There are many qualified construction companies that know how to build fiber networks, and several small Internet Service Providers (ISPs) that know how to run and maintain fiber networks. Sometimes an ISP will also be able to construct a fiber network. The outsourcing option is relatively straightforward:
Deciding some design issues up front is important to do before talking to construction and ISP firms. Only you know your community well and can effectively decide between different options. The Design menu discusses many criteria you should decide upon.
You can engage outsourcing firms through a formal RFP process or through informal negotiation. In either case, it is important that you document your overal project scope, organization, and design criteria, at a minimum, before engaging firms so that you can compare proposals on an apples to apples basis.
The construction firm will need your researched design criteria and will perform a rough and ready preliminary design to estimate costs.
While the big number is going to be construction costs, another big number is how much the ISP will charge your residents. Especially if you have to tack on a cost recovery surcharge to the monthly bill, you'll want ISP monthly pricing to be competitive. The ISP should do some preliminary work to determine their uplink pricing.
Once you've negotiated construction and ISP pricing, now you can determine exactly how you will pay for this. Depending on your situation, there are many possible funding sources including government subsidies, bank loans, resident assessments, and on-going cost recovery via monthly surcharges.
You may then need to gain member or resident approval via a vote. This is a whole process unto itself which usually includes designing fancy direct mail pieces, an email campaign, and community wide meetings. See the Voting sidebar for some tips.
The final step is to negotiate actual contracts and manage the project from a top level perspective. Depending on who owns the right of ways, you may need to negotiate with utility companies, county governments or individual property owners to gain access to fiber routes.
You may very well have to build or lease a central office to house the network gear that will be connected via fiber to each resident and connected to the Internet via one or more uplinks.
ISP & Construction
My experience has been that if Internet is sub-par in your community, gaining votes to pay for the network is usually not hard. Don't take a vote for granted, of course, do all the necessary marketing work. Emphasize at least these points:
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