The Federal Communications Commission caused a firestorm of controversy in February 2015 about net neutrality, but the FCC decision also supports local governments’ efforts to build municipally-owned broadband networks.

The FCC approved a petition by Wilson, NC, to preempt a state law that would restrict its municipal gigabit broadband deployment. The FCC’s ruling supports local governments’ efforts to create and expand broadband networks. Wilson city officials were obviously pleased with FCC’s decision.

“The FCC has empowered local North Carolina communities to do whatever it takes for all of our citizens to realize the benefits of access to essential Gigabit infrastructure,” they said in a statement February 26, 2015, the day of the ruling.

Local Government GIGs

The Mayor of Chattanooga, TN., a mid-size city in the southeastern part of the state, thanked the FCC in a tweet for “recognizing the importance of access & digital equality.”

Chattanooga and its Chamber of Commerce are proud of what they’re offering citizens and businesses. On a chamber-sponsored website,, the business-advocacy group declares in all caps “YOUR GIG IS HERE.” The state’s fourth-largest city has made one gigabit-per-second Internet speed available to every home and business in the city.

The city’s community-owned electric utility is installing a 100% fiber-to-the-premises network.

“Because bandwidth is no problem, Chattanooga’s fiber optic network enables upload and download speeds 200 times faster than the current national average, and 10 times faster than the FCC’s National Broadband Plan,” the Chamber announces on the site.

The Appeal of Fiber Optics in Cities & Towns

Wilson and Chattanooga may be on the forefront of the publicly owned fiber optic network, but other municipalities are edging that way.

According to Onvia’s Project Center, in 2013 and 2014, cities and towns released 27% of bids and requests for proposals related to fiber optic network projects. State governments released 39% of similar bids and RFPs.

Examples of current projects reveal that agencies are at different stages of fiber optic network implementation:

ExampleBozeman, a mid-size city in southwestern Montana, issued a request for proposals in 2015 as it enters the implementation phase of its Fiber Master Plan.

ExampleIn 2015, Vestavia Hills, Ala., released a bid for designing and engineering, as well as the construction, materials, and ongoing maintenance of a single-mode dark fiber optic network infrastructure for municipal use.

Forecasting Future Fiber Optic Spending Through Budgets

Onvia’s Spending Forecast Center shows state and city governments have proposed and adopted budgets that include fiber optic network projects. In budgets published in 2013 and 2014, 60% of them were at the city and town levels of government, 262 of those budgets are already adopted.

ExampleRichmond, the capital of Virginia, has budgeted a total of $1.25 million to set up a city-owned fiber optic network system. The first phase of work is under construction. The second phases is in design. The third phase is already granted in the 2016-2018 budget. Per year, the city has budgeted $250,000 for 2016, $350,000 for 2017, and $150,000 for 2018 with $500,000 budgeted prior to 2016. In its capital improvement plan, the city noted, “Fiber optics represents the holy grail of communications networking: unlimited capacity, long life, and very resilient to downtime.”

Fiber optic suppliers, installers and internet service providers should note that city agencies across the country are issuing bids and requests for proposals for fiber optic projects. San Diego released 22 solicitations between 2013 and 2014, followed by Buffalo, N.Y., Los Angeles, and West Seneca, N.Y.

Top 5 States for Fiber Optic Opportunities:

Top 5 States for Fiber Optic Opportunities

Top 5 Cities for Fiber Optic Opportunities:

Top 5 Cities for Fiber Optic Opportunities

Key Takeaways

For government contractors looking to find fiber optic-related opportunities, consider them as part of a city’s infrastructure. Non-IT government vendors should be aware that despite the obvious connection between IT and fiber optics, 67% of fiber optic projects are categorized as construction and building supply projects and 42% are labeled as IT and telecommunications projects.

Cities and towns are at various stages of building a fiber-optic infrastructure among other Smart City technologies. Some officials are only planning. Others are beginning to install the infrastructure and others are ready for enhancements to their existing networks.

Lastly, Chattanooga and Wilson may be reveling now in the FCC’s decision. But more cities likely will join in the chorus as they spread the Internet to homes and businesses across their communities.