High-speed fiber-optic internet coming to Pittsburg

Lightning-speed internet will soon be available to all in Pittbsurg under a new agreement with SiFi Networks LLC to bring state-of-the-art fiber optics to the entire city.

Under the “smart city” agreement the council unanimously approved this week, the city will agree to connect city-owned and operated facilities requiring internet to the new SiFi fiber-optic lines. In turn, SiFi, which is privately funding the design and construction of the symmetrical fiber-optic network, will enable high-speed connectivity throughout the city.

With such a network, the city will be able to better connect its technology and share information to provide and improve city services such as traffic signals, city lights, accessibility to parks and more, interim Economic Development Director Jordan Davis said. And businesses and schools, which are increasingly internet-dependent, will also benefit from the ability to connect to the fiber-optic network.

But Si-Fi is not an internet service provider, so after installing the fiber lines and other needed infrastructure, it will then lease them to one or more providers. In addition, SiFi will collect and measure the new system’s performance and provide technical support for the city under the 20-year agreement.

“I’m really excited about the project … this is really dealing with infrastructure and moving our city forward into the future in terms of technology and connectivity,” Councilman Jelani Killings said.

Councilmembers Shanelle Scales-Preston and Holland White also supported that project, noting it will do a lot to bridge the digital divide.

“Although this project has economic development implications, I think it will do a lot for just connecting my community members,” White said, pointing to the many activities that are now online because of the pandemic.

Davis said the idea of expanding to a fiber optic network began in 2019 when the city surveyed 25 local businesses to find out what improvements were needed. What they found was businesses were having a problem connecting and accessing high-speed broadband service in some pockets of the city, he said.

In February of 2020, SiFi approached the city about installing a citywide network. The city later approved its project development agreement and the company has since completed its design plans, with tentative kickoff planned in the fall for the two-year project, Davis said.

Under the “smart city” agreement, the city will utilize fiber optics in 13 of its facilities at a fixed monthly cost of $3,600, same as the current rate.

WIth the fiber-optic network, not only will the city be able to connect to internet at a high speed, it will be able to avoid potential outages like one that shut down a planning commission meet last summer, Davis said.

The “smart city” agreement also identifies 300 other future demand points, such as city street lights, parks, restrooms, street signals, that could be connected to the network at a locked-in monthly cost of $35 each anytime in the next 10 years, he said.

Davis explained that the idea of a “smart city” is to create a connected network of physical objects such as traffic signals and street lights that will be embedded with sensors, software and other technologies and can exchange data over the high-speed internet to help the city provide and improve services.

“So we have the potential to connect traffic signals, streetlights, park gates, cameras, etc. and have those things operate much more efficiently and be more responsive to the public’s needs,” he explained.

“It is a tremendous amount of data we will be able to push through,” city engineer Richard Abono added.

He explained that with a “smart city” approach with street lights and traffic signals connected through fiber optics, the signals and roadways would operate more efficiently, water leaks could be detected more easily and fixed in a timely manner as well.

“The potential is huge,” he said. “It could touch on every single department.”

Davis added that when the network is completed, anyone who wanted such lightning-speed fiber optics could connect to it through a service provider.

“We expect that this will touch every home, business and parcel in the city,” Davis said.

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