California county launches a tender to build multibillion dollar fiber-optic network countywide

California county launches a tender to build multibillion dollar fiber-optic network countywide

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Riverside County, in the U.S. state of California, has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to develop the nation’s largest broadband network, a project that would stimulate economic growth and make high-speed networks available to all residents and businesses countywide.

The RIVCOconnect Broadband Initiative is a US$2 billion to US$4 billion public-private partnership with the goal of building a gigabit fiber network. This project marks the first time in the nation that a regional public/private partnership has worked to deploy fiber optic infrastructure on such a large scale in partnership with multiple local governments.

The project does not rely on taxpayer dollars and the county and its cities are not seeking to own or operate this fiber network. Rather, RIVCOconnect is designed to facilitate the private sector’s deployment of a fiber network. It will interest network providers because, over time, they already will need to build fiber infrastructure themselves to reach and serve customers. The public/private partnership is attractive because a network of municipal partners could make construction and deployment far less expensive.

In the RFP, the county is seeking participants interested in building the gigabit network. Responses are due August 15 and a telecommunications partner or partners will be selected in the fall to build out the gigabit fiber network.

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The county’s 7,200 square miles contain nearly one million homes, apartments, businesses, and institutions that need high-speed internet access. 

Collaborating local jurisdictions – the county, its 28 cities, and participating tribal nations – have adopted a common resolution to support the effort. Each partner has agreed to streamline and expedite often cumbersome permitting processes. Among the ideas are “dig-once” policies that allow fiber conduits to be installed whenever a roadway is opened for construction, and coordinating activities countywide through a single point of contact. Those ideas and others could help eliminate hurdles that could amount to as much as 30 percent of construction costs, potentially saving hundreds of millions of dollars on such a project.

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