By Bill Cameron
Some of the biggest internet users in Monroe County could see their broadband bills fall more than 80 percent, according to a recent request for proposals.
Four internet service providers offered to cut costs and boost bandwidths for 44 organizations participating in the Monroe Gigabit Project. A local coalition called AcceleratePA launched the project last year, promising to bring cheaper, faster internet by May 2017.
“We’re definitely going to see some strong results by December,” he said. “Some opportunities will probably be captured in 90-100 days. Some will take a little longer since there’s going to be some build-out time.”
Lewis Strategic along with consultants Dellicker Strategies and Business Information Group led the implementation team. Dellicker issued a request for proposals in April, with 44 organizations willing to participate.
“There’s never been an RFP with this many organizations — especially 20 of the largest in the county,” Lewis said. “These four providers sharpened their pencils and gave them some very strong options.”
Several internet providers serve Monroe County, but not all offer gigabit speeds: networks capable of transferring one billion bits per second.
PenTelaData, GoNetspeed, NCN Data and Sprint Communications were companies producing promising proposals, Lewis said. All have existing fiber optic networks — which use pulses of light to transmit data — in the region.
“This RFP is not only driving competition for these four providers,” he said. “Ones that didn’t respond are going to have to step up their game to compete.”
Contract negotiations can unlock certain network capabilities, but others need more than that. Fulfilling some proposals would require providers invest millions expanding network infrastructure — without a single tax dollar spent.
“There’s no government funding in this project,” Lewis said. “It’s unique in that it’s led by the private sector.”
Less than four Monroe County customers have gigabit services currently, according to a Gigabit Project survey. Lewis hopes to bring that number close to 12 or 15 by the end of negotiations, he said.
Commercial customers with high-data demands have the most to gain, but residential users could benefit from improved internet access too.
“The investments that PenTeleData continues to make for their commercial service ultimately go to improve their residential capabilities as well,” Lewis said. “In addition to commercial broadband, GoNetspeed is interested in developing residential service in phase two of their investment.”
The Monroe Gigabit Project has met monthly since December. Lewis Strategic announced it would continue the project through December 2017.
“We’re staying engaged in the project to help these organization maximize the opportunity,” Lewis said. “I’ve never had an RFP, at least in recent memory, where all four proposals were so strong. Literally each one has an option that drops prices 88 percent.”
Monroe Gigabit meetings are hosted by the Monroe 2030 Action Team, Pocono Mountains Economic Development Corporation, East Stroudsburg University and the ESU Center for Research and Economic Development.