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More than $150K for partial broadband design approved by Waterloo City Council
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More than $150K for partial broadband design approved by Waterloo City Council

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WATERLOO — A partial design of Waterloo’s proposed broadband network was unanimously approved Monday by City Council members.

The more than $150,000 agreement with consultant Magellan Advisors is expected to allow sewer and storm water pump stations to electronically monitor performance and alert city staff about emergencies. The effort is part of Waterloo’s broader plan to become a “smart city,” a goal previously outlined by Mayor Quentin Hart. The overall plan not only includes offering a municipal option for internet, phone and TV to residents, but also encompasses technology that allows city departments to collect data and communicate more easily.

The project approved Monday includes the design of 30% of the city’s broadband network, which would consist of up to 73 miles of underground conduit and fiber infrastructure.

Waterloo City Hall

Waterloo City Hall

Magellan is slated to design a data center and host workshops with Waterloo departments to coordinate the technology, according to company documents. The company is expected to complete the project in 60-90 days. Other phases of fiber network designs — including 60%, 90% and 100% thresholds — would be commissioned under separate agreements, according to city documents.

The partial network will be designed based on concepts in the “recently completed” broadband plan, city documents show. Waterloo officials continue to say the plan is in “draft” form and can remain confidential under Iowa code. The plan is not projected to be released publicly until May at the earliest, officials said.

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Waterloo twice declined to release the broadband study to The Courier after an open records request. City officials cited another part of Iowa Code that protects existing utility records that include private customer information. Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, said potential utilities are traditionally not protected under that part of the code.

The city’s legal department previously said it worried publicly releasing the study would hurt Waterloo’s competition with Mediacom, a major service provider.

A study by the Waterloo Industrial Development Association showed construction of a fiber-to-home system similar to the Cedar Falls Utilities network could cost between $39.2 million and $65.3 million. Waterloo officials have yet to publicly release any cost estimates generated by Magellan.

Magellan Advisors was commissioned in fall 2019 to complete the study to explore a city-owned broadband utility, which could provide another option for high-speed internet, phone services and cable television. City Council members unanimously voted to reallocate about $110,000 in general obligation bonds to cover the cost of the study.

Police on the scene of a shooting Friday, April 2, 2021, at an apartment building in Waterloo, Iowa.

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