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April 6 2021 County Council Meeting Report

I attended almost the entire five hour meeting of the Los Alamos County Council on April 6 2021. I am pleased to report that the Councilors think it’s time for the County government to run fiber in Los Alamos County.  The meeting is available on line, and you can click on the agenda items and watch just the parts you are interested in. In addition to participating live by zoom on the 6th, I watched the video of the first round of comments on the broadband issue by each Councilor to make the notes here (the times are approximate).

Presentation by Steve Lynn, 3:32:40-3:35:28: Proposed $175K for a needs analysis by an outside consultant.

Comments by Councilor Scott, 3:35:28-3:41:00: Instead of supporting handing off a new needs analysis to an external consultant, Scott believes the County needs a staff person in charge of broadband.

Comments by Councilor Williams, 3:41:00-3:50:55: Williams and LAC IT staff member John Roig talked about capacity off of the hill. They each believe that Lumen Technologies (formerly CenturyLink/QWest/U S West, ie, the phone company) owns a fiber link across the Rio Grande that LANL and all of the local ISPs use it to get off of the hill, and that there is not a capacity bottleneck. Williams believes that trenching the County for fiber is the only credible solution. He supports an analysis to discover what residents would save by having such fiber and the associated improvement in service quality. I don’t know if he meant to include the savings from the rate changes we would see from the incumbents in response to the emergence of credible competition. He said that if we are serious, it leads to a bond issue, and if we are serious, fiber is the technology.

Comments by Councilor Derkacs, 3:50:55-3:54:26: She said that it’s time to make a decision to move forward; we should forge forward. She started her comments by referring to the history of studies funded by the County, saying, “This page I’m looking at.” I believe that she was looking at blabnow.blog.

Comments by Councilor Izraelevitz, 3:54:26-4:04:55: He said that economic modeling will be important and raised the question of the County providing dark fiber or becoming a service provider. He mentioned an informal survey effort that he led in January. (He called me when I launched blabnow.blog to ask me to lead that effort, and I declined.) He also suggested that LANL might financially support broadband in the County so that LANL staff could work more effectively offsite. I believe that Councilor Izraelevitz is alone on the Council in opposing a bond issue for broadband infrastructure.

Comments by Councilor Robinson, 4:04:55-4:08:55: He led by saying that there’s not a chance that Triad, ie, the lab, is going to pay to support broadband for staff at home. Next he compared investing in fiber now to the investments decades ago in the El Vado and Abiquiu generating stations. He meant that it’s an opportunity for a once in a generation good move, and he said “It’s the greatest advantage we could give to attract people and business up here.” He wants a study of how to pay for fiber, not a needs analysis, and he says we should move quickly.

Comments by Councilor Reagor, 4:08:55-4:13:00: Reagor said that no more study is necessary. He believes that we need a fiber optic backbone in the County and that the next steps are an RFP (Request for Proposals) and a bond issue. His principal concern is that “wireless technology is moving really fast”. Rather than running fiber to the home where signals are then translated to WiFi, the best solution in the future may be to have that translation at the level of a block or even a mile from each residence. He noted that we can’t address that concern with a survey of the public. While I suspect fiber to the home is going to be the best option for many years, I don’t entirely discount Reagor’s concern about wireless bypassing the final link from fiber to devices in homes. I support getting external expert advice on the question.

Comments by Councilor Ryti, 4:13:00-4:15:36: Ryti would like to see options that could be implemented before we get fiber to every home because it will take so long to install all of the fiber.  He believes that the County should move quickly before the telecom incumbents have time to get laws passed that would constrain our options. He also said the County needs a person on staff to manage broadband issues.

Comments by the public, 4:15:36: I made the first comment.

Summary: A 6 to 1 majority of the Los Alamos County Council wants to progress to a bond issue to fund an optical fiber plant of some sort.

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