The City of Waterloo is planning construction of a fiber-optic broadband network to serve its municipal operations, along with fiber-to-the-home/premise (FTTH/FTTP) services for high-speed internet access. A referendum vote passed on September 13, 2022 to fund a portion of the project. The city has put together some Frequently Asked Questions and Answers to give you more details about the project and the upcoming vote.
- What is Waterloo constructing? The city plans to construct a fiber-optic 100% underground backbone to support the City of Waterloo’s municipal operations, aggregating the communications and connectivity needs of utilities, traffic, public safety and future smart city initiatives that use information and communication technologies to increase operational efficiency. Additionally, the Waterloo Municipal Communications Utility (MCU) intends to build out and deliver next-generation fiber-to-the-home/premise (FTTH/FTTP) services enabling high-speed internet access to every home and business throughout the Waterloo community.
- Goals of Waterloo Fiber;
- Fiber provides faster speeds (1gb to 10gb)
- Fiber is more reliable than copper
- Fiber is provided at a lower cost per month to subscribers
- Waterloo Fiber will be locally serviced (billing, tech, support)
- Revenue from subscribers stays in Waterloo
- What is the timeframe for the buildout and projected completion? The MCU will begin building out the network beginning by Q2 of 2023. The first FTTH/FTTP customers are projected to be connected within that year. The entire project is expected to take at least three years to construct.
- Who will benefit from this project? The fiber backbone will benefit city offices and various sites and facilities throughout Waterloo, while the FTTH/FTTP portion of the network will provide fiber-based internet access available for subscription in all residential and commercial business areas.
- What is the referendum? The General Obligation (GO) Bond referendum special election will be held on September 13, 2022. Its purpose is to fund up to $20 million of the city and/or MCU portion of the project. If approved by the voters, the GO bonds can be paid for with multiple revenue streams that could include utility revenues and potentially TIF revenue, and debt service levy. The project is moving forward using various funding mechanisms, but a GO bond would provide a less expensive financing source.
- Click here to read more about the GO Bond.
- What is a fiber-optic network? Fiber optics are flexible strands of glass that transmit light signals to carry data. This results in faster internet speeds and greater reliability than traditional copper transmission lines and is the most futureproof last-mile technology available today. Many internet service providers use some fiber in their systems but use copper lines for the final connections to residences and businesses. This results in slower speeds. A fiber-to-the-home/premise (FTTH/FTTP) system delivers the same high speeds throughout the network to every home and business, capable of exceeding 10 Gbps at deployment.
- Click here to watch a a CNBC video to learn more the U.S. is seeing fiber- optic boom.
- What are the technological benefits of using fiber optics? Fiber-optic networks send and receive high amounts of data extremely fast. They also are more reliable – less susceptible to interference and damage from lightning and other acts of nature and natural disasters.
- What is “broadband”? Broadband is a high-speed, high-capacity transmission method. It commonly refers to high-speed internet access. Broadband fiber-optic networks deliver data, voice and video over the last-mile distribution networks.
Service providers might tell you they have fiber networks but in reality, within Waterloo they are using fiber and copper. Fiber might be the backbone of the network, but copper lines may be the last portion going to your home. Copper networks are old technology that was built to carry voice (phone) and video (one-way). They cannot handle the demands of data-driven applications that many people use in their daily lives. They provide asymmetrical bandwidth which is why upload speeds often are so much less than download. All-fiber networks, on the other hand, have an almost unlimited ability to support transporting huge amounts of bandwidth over long distances.
The City of Waterloo MCU will construct an all-fiber network to your home or business.
- How will I benefit from using fiber-optic broadband? Overall, fiber broadband is better for data transmission than traditional copper lines. When considering the installation of a fiber network, benefits include:
- Residential speeds of fiber broadband service customarily go up to 1 Gbps, or (1,000 Mbps), enabling better video streaming for example. For a business, the faster speeds from fiber broadband can increase productivity as employees no longer spend time waiting for large files and videos to upload and download, enabling them to address more business opportunities in a shorter amount of time. Waterloo plans to deploy up to 10 Gbps at initial deployment.
- Bandwidth availability – the maximum amount of data transmitted over an internet connection in a given amount of time – is significantly higher on a fiber-optic network, and the speed does not decrease when network demand is high. This enables more people – in both residential and business environments – to use the network simultaneously without seeing degradation in the service.
- Fiber-optic networks are stronger than copper transmission lines and not as susceptible to inclement weather or natural disasters. They are resistant to human or electrical interference unless the fibers are physically cut. The City of Waterloo MCU plans to deploy the network 100% underground and not further overload the electric pole lines that are present throughout the community.
- The signal strength over fiber optics does not degrade as quickly as it does via DSL, Ethernet or copper cable. This is extremely beneficial in large spaces, such as offices, where equipment is located throughout a large area.
- Symmetric speed – equal upload and download speeds on an internet connection – can result in improved productivity for businesses as multiple people connect and transfer data simultaneously.
- Fiber-optics eliminates latency issues – the delays that occur while processing data over an internet connection. This translates into better voice quality via VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) for phone calls and video calls; the ability to move more data to the cloud; downloads and uploads of huge files without interruption; and improved collaboration between parties.
- Since fiber-optic communication is done by sending data as pulses of light across thin strands of glass it is inherently more secure. In addition to moving data more rapidly at speeds approaching the speed of light, it makes data signals much harder for hackers to intercept.
- Faster internet increases productivity and reduces downtime, and that can lead to cost savings for businesses and residents. Also, services provided over fiber optics at gigabit speeds and beyond generally have the lowest cost per megabit on a unit basis.
GETTING SERVICE FROM WATERLOO
Why is Waterloo building out a fiber-optic broadband system with high-speed internet?
Providing city-owned fiber broadband internet service makes reliable high-speed, all-fiber internet available to all residents and businesses in Waterloo; improves municipal services, such as better utility monitoring; and helps keep costs down for reliable high-speed internet for everyone in our city. Having a city-owned broadband network will give all neighborhoods across our community access to this advanced technology. The city sees it as an important asset for economic development and quality of life, driving more growth and job opportunities throughout the coverage area, and ensuring every resident of Waterloo is never left behind.
Why should I get broadband service from the Waterloo MCU?
Waterloo’s FTTH service will be reliable, affordable and backed by your local municipal communications utility. First and foremost, we are accountable to our community instead of corporate shareholders. You will receive responsive service with local control. Additionally, customers will be able to stream high-definition media quickly and reliably; have the capacity to download and upload files, photos and videos at very fast speeds; and access the latest cutting-edge technologies and applications.