Arlington residents could see faster internet connections by 2028 or earlier, due to an agreement with SiFi Networks to build a citywide fiber-optic network.
The Arlington City Council unanimously approved the agreement in a May 18 meeting, allowing SiFi Networks, an international broadband network developer, to build, operate and maintain a network with multiple service providers that would provide fiber broadband internet to every Arlington neighborhood for the next 90 years.
SiFi estimated the network would service about 156,000 residents and 16,000 businesses. Currently, only 39% of Arlington residents have fiber available, according to FCC data through broadbandnow.com.
"This is a big moment, because our citizens need it," Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams said in the meeting. "(They've) been crying out for it. The pandemic has definitely pointed it out."
The network, including the installation of 10.2 million feet of cable, is privately financed by SiFi Networks. Construction of the network will begin within two years, according to the terms of the agreement, and will be completed within five years of that start date.
Arlington will be the largest city served by SiFi Networks, which currently has similar agreements, called "fiber cities," with 12 other municipalities across the U.S.
It'll also be the first city in Texas served by SiFi Networks.
Only one such fiber city, in Fullerton, California, is currently live and servicing residents, with construction still underway.
"It's a very significant progress in our city's history," Arlington City Manager Trey Yelverton said in the May 18 meeting. "We were built largely in the 70s and 80s when technology was a little different. Our friends and other utility providers have a lot of copper in the ground. They're adequate for today, but not necessarily sure that they're ready for tomorrow's technology."
About 99.6% of Arlington residents currently have adequate broadband, according to the FCC definition and data from broadbandnow.com, with only 2,000 residents lacking broadband access at their address. But the download speeds of 25 megabytes per second and upload speeds of 3 megabytes per second required to meet adequate broadband might not be enough to support entire households.
"As the demand for streaming and video services occurs, the throughput required for people to have true broadband service can only be delivered through fiber optics," Yelverton said.
Under the agreement, SiFi Networks will seek out and contract with multiple service providers, which the company, founded in 2013, said encourages competition compared to other fiber networks built and maintained by a single service provider.
In the areas of Fullerton with fiber available, only two Internet service providers are currently available.
SiFi Networks will also pay the city of Arlington a licensing fee for every connection, with the company projecting the fees totaling about $758,000.
Residents, as well as business owners, can fill out an online interest survey here, with areas receiving greater demand potentially being prioritized, according to the website.