Construction has started of a citywide high-speed internet network in Kenosha aimed at offering residents and businesses an alternative to the existing service providers.
The privately-funded $100 million project is expected to be completed in 2025 according to its developer, New Jersey-based SiFi Networks.
As the service is turned on in stages over the next three years, customers could get speeds of up to 10 gigabit per second downloads and uploads, SiFi says, which would make it one of the fastest networks available anywhere.
It would be an open-access network where multiple internet service providers would use SiFi’s fiber cable system to deliver service and compete for customers.
The City of Superior, in northwest Wisconsin, is pursuing something similar. The main difference is that, in Superior, the city would own the fiber and lease it to service providers.
In Kenosha, SiFi would own the fiber, lease it to service providers, and cover any city expenses such as construction permit and inspection fees.
It’s a business model that appeals to cash-strapped municipalities that want an open-access network, said SiFi spokesman Bob Knight.
More than 40 U.S. cities, counties and utility districts have some type of open-access internet system or are planning it, according to the Institute for Local Self Reliance based in Minneapolis.
Advocates say it’s lowered internet prices and allowed customers to easily change service providers and plans at any time. The companies benefit from having access to new customers without the burden of building and maintaining their own network to those homes and businesses.
Kenosha residents and businesses could see a “great benefit” from the SiFi project, “ensuring that affordable, high-speed internet service is available throughout the entire city,” Mayor John Antaramian said in a statement.
“We’ll be working closely with SiFi Networks to ensure a smooth construction process so we can collectively get every address in the city connected over the course of the next few years,” said Ed St. Peter, project manager for the city.
SiFi hasn’t revealed what internet service providers would use its Kenosha network but says the first company will be named soon.
Currently, Kenosha is widely covered by Charter Spectrum service and has gigabit speeds available through Charter.
Large service providers such as Charter have said open-access networks aren’t necessary, and that when funded with public money, it puts taxpayers at risk.
SiFi, a privately-owned company based in Morristown, New Jersey, says it’s not using any state or federal grants to build the Kenosha network, its first Wisconsin project.
The company says it’s working with cities in California, Connecticut and other states to develop open-access networks, and that its revenue would come from the internet service providers that lease space on the systems.
SiFi says it was invited into Kenosha because the current service providers haven’t kept up with the community’s needs for affordable high-speed internet.
“No matter what these larger companies spend on direct mail advertising…at the end of the day you’re still overpaying for sub-par service,” Knight said.
There’s nothing available yet in terms of customer prices and service plans for the Kenosha network, but residents and businesses can learn more about it at the website Kenoshafibercity.com.