City Committee to Look at Future of Internet in Pasadena, Just Days After Weekend's Charter Spectrum Citywide Outage

Published : Sunday, May 6, 2018 | 3:39 PM

In the wake of a citywide Charter Spectrum internet, cable television, and telephone service outage this past weekend that for some neighborhoods lasted 20 hours, the City Council’s Municipal Services Committee on Tuesday will be briefed on the current state of residential broadband internet services in the city and what the future holds.

The information item on the Committees May 8 agenda was scheduled last week, before the outage, but the mishap could boost interest and attendance at the public meeting.

As of Sunday afternoon Charter Spectrum had not responded to Pasadena Now’s request for a statement about the circumstances surrounding the outage and its lengthy repair.

Tuesday’s meeting will hear a presentation on plans by both Spectrum and AT&T to expand their capabilities in Pasadena to provide one gigabyte speed service.

Pasadena’s Chief Information Officer Philip Leclair, who heads the Department of Information Technology, will make a presentation about the growing demand for reliable broadband services in the City, how the current situation compares with what other California cities are doing, and what direction his department is recommending so the community could meet its broadband needs in the future.

The City operates its own robust fiber optic network servicing its own data connectivity needs as well as some businesses and educational institutions, but over 99 percent of households in the City depend on three commercial service providers: Spectrum, AT&T and Frontier Communications.

In a memorandum for the Committee, Leclair indicated it may not be feasible for the City to invest in expanding its own fiber optic network beyond its current reach, and instead would rather recommend that the commercial providers be allowed to upgrade their services especially in Pasadena’s residential neighborhoods.

“Competition from the two largest incumbent providers that already reach almost every Pasadena neighborhood and the estimated $130 million plus investment required are two of the primary reasons for the City not pursuing a residential service.” Leclair wrote in the memorandum. “In addition, given the City’s current financial pressures and deferred infrastructure needs, staff concluded that investment in a residential broadband network and its ongoing maintenance is financially infeasible.”

Among the three commercial providers, AT&T, whose services are available to about 95 percent of Pasadena households, has proposed the most ambitious expansion, offering 1Gigabyte fiber optic-based services to more Pasadena residents from its current 75Mb service.

Preliminary information from the Information Technology department showed AT&T did actually start new equipment installation in the past, which has not been well received by neighborhood associations, but said it could continue the expansion if the City could modify its permitting process.

Spectrum plans to offer 940 Mb internet service at $125 per month by the end of 2018 from its current 300 Mb capability, which costs $70 per month.

The third provider, Frontier Communications, currently serves about four percent of Pasadena households, with up to 24 Mb at $35 a month, and has no plans of upgrading its services at this time.

At this time, the City’s own fiber optic network, installed in 1999 to meet the City’s operational needs, runs down 13 percent of Pasadena’s streets and generates about $500,000 per year to such institutions as Caltech, JPL, the Art Center College of Design, and a number of commercial customers along the City’s major avenues.

The Municipal Services Committee will meet at 4 p.m. in the City Council chambers at City Hall, 100 North Garfield Avenue in Pasadena.

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