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Open Access Fiber is Reshaping Eugene's Economy

Thanks to public-private partnerships, the City of Eugene has created the largest open access fiber network in Oregon.

Networking: Broadband and ConnectivityEconomic DevelopmentCitizen ServicesBusiness Engagement
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Highlights
  • Eugene has created the largest open access fiber network in Oregon.
  • Smaller, customer friendly ISPs are able to compete for downtown business.
  • Businesses are able to access world-class internet speed of over 800 Mbps for half the cost.
  • A significant portion of the project has been funded by Urban Renewal property tax dollars.
  • The project has earned Eugene a 2019 Public Sector Innovation award and the city has been named a "Mozilla Gigabit City."
Project Summary
Thanks to public-private partnerships between City of Eugene, Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB), the Lane Council of Governments (LCOG), and the Technology Association of Oregon (TAO), Eugene is running a city owned fiber network downtown to deliver lightning fast internet at a fraction of the cost to its businesses and residents.
The EUGNet project has created the largest open access fiber network in Oregon. The city owns the fiber, which can be tapped into by competing ISPs. These ISPs lease the fiber strands from EWEB and provide services to individual businesses. Any qualified ISP can access into this open access network.

And now we let good, old fashioned economics play out.

With 6 ISPs now competing to provide services, there's been significant price reductions for faster internet speeds. Firms in one of the first buildings that connected to EUGNet saw the price of monthly service decline from about $250 for 150-megabit service to $99 for 1,000-megabit service.
A significant portion of the project has been funded by Urban Renewal property tax dollars. Individual property owners are also paying to connect to the network. These local funds were matched by a $1.9 million grant awarded by the U.S Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). The estimated cost to construct the high speed fiber network in the downtown area is just shy of $4 million.
Eugene’s Economic Strategy Manager, Anne Fifield shares a sentiment any small to medium size city can relate to: “We're not a large city. We're never going to attract a lot of competition unless we initiate it ourselves.”

And they’ve done it. Here are the results (so far):

Over 80 buildings in the downtown area have been connected since launching the project in March of 2017. Data intensive companies are heading to Eugene to take advantage of world class internet speeds. As office space vacancy rates decline, Eugene is beginning to see the positive outcome of this major project on the city's economy and quality of life for residents and businesses in downtown.
Once the 22nd slowest internet connection in Oregon, Eugene’s downtown now boasts over 800 Mbps. The carrier neutral setup has allowed various ISPs to access and compete for previously unreachable customers as EWEB carries fiber to more areas of downtown.
The project has earned Eugene a 2019 Public Sector Innovation award and the city has been named a "Mozilla Gigabit City" gaining additional access to grant funds, thanks to their initiative on this project.


What's next?

Concerns remain as with all municipal open access fiber initiatives, which hinge largely on tax dollars and Federal grants to support the implementation and maintenance of these city owned lines. That said, the results of the EUGnet project are promising - there is new life coming to the downtown and companies bringing jobs to the area. With emerging tech and the increasing demand for high availability, connectivity and speed, Eugene has put themselves on the map as a magnet for startups and companies looking to expand.

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