The California county of Riverside, which is nearly the size of New Jersey and home to more people than 15 other states, sees a countywide gigabit fiber-optic network as the best way to support residents at varying economic levels and ensure its own future — and it’s acting on that ambition.
The county issued an RFP on Monday, April 3 seeking proposals as part of its RIVCOconnect Broadband Initiative, a public-private partnership valued at $2 billion to $4 billion and aimed at developing what it believes will be the nation’s largest broadband network.
Proposals aren’t due until Aug. 15, but on Thursday, April 20 before the county enters a period of closed communication as part of the RFP process, nearly 40 potential partners attended an online proposers conference with Riverside officials.
Chief Data Officer Tom Mullen wasted no time in letting those present — including representatives of AT&T, Spectrum, Frontier Communications and General Dynamics; the cities of Riverside, Indio and Moreno Valley; and financial institutions including J.P. Morgan — know exactly how much potential the far-flung inland agency sees in its many cities and unincorporated areas.
It encompasses areas like Riverside and Palm Springs with million-dollar-plus homes, but also regions around the Salton Sea, the state’s largest lake, where — as the RFP pointed out — 80 percent of children in the Coachella Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) live in poverty.
Now home to more than 2.3 million residents, Mullen said, it adds population at the rate of 2 percent annually and has 100,000 new houses approved that remain to be built.
With its duty to provide modern services in mind, Riverside County seeks providers to build a network capable of speeds of 1 gigabit or higher to every home and business in its 7,200 square miles.
“This places a premium on deployment of smart technologies and infrastructure that will permit the county to pursue policies for sustainable growth,” officials said in the RFP, pointing out the span of its digital divide, which leaves nearly 100,000 residents without broadband.
Mullen told Government Technology that the network could take five years to build out once a provider or team is selected, but with the “reality of construction and customer service, we would love to see it start within the first 12 months depending on who is the selected vendor, who is the selected partner.”
In an effort to bridge the “homework gap” for students without Internet, CVUSD has deployed buses with Wi-Fi routers to serve as mobile hot spots — but the CDO said the county expects providers to originate comprehensive plans for coverage, teaming if necessary to cover its entire area with…