The City Commission moved forward in its citywide fiber network study at its Sept. 11 meeting. The Commission accepted an update on the study from Christian Doolin, Director of Strategic Innovation, and planned a presentation for the Dec. 4 Commission meeting. The research team of Florida A&M University students will present information from the study.
The Commission first authorized the study at its Dec. 5, 2018 meeting.
As noted in a summary of the study, “The basis of the discussion was rooted in the perception of a ‘digital divide’, in which a lack of Internet access acts as a social and economic barrier for the City’s economically-disadvantaged.”
The main purpose of the study is to gauge the feasibility of a citywide fiber optic network. The scope of the study has two sides: economic development and accessibility.
At their Mar. 27, 2019 meeting, the Commission directed staff to partner with Florida State University and Florida A&M University, with the intention of offering research opportunities to students.
Following the meeting, staff was in contact with faculty from FSU’s Askew School of Public Administration and Policy as well as FAMU’s School of Business and Industry.
Askew School students and faculty decided not to move forward with the study, but a team of FAMU SBI students have agreed to complete the study as part of their coursework. The students will conduct market analysis, focusing their work on accessibility.
The accessibility side of the study “examines Internet accessibility for Tallahassee residents within the context of a ‘digital divide,’ and how the fiber network may be utilized to address this issue,” as stated in the summary. “This includes the potential for the City to become a provider of broadband Internet services; an analysis of the existing market for broadband Internet; and an exploration of alternatives that would increase access.”
Facets of the study include customer profiles and survey analysis of both business and residential access, along with cost and investment estimates of different operating plans.
After conducting the study throughout the semester, the students will present their results at the Dec. 4, 2019 Commission meeting.
The City hopes to continue the study in the Spring 2020 semester through partnerships with both FSU and FAMU.