This content was originally published by the Longmont Observer and is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
Written by Andrew Zimmerman
Nextlight, Longmont's community-owned fiber-optic internet service provider has won the 2019 Cornerstone Award for Excellence at the Broadband Communities Summit in Austin, Texas, governed by the Broadband Communities Magazine (bbcm.com).
As the BBCM website explains, the award is presented annually to about six "private developments, municipalities, communities, companies, and individuals with outstanding accomplishments in the area of delivering telecommunications for the benefit of the end user."
In attendance from Longmont Power & Communications (LPC) to receive the Award were Layra Nicli, Communications and Marketing Manager, and Ian Carmichael, MDU and Commercial Sales.
The Cornerstone Awards began in 1989 and were then titled the Diamond Tier Awards, and presented in recognition of achievement to companies providing cable services to the Multi-Development Units (MDU) industry (condominiums, apartments, hotels). The Award has been expanded recently, and now features broadband and telecommunications for all communities and municipalities, including residential multifamily (apartments, campus housing, active adult communities) and planned communities (multi-home developments, renewed urban areas).
“Longmont’s NextLight service is not just community-owned, but community-focused,” the Cornerstone Judges said in their decision. “This utility is dedicated to making life better for Longmont’s residents and enabling businesses to start up, grow, and stay in the city.”
Other notable Award winners for broadband have been: 2017-City of Wilson, NC Greenlight Community Broadband, 2015-PANGAEA Internet, 2014-C Spire Fiber, and many many others
NextLight, which is now the fastest ISP in the country, has made Longmont the first “gigabit city” in Colorado. This is not the first time they have been recognized. In 2018, they were named one of the contributors to Longmont being named an "All-America City" by the National Civic League. In 2017, the fiber-optic network implementation was named the Community Broadband Project of the year by the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors.
As per Scott Rochat, Public Relations and Marketing Specialist for LPC, other states from Hawaii to Massachusetts are interested in the success of NextLight, as LPC is fielding lots of inquiries about the project and implementation.
NextLight is provided by LPC, the city’s community-owned and not-for-profit electric and internet services provider. LPC began building the NextLight fiber-optic network in 2014 and has provided Longmont’s electric service since 1912, when residents grew dissatisfied with the existing private electric provider and voted to build their own hydroelectric plant, which is still in operation near Lyons. Such was the basis of what has become the fastest ISP in the nation, and Colorado's first "gigabit" city.
The history of NextLight actually goes back more than 20 years, when in 1996, Platte River Power Authority and its member utilities decided to upgrade the communications in their electrical substations to fiber optics. In Longmont, this helps support the SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) system, which allows those substations to be remotely monitored and operated. Then in 1997, the first 18 mile fiber loop was installed at a price of $1.1 million.
The story begins with the signing of Senate Bill 05-152 which stated put forth "restrictions include that local governments may not provide subscribers cable television, telecommunications service, or advanced service, including high speed internet. Neither may local government purchase, lease, construct, maintain or operate a facility to provide these services either directly or indirectly. The restrictions don’t preclude governmental use of these technologies."
However there a loophole such that city or county voters could approve a referendum to exempt their community from the restrictions. In 2011 with a 60% vote in favor of the exemption, the concept of installing a fiber-optic network in Longmont became a reality.
A sharing program entitled "Sharing the NextLight" was introduced in 2019 which is further evidence of LP&C's commitment to continue to innovate and serve this great community. Providing free internet connections for the next school year to 100 underprivileged households with a goal to raise $60k in donations.