees.

The full report is available here.