Phoenix, a conduit for telecom

The Phoenix City Council has given the thumbs up for a city-led effort to

create a 32-mile fiber-optic loop to expand service for telecommunications

providers in the area and enhance economic development.

Two city departments — Community and Economic Development as well as Engineering

and Architectural Services — will develop legal agreements with four telecom

providers that have agreed to help fund the $13.6 million project along

the Interstate 17 corridor in north central Phoenix.

The providers — Adelphia Communications, AmeriCom, McLeodUSA Inc., and XO

Communications Inc. — intend to purchase a total of 11 conduits out of the

planned 16-conduit trench, said Patrick Grady, director of the Community

and Economic Development Department.

The companies would pay 50 percent of the costs prior to the start of construction

and 50 percent after completion. Grady said the city would issue a request

for proposals and submit final bids to the city council by late August or

early September. He said the city also would explore the feasibility of

building a 24-conduit trench. The project is estimated to take 12 to 18

months to complete from groundbreaking.

Some providers were concerned that the city would lease any lines, thereby

entering the telecom business. But Grady said the city would sell the remaining

unused conduits to telecom companies.

"We're providing a focal point to enable telecom providers to come together,

reduce their costs and thereby enhance both capacity and service," he said.

"We're simply — pardon the pun — the conduit, the facilitator for making

this happen."

Although Grady said Phoenix ranks among the top 20 U.S. regions in terms

of the number of tech firms, his department is being expanded to focus on

retaining and attracting technology firms.

In addition to handling the fiber-optic project, the expanded department

would step up efforts to improve employment opportunities, encourage workforce

development in the high-tech industry and provide technical assistance to

the technology business cluster.

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