San Francisco’s call to contractors for a citywide high-speed internet service marks the beginning of the end of the Comcast monopoly.
The city issued an official request Wednesday for contractors to come up with a plan for the public-private partnership to build a fiber network. Of those submitted, officials will select five proposals by April 30 and issue a follow-up request by the end of the year for three proposals to actually be designed.
Mayor Mark Farrell introduced the project — which pledges to protect net neutrality and transparency — when he served as District 2 supervisor. California and local governments have scrambled to enshrine consumer protections after the Federal Communications Commission repealed net neutrality in December.
“Trump’s hand-picked FCC and Republicans in Congress have dismantled crucial net neutrality, privacy, and consumer protections,” Farrell says in a statement. “We will provide an alternative that favors the general public and San Francisco values, not corporate interests.”
According to a city estimate issued in October, building the citywide fiber optic network would cost $1.9 billion. The new network would include subsidized rates to make it affordable to low-income residents and close the digital divide.
About 100,000 residents don’t have an internet connection at home, the Mayor’s Office says. Plus, 15 percent of San Francisco’s public school students don’t have internet access — which goes up to 30 percent for just Black and Latinx students.
The team that wins the contract would build, operate and manage the network for 15 years, including the wireless internet service — let’s hope it’s better than the MIA connection on Market Street.