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Local

City markets its new broadband business

ROCK FALLS – Rock Falls is a gigabit city and the backbone to its fiber network is in place. Now it's time to get residents connected to its broadband, which can provide speeds up to 1,000 megabits per second.

As part of its marketing campaign, city officials held their final informational meetings Wednesday for a packed council chamber at City Hall. City Administrator Robbin Blackert retraced the process, started in earnest in 2015, that has made broadband the newest city utility.

"The mayor and I thought it would make us more competitive with economic development, help keep our children from moving away – many millennials work from home.

"At the end of the day, we decided this was an important quality of life issue and we shouldn't just do it for business, but for all of our residents," Blackert said.

The city took out a $4 million bond to complete the backbone, which is along the U.S. 30 and state Route 40 corridors, including the industrial parks.

Wayne Shafer, the city's broadband department director, explained how the residential areas will be built out. The service areas are divided into 26 potential "fiberhoods," each with about 250 homes. To mitigate the financial risk, a fiberhood won't be done until 45 percent of its prospective customers sign up for the service.

Residents can find their fiberhood and check the numbers on rockfallsfiber.net.

Some at the meeting, concerned that the numbers in their area were very low, were told it's a good idea to sign up as soon as possible.

"Don't get discouraged with the fiberhood numbers," Shafer said. "This charts demand, but the plan is to eventually build out the entire city. The fiberhoods can be moved around, but we can't get to you unless you sign up."

In a perfect world, the city would have done the entire buildout right away, but the cost was prohibitive.

"We're not trying to make a profit – we just want to break even on the fiberhoods," Blackert said. "We would have loved to do this all at once, but it would have cost $15 million to $18 million to build all of the fiberhoods."

While the city will offer only broadband, the higher speeds present more options for cutting the cable cord or adding internet-based phone service. Information is available on TV streaming providers.

"You need to do the research and see what works best for you, but if you get this broadband, then add streaming and phone services, you can probably get all of that for half the price you're paying now," Shafer said.

There is no contract for the city's broadband service – it's set up on a month-to-month basis. There is a $100 installation fee that covers trenching and wiring, but it isn't due until a fiberhood is ready for buildout.

Officials were asked about the possibility of price increases for the packages. A $2 rate increase in 2 years is in the city's financial plan, but all increases must be approved by the City Council, Blackert said.

Fibernet prices

Monthly residential service

250 megabits per second - $75

1,000 Mbps (1 gigabit) - $125

Monthly business service

250 Mbps - $150

500 Mbps - $275

1,000 Mbps - $375

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