Lakeland Broadband Partner Reveals Tentative Prices, Initial Service Areas

The company partnering with the city of Lakeland to expand broadband Internet options for homes and businesses today gave its first preview of how much the service will cost and where it will be available first.

Summit Broadband‘s tentative prices for residential Internet will range from $39.99 to $99.99 a month, depending on speeds, company CEO Kevin Coyne told Lakeland city commissioners today.

He noted that monthly prices are not final and subject to change based on competition. Current plans call for four tiers with prices starting at:

  • $39.99 for 250 Mbps uploads and downloads
  • $59.99 for 500 Mbps uploads and downloads
  • $79.99 for 1 Gbps uploads and downloads
  • $99.99 for 2 Gbps uploads and downloads

The service will roll out to different parts of the city in phases with service initially available this spring in areas largely between downtown and Edgewood Drive: portions of Zip codes 33801, 33802, 33803, and 33806. With a few exceptions, the initial service area is bounded by Lime Street to the north, Bartow Highway to the east, Edgewood Drive to the south and Lincoln Avenue on the west.

This map outlines the initial construction area:

City commissioners selected Summit last July after soliciting proposals from companies to build a commercial broadband business upon the city’s 330 miles of dark fiber. Summit pledged to invest at least $20 million in the project, but Coyne indicated the investment will be far greater. In addition, Summit will pay the city $144,000 per year in the initial years of the contract and as revenues increase, will switch to paying the city 10 percent of gross revenue on Internet services.

Summit contractors will do pre-construction work this month and in March, with service rolling out in April to the first 1,000 homes, in May to 2,000 more and then 2,000 more in June, according to Chris Cusson, Summit’s project lead for fiber to the home in Lakeland.

This first “chunk” of 5,000 homes represents an investment of $13 million to $14 million by Summit, Coyne said. After it is completed, installations will continue in chunks of 5,000 to 6,000 homes at a time, each representing the same level of investment.

Commissioner Phillip Walker, who represents northwest Lakeland, asked when service will be available in the 33805 Zip code. Commissioner Bill Read, who represents northeast Lakeland, said he, too, lives in 33805 and wants to know. The 33805 Zip code includes much of Lakeland between Memorial Boulevard and I-4.

Cusson didn’t have a time frame for construction beyond the first phase, but said his team will know which parts of the city come next in three to four weeks.

Summit Broadband President Kevin Coyne, right, addresses city commissioners today. He was accompied by, from left, Chris Cusson, fiber to the home project lead, and Brian Jones, fiber to the home sales director.

The city’s partnership with Summit brings more choices for Lakeland residents. Until recently, most Lakeland residents living between I-4 and the Polk Parkway had one broadband choice: Spectrum Internet, a service of Charter Communications. Some residents outside the city core had a second option: FIOS, a fiber service from Frontier Communications, which is available mostly in newer subdivisions.

In recent months, Frontier has started making FIOS service available in parts of the Lake Morton and Dixieland neighborhoods. Frontier has not responded to two LkldNow requests about where else it plans to provide service in Lakeland.

Coyne mentioned Frontier’s presence in his presentation to city commissioners today, saying, “You’ve kind of woken the sleeping giant by bringing us in, which is great. They don’t want to invest money until they have competition. They have competition now, and they’re coming in and we’re OK with that because you’re going to see that we’re offering not only faster speeds but a full suite of products.”

Cusson said that Summit’s consumer website for Lakeland service, which will go live in March, will include a form to let residents notify the company about construction issues. Coyne noted that “it’s our competitor that’s doing the damage you may have seen. We do have a construction partner that our investors purchased.”

The company uses directional boring, “which typically leaves a lot less mess after the construction,” sales director Brian Jones said.

Summit’s marketing in Lakeland will emphasize that there are no data caps and installation is free and so are a router and a home mesh system with a wifi extender, Jones said. There will be no contracts and no credit checks, he said.

Service to businesses is expected to roll out in June, Coyne said. The sales team has already started reaching out to local companies, he said.

Service has already been turned on for Pastor H.B. Holmes, who is broadcasting a wifi signal available for free to a largely low-income community within a mile of his church, Rhema Word of Faith at Skyview Drive and Reynolds Road. Summit plans to continue working with Holmes on fixed wireless in other locations, Coyne said.

Coyne discussed efforts to make sure Lakeland and Polk obtain federal funding expected to roll out this fall to extend Internet service to low-income communities. Summit has been in touch with federal and state officials and is working with Polk Vision, which he praised for its leadership on bringing Internet to under-served communities.

He encouraged local residents to participate in a Polk Vision survey on Internet needs. “The more we can show the areas that are underserved, the more money that will come to Polk County,” he said. Florida anticipates receiving between $1 billion and $4 billion in federal digital divide funding, he said.

Under the city’s agreement with Summit:

  • The city will continue serving its existing nine dark fiber customers, including Lakeland Regional Health; the revenue stream brings in $543,000 a year, officials said.
  • Summit will serve all new residential and business customers; that includes current city customers who expand to new facilities, such as Lakeland Regional’s upcoming behavioral health clinic.
  • Summit will handle all installation, maintenance, billing and customer service for its customers.
  • The city will retain ownership of its fiber network and will continue to maintain the fiber it owns.
  • The city will provide up to $100,000 over the life of the contract to “augment” fiber in locations where there are less than six strands that Summit can use.
  • Fiber might need to be augmented in places where splices result in speeds slower than 0.30 decibel per kilometer (0.30db/km). Summit can offset those costs against the 10% revenue share but not against the $144,000 annual minimum.
  • The city estimates it will spend up to $250,000 per year over the first five years of the contract to support the project. City Manager Shawn Sherrouse said today that is less than the amount the city would spend anyway to maintain its fiber network.
  • Summit will contribute at least $20,000 a year during the first 10 years of the contract toward the city’s effort to “bridge the digital divide,” ensuring free or low-cost Internet is extended into underserved communities.

Summit’s presentation from today’s meeting:

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