LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — City officials were hoping to hear from telecommunications firms Monday on the feasibility of a plan to provide free wireless broadband service anywhere in the city of Los Angeles.
KNX 1070’s Pete Demetriou reports City Councilman Bob Blumenfield is leading the effort to issue a request for information (RFI) that will be put out in the public domain in the hopes that companies like AT&T or Verizon will answer the call.
Approved by the City Council in November, the Los Angeles Community Broadband Network measure is aimed at making Internet access available to residences at speeds of up to 1 gigabyte per second. It would allow users to transmit and receive information nearly 200 times faster than most residences in L.A. – at the same or at a lower price than Angelenos pay for inferior service, according to Blumenfield.
An estimated 30 percent of all Angelenos either do not have access to broadband service or cannot afford it, while approximately 35 percent of Los Angeles Unified School District students do not have broadband access at home, even as the district takes controversial steps to roll out iPads and other electronic teaching tools, Blumenfield said.
Blumenfield along with Deputy Mayor Rick Cole, the mayor’s chief technology officer, Peter Marx, and other city officials first want to determine whether any of the major telecom firms would be willing to use their own resources to fund the estimated $1.5 billion project in exchange for access to city infrastructure.
“If we can pull off having this kind of high-speed access, then any city in the country can,” Blumenfield said. “We’re also out to prove we’re the leaders in the nation when it comes to this kind of thing.”
Potential partners would gain access to critical city assets such as utility poles, cell towers and civic buildings, in addition to gaining an edge when it comes to landing contracts for the city’s information technology services for the next decade or more, Blumenfield said.
Currently, the city offers free Wi-Fi only at libraries. If approved, Los Angeles would become the largest municipality to offer the service.
Angelenos have also been invited to take part in a citywide survey to identify broadband needs and interests and to help identify areas where service is most needed.