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Local companies vie for franchise agreements

SANTA FE, N.M. — Most of the five telecommunications companies set to enter into franchise agreements with Santa Fe city government for use of rights of way already have local connections.

One is Cyber Mesa, which provides telephone, internet and ethernet services, and has a foothold in the city-owned Railyard, under a project undertaken by city government that has also helped provide services for people who don’t live within the city limits.

A few years ago, the city awarded Cyber Mesa a $1 million broadband infrastructure project that connected a 2-mile gap between CenturyLink’s exchange building downtown and a fiber hub station at the south end of the Railyard. The money came from city capital improvement project (CIP) bonds.

“We expect soon to wire up everybody in the Railyard, and, in that event, the Railyard will be able to become a tech center,” said Cyber Mesa owner Jane Hill.

That project has already benefited state government, she said, by connecting state government buildings downtown with those on St. Francis Drive with fiber cable.

As part of that project, the locally owned company has also partnered with the city on Santa Fe Fiber, organized as a wholly owned subsidiary of Cyber Mesa.

Hill says Santa Fe Fiber has provided wireless services to neighborhoods, including Hyde Park Estates and Los Caminitos north of Santa Fe.

“Even though they’re outside the city limits, they’re still part of the Santa Fe community,” she said, adding that people living there spend money in the city. “So I think it’s a win-win for the city and these communities.”

In response to Journal questions, Sean Moody, a former city of Santa Fe employee who worked on the project and is now under city contract as a consultant, said in an email that the city’s “sole agreement with Cyber Mesa is the $1 million CIP Broadband Project, under which Cyber Mesa built and administers Santa Fe Fiber, a fiber optic network providing wholesale-only Internet, Ethernet, and dark fiber services to any qualified provider.”

He also said, “There is no condition in the City-Cyber Mesa contract which would exclude Santa Fe Fiber’s wholesale customers from providing service to those who live or work outside the city. To reiterate, Santa Fe Fiber is designed to be an alternate source of wholesale Internet available to any competitive provider.”

The goal “is to improve broadband conditions throughout the city by creating a competitive wholesale option to what was effectively an unregulated backhaul monopoly operated by CenturyLink,” said Moody.

Other players

Another local company proposed for a city franchise agreement, NMSURF, provides telephone and internet services, and plans to utilize the city’s rights of way for “fiber-to-the-premise” network to reach homes and businesses throughout the city at speeds ranging from 100 megabits per second to 1 gigabit per second, according to city documents.

Similarly, Plateau Telecommunications, Inc., a rural cooperative based in Clovis, provides telephone, internet and ethernet using fiber optic cable. It installed underground cable in Santa Fe with federal grant funding through the Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program in 2011 and 2012.

Conterra Ultra Broadband, LLC, already has a contract with Santa Fe Public Schools to construct and operate a fiber optic network that connects 28 school sites with the district’s central office on Alta Vista Street. It will provide high-speed network connectivity at speeds up to 10 gigabits.

Ninety percent of the funding for that $4.68 million project comes from the federal E-rate program for schools and libraries, while the remaining 10 percent will be paid from a 2-mill levy approved by school district voters.

City documents show that Conterra plans to operate commercially to provide internet, ethernet and dark fiber to telecommunication providers, as well as schools, businesses, and governmental and non-governmental institutions.

The fifth applicant for use of the city’s rights of way is Broadband Network of New Mexico, which is looking to install poles in rights of way, then lease vertical space on the poles to other companies for access to antenna and fiber optic cable.

It must first obtain a franchise before applying for city approval for any above-ground facility, as there will be a visual impact.

According to a city staff report, the company would pay a one-time fee for the franchise and then annual fees based on the number of poles and antennas that are installed. The other four companies would pay the city a 2 percent franchise fee applied to gross charges.

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