Palo Alto, CA

Mayor Liz Kniss

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On Palo Alto

“Palo Alto is a unique hub for technological innovation and is widely known as a premier startup center.  Many tech giants got their start in Palo Alto – Facebook, Google, and Hewlett Packard, to name a few.  In the 1990s, the City of Palo Alto made an investment in fiber-optics, which has proven to be a significant factor in the City’s economic growth and health.”

On Next Century Cities

“The City’s principles and Next Century Cities’ principles for broadband expansion are closely aligned, and focus on the importance of leveraging gigabit-speed Internet to attract new businesses and create jobs, improve health care and education, and connect residents to new opportunities.”

What Palo Alto is working on

In the mid-1990s, the City planned and built the first phase of a dark optical fiber backbone ring (“network”) that passes several commercial zones (e.g. downtown and the Stanford Research Park) and key City facilities.  Through incremental expansions, primarily in commercial zones, the network is now 49 route miles. The network supports the communication needs at multiple City facilities, in addition to supporting critical municipal services and infrastructure, including electric, gas, water and wastewater utility services provided by City of Palo Alto Utilities and command and control of the City’s traffic signal system.  The network also supports the provisioning of Wi-Fi services at most City facilities for staff and guest use. The City licenses “dark fiber” to more than 100 commercial customers and the Palo Alto Unified School District (17 schools and the district’s business office). The City does not provide “lit” or “managed” telecommunication services.

In 2016, the City initiated a network rebuild project that will install new aerial duct or substructure (conduit and boxes), in addition to fiber backbone cable to increase capacity for sections of the network that are at or near capacity. This project will allow the City to meet future customer requests for services. The project areas primarily cover the Stanford Research Park, Palo Alto Internet Exchange/Equinix and downtown areas. This project basically “overlays” new fiber over existing fiber routes in the network. Existing fiber will continue to serve City facilities and commercial dark fiber customers.

The City has evaluated various business models to expand the network for citywide use. In 2015, with the escalating interest in municipal gigabit-speed broadband networks, the City developed a Fiber-to-the-Premises Master Plan and Wireless Network Plan to guide future investment in its fiber optic asset. The City is currently planning to develop a business case for a municipal-provided Fiber-to-the-Node (FTTN) network for fiber and broadband expansion.  The City plans to retain a management consultant to develop the business case, funding plans, identification of potential private partners and/or Internet service providers, and preparation of a high-level network design.  Based on the findings and recommendations in the business case, the City will retain an engineering firm to design a FTTN network with an expansion option to build a citywide Fiber-to-the-Premises network.