Cortez is moving closer toward a public-private partnership to bring an advanced fiber optic network to every business and resident in the city.
City Council on Tuesday gave staff the green light to begin formal negotiations with Allo Communications, a telecom company that has engaged in fiber partnerships with at least nine cities in Nebraska and one city in Colorado, according to the company’s website.
City Manager John Dougherty said staff will come back to City Council with a formal proposal once negotiations are complete.
The city released a request for proposal in December that closed in January.
General Services Director Rick Smith said a committee that includes him, Dougherty and a representative from Osprey Packs reviewed six proposals. They recommended that the city move forward with negotiations with Allo Communications.
“We’re just starting negotiations,” Smith said. “It’s not for award yet.”
The RFP document states the goal of the program is to “provide an advanced telecommunications road” to each business and residential location in the city.
The city included a long list of possible services the private company could provide, including financing, design, business model, rate structure, construction, operations and network maintenance. Smith said the negotiations will narrow those services down.
“We are entering into negotiations to see what kind of end proposal we’ll have before City Council awards it,” Smith said.
The existing fiber optic Cortez Community Network serves various anchor institutions — like schools, the hospital and government buildings — as well as some downtown businesses.
According to a broadband feasibility study released by CCG Consulting and Finley Engineering in May 2018, a financing structure based entirely on a bond issue “doesn’t look feasible” in Cortez, but a sales tax increase might work.
The study discussed several scenarios for how fiber could play out in Cortez, including offering a low-speed option for free to all homes with higher speeds available to those willing to pay.
“This would make Cortez one of the few places to solve the digital divide,” the report states.
CCG Consulting then released the results of a residential broadband survey in November. The survey found four out of five Cortez households reported that they are unhappy with their internet speeds.
Once staff concludes negotiations with Allo Communications, the City Council will consider formally awarding the RFP.
An Allo Communications press release states the company recently completed a large fiber installation and construction project in Lincoln, Nebraska, a city with a population of 285,000.