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Decatur City Commission approves $2 million contract for new fiber network

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Decatur City Commission approves $2 million contract for new fiber network

Decatur City Hall.
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The Decatur City Commission at its Monday meeting awarded a contract worth almost $2 million to a Duluth-based company to install a new citywide fiber optic network.

City leaders approved the contract amid an ongoing dispute with Comcast, the company that built the city’s current network. The company submitted a proposal to construct the new network but wasn’t selected. City Manager Andrea Arnold recommended awarding the $1.99 million contract to Network Cabling Infrastructures, Inc. The network will also serve City Schools of Decatur. The school system has agreed to kick in $653,500.

Arnold said that Comcast began pushing the city around after learning it had been passed over for another contractor, and informed the city it planned to decommission the city’s network unless the city agreed to pay almost $400,000. Comcast sees things differently,with Andy Macke of Comcast saying they’ve been trying for years to come to a new arrangement with the city.

In 1998 and 1999 the city entered into an agreement with MediaOne, which later became Comcast, to regulate how the company uses the city’s rights of way, Arnold said. As part of the agreement, the company agreed to construct a fiber network, called an Institutional Network (I-Net), connecting all the city’s buildings.

That franchise agreement expired in 2009. In October 2018, the city issued a request for qualifications to build a new fiber network. Comcast provided emails going back to 2009 showing that Comcast did try to negotiate a new arrangement with the city. The company contends it let the city enjoy free use of the network for 10 years.

The company gave the city a May 8 deadline to resolve the issue.

Work on the city’s new network would start in June and would be completed in a 12 to 14 months. To see the technical details of the project, click here.

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