City commissioners approved a broadband franchise agreement Monday expected to accelerate Internet speeds and put Nebraska City on a trajectory to quickly become a gigabit city.
The city offered a franchise to Spiral Communications, a Glenwood, Iowa, company with fiber to home Internet services as close at Tabor.
Public Works Commissioner Jim Stark said the company will make a $3 million investment in communications equipment and pay the city a 3 percent franchise fee. In exchange, the company will have opportunity to compete for the city's internet business.
“They are taking a huge risk with Nebraska City,” Stark said.
Christopher Fletcher, technology coordinator at Nebraska City Public Schools, said two companies applied for a franchise and Spiral Communications was selected because of its proximity and its success providing high-speed Internet in communities the size of Nebraska City.
Stark said Spiral Communications will improve Internet service for customers as early as early summer and has agreed to establish an “wireless mesh” network in downtown Nebraska City so visitors with smart phones can access Nebraska City.com and other Internet websites for 30 minutes without charges to their data plan.
He said the franchise represents a broadband achievement for Nebraska City. “We are on the path in three years to be able to say that Nebraska City is a gigabit city,” he said. “I'm also excited because we will have a partnership. They want to be a true member of the community. We brought a new industry to town tonight,” he said.
The broadband committee presented a broadband speed and price comparison between Windstream, Time Warner and Spiral.
Fletcher noted differences between download speed, which denotes how long it takes for a home computer to receive data like a movie, and upload speed, which denotes how quickly a Nebraska City computer can push information onto the network.
Time Warner Cable offers an upload speed of 5 megabits per second for $75 a month, but Spiral is offering customers in Iowa upload speeds of 15 mbps for $80. Spiral is the only company willing to offer upload speeds of a gigabit.
Committee member Kiel VanderVeen said the download speeds are important for most users, but for businesses that want to use the Internet the upload speed is vital.
Dan Kelly of St. Mary's Community Hospital applauded the franchise saying although it does not put Nebraska City ahead of other communities, it makes the city competitive and gives it a chance to participate in the “magnitude of change” in the digital age.
He said the new hospital includes new equipment and new scanning equipment. He said new equipment is being installed because it takes better images that make larger files to distribute to care givers.
Page 2 of 2 - He said the new equipment and a faster Internet able to handle the larger files will make a huge difference for patients.
When you have an accident in the middle of the night and someone has a head injury, you must not only get the images but you must be able to get those images in the hands of doctors in a timely way, he said.
“It's hard to imagine that five minutes or five seconds can make a difference, but you must realize that it does. This investment in Nebraska City will save lives that otherwise would be lost,” Kelly said.