Open-Access Fiber Pilot Approved in Superior, Wisconsin

SUPERIOR, WI – Officials have given the green light to the first pilot area for Superior’s new city-owned fiber network. Dubbed Connect Superior, the open-access fiber network aims to deliver affordable gigabit access to every resident, community anchor institution, and business in the city of approximately 27,000.

On July 5, the Superior City Council voted 8-1 to approve deployment in the project’s first pilot area, consisting of about 821 homes and businesses in the area of Tower Avenue, Belknap Street, and North 21st Street. The city will now begin issuing RFPs for network construction and negotiate with potential network tenants.

In 2000, the city passed a resolution declaring fiber essential infrastructure. In 2021, the city council voted overwhelmingly to move forward on a deployment master plan developed for the city by EntryPoint Networks. The initial $2.26 million cost of the pilot will be paid for with the help of $5 million from the city’s $17 million allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act funding.

A citywide deployment, should the city pursue it, is expected to cost around $31 million. The city remains hopeful that much of the cost can be offset by a 40 percent take rate among local residents and businesses.

A 2019 city survey found that 73 percent of locals stated they would support a municipal network, with another 23 percent of respondents saying they would possibly support the network. Like other cities pursuing municipal networks, interest in such alternatives dramatically sparked during the peak COVID home education and telecommunications booms.

“Residents in our city have been paying too much for mediocre access to the Internet,” said Superior Mayor Jim Paine. “The unfortunate reality is that the current dominant internet access model in our country is one where network operators build closed systems that are designed to maximize profit and limit access. Alternatively, the Superior Fiber Utility seeks to maximize value and lower costs through competition.”

The city believes that the project will not only dramatically boost broadband speeds in the region but reduce the amount locals pay for broadband access by as much as thirty percent. Officials remain hopeful they can provide gigabit service for $46 to $55 per month to residents and around $75 a month to area businesses. 




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