Shreveport's Chief Technology Officer explains $7 million bond issue proposal

One of the suggested projects for the proposed bond issue is $7 million for a Smart City Infrastructure Fund. Columnist John Settle gives his opinion on what is happening.

Shreveport’s Chief Technology Officer Keith Hanson was asked to explain why this funding was needed.

The question:

What would the benefits be for Shreveport citizens?

Short explanation:

The explanation is simple: we are going down the path of a smart city, and all of those sensors need a backhaul mechanism. Any sort of public safety cameras, intelligent lighting infrastructure, smart traffic signals, and more, all of which will require a way to communicate back to the internet and to our government HQ.

So without conduit & fiber connecting all of these things, we won’t be able to do many (or any, really) of the promised upgrades to our city’s technology infrastructure that would aid us in a plethora of ways, from public safety to quality of life to the Universal Broadband initiative.

We will either have to lease this connectivity from an ISP as we are doing now (which costs us all), or we could own it and generate revenue from it (which we’d all benefit from).

Longer Explanation:

One of the first questions Verizon asked me was, "Do you have any City-owned conduit we can lease?" while they lay miles and miles of fiber cable to prep for their 5G rollouts and to expand business internet service here.

After being asked this question and doing the research, all of the cities I found that have their own conduit are earning revenue from it, and there are some cities where utility providers wanted to outright buy it from the city, but the city was making so much revenue that they turned the deal down.

Conduit itself also has a meager maintenance cost and can last decades without repair unless someone cuts into it while digging.

Currently, each building that we use in government is either connected to non-city-owned fiber or paying for Comcast internet connections –which costs us money each month. This project would eliminate those costs at the same time as connecting our government buildings to our city network directly, empowering every government worker and allowing IT to more tightly control our tech infrastructure.

For instance, if we connect all of our Recreation Centers (which are often in the middle of neighborhoods) with city-owned fiber, we could simply blast the entire area with wireless signal attached to the fiber. This would provide a free — but restricted — use of our internet connections over the air — instead of kids in the neighborhood having to use Rec center internet connections for homework only while the rec center is open.

As our city progresses into 5G, all of those 5G poles going up will need some form of fiber optic cable as a backhaul to the internet. ISPs are currently investing in our area, but they’re only going to the places that will recoup the investment the fastest first. They are private businesses, after all, and this is only natural.

This project, wherever we have conduit, would allow an ISP to expand into places they may have put at the bottom of their list because of the return-on-investment period being too lengthy. This would allow them to lease our conduit, cutting 80% of the up-front cost required to roll out fiber to those poles wherever we have conduit nearby, thus allowing a much faster rollout of 5G for any ISP wanting to invest here.

The leasing of space to ISPs on our conduit would be managed by a third party operator, with strict guidelines to allow anyone and everyone who wishes to pay for available space to be able to use it (an open transport network). The operator would be paid via a percentage of revenue earned by the project.

This is the only bond proposal that has a perfect shot at fast returns on the investment, as demonstrated by multiple other example cities, while at the same time lowering our costs.

As icing on the cake, doing so would attract smaller ISPs that could more easily compete with the bigger ISPs, thereby creating more competition in the market, one of the often-cited complaints of citizens trying to get broadband connections into their homes.

This would become an economic development initiative - to find and attract new ISPs to our area who could utilize the conduit in places where major ISPs do not want to go (yet). We could even see local startups stand up their own ISPs.

This administration believes in the Universal Broadband initiative. It believes that Smart City Initiatives help to increase our quality of life as citizens, increase public safety, potentially increase competition therefore driving prices down, and will help attract new citizens to our area.

It would also enable us to activate our "maker" community, to create citizen-lead projects to develop Internet of Things sensors, prototypes, and devices that help with a plethora of civic problems (everything from traffic counting to environmental sensors, parking, public safety initiatives and more).

All of these things will require some form of public/private partnerships to reach as many residents as possible with affordable, high-speed internet and quality of life-enhancing smart city technologies.

So to summarize, my proposal would eliminate nearly all monthly recurring costs for connectivity to every government building, while at the same time adding new revenue opportunities, and increasing connectivity across our city."