Hudson -- Council members agreed Feb. 10 to take the next step toward the city's broadband initiative and seek possible partners for the service.

Broadband, a high-speed connectivity to the Internet, provides the digital infrastructure necessary to connect communities virtually to the rest of the electronic world. The city would add optic fiber through conduits in the ground or on overhead lines.

In the "open access provider" choice, the city partners with a provider or several providers of the service to handle billing and customer service. In the "business service provider" choice, the city not only provides the infrastructure but creates a utility service. In either plan, the city would market and promote the service.

Council President Hal DeSaussure said he wanted to know what kind of response the city receives from possible service providers before deciding which way to go, whether open or business.

"We need to determine if there is enough competition and partners out there to do an open network," said City Manager Jane Howington.

The funding and models for where broadband would be added would depend on whether the city chooses an open model or business model, Howington said.

In October 2014 Magellan Advisors LLC of Denver was contracted for $58,500 to determine broadband needs and a business plan for a city-wide Internet service. Magellan Advisors presented their findings Feb. 10 after preparing an assessment and business plan, which is on the city website www.hudson.oh.us.

Magellan made several recommendations -- to determine if any broadband providers would partner with the city to provide the service on a city-owned open-access network; build in phases broadband infrastructure in key areas of the city to expand access to businesses and residents; and adopt policies that incorporate broadband as a utility and in improvement areas.

Surveys were collected from 133 businesses and nearly 1,000 residents, and responses indicated that the current Internet services were inadequate and not meeting the needs of speed, performance and liability, said Courtney Violette, senior vice-president of Magellan operations.

In Hudson, most residents and businesses subscribe to either DSL or cable services, Violette said. Hudson's small and medium business community reported many issues with their current broadband services, citing poor reliability and performance as negatively affecting their ability to do business in the city. Many businesses wanted to upgrade to a better service but found that they could not afford to do so.

In the survey 95 percent of Hudson residents said they could not live without their Internet connections and 58 percent of Hudson businesses said their current Internet services did not meet their needs, Violette said.

Next generation broadband with fiber optics meets the increasing demand for Internet connections as people connect with more locations (schools, hospitals, businesses) and with more devices (laptops, notebooks, smartphones), he said. Hudson would benefit by reducing the costs of doing business in the city; enable small and medium business to be more competitive; spur economic development by designating Hudson as a Gigabit City; drive new private sector investment in local broadband; build a platform to serve long-term residential needs; and enable new Smart City innovation for municipal efficiencies, Violette said.

Magellan found that if broadband providers agree to utilize an open-access network owned and operated by the city, Hudson should proceed in building broadband infrastructure into the business corridors and enable broadband providers to utilize the network to serve Hudson's businesses. This model could then be expanded to Hudson's residential communities.

If providers are unwilling to partner with the city, Hudson should consider becoming a retail provider of broadband services to its business community and possibly, a residential provider in the future.

The business option requires Hudson to make additional investments in capital; increase its operations and maintenance expenses; and take on responsibility for providing business Internet and telephone services.

Video was not part of the study because of changes expected in the next few years, Violette said.

The next phase is to begin discussions with service providers regarding their interest in participating in the open business model, said Communications Manager Jody Roberts.

"We hope to extend Magellan's contract to cover this, although the details, timeframe and costs have not been discussed at this time," Roberts said.

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