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United Way of Lancaster County


Mayor: Lancaster aiming to ink deal in March to revive community broadband project

(Source: Brookings)

Mayor Danene Sorace’s administration is negotiating with a telecom company on a deal to complete a fiber-optic broadband network in Lancaster and intends to have a draft contract to bring before City Council for action in March, the mayor told City Council Tuesday.

Sorace did not identify the company, but said it is one of five that responded to the request for proposals, or RFP, that the city issued last May. Those five were Comcast, FirstLight, Keystone Metro Fiber, Shenendoah Telecom (known as ShenTel) and Windstream.

A selection committee evaluated them based on their capability, references from previous clients and readiness to take on the work, the mayor said. Two reached the interview stage, which yielded one finalist.

Securing a reliable broadband vendor would allow the city to revive an ill-fated community broadband initiative that was launched under Mayor Rick Gray’s administration.

It involved the city partnering with MAW Communications, a Reading-based company. MAW was to build out a citywide fiber-optic network, with half the bandwidth reserved for city use. The other half would host LanCity Connect, a broadband network serving city homes and businesses.

LanCity Connect rolled out in 2017 with support from a $1.5 million city grant and a $1.5 million loan to underwrite the cost of customer connections. But the initial rollout stumbled, and then PPL sued MAW over its use of PPL poles.

In 2021, the city dissolved the partnership, paying MAW $2.7 million to settle a legal dispute over billing and taking over the partly built fiber network. As of last year, LanCity Connect had about 160 customers, according to LNP.

In the RFP released last May, the city told prospective applicants that it is looking for a plan that ensures “best in class” broadband with “universal and equitable” access for all city addresses and that incorporates the fiber and equipment installed by MAW.

The vendor would be able to offer commercial broadband service to city customers, the RFP said. The city would have access to the network for what it terms “Smart City” applications, such as internal communications and remote monitoring of city infrastructure.