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Waterloo holds groundbreaking on municipal fiber network project

August 12, 2023

DATE: Aug. 12, 2023
BY: Maria Kuiper, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier; photos by Chris Zoeller, Waterloo-Cedar
Falls Courier

WATERLOO — In a park in southern Waterloo, city officials placed their heels on shovels to
physically signify a “new Waterloo.”

The city held a ground breaking event at Prairie Grove Park for its new fiber network project,
Waterloo Fiber, on Wednesday.

“Today is a momentous occasion as we gather here to celebrate the groundbreaking of the
Waterloo Fiber utility and the commitment of an ambitious project that will shape the future of
our city,” Mayor Quentin Hart said.

He said the movement of dirt signifies that the city is working to “bridge the digital divide” by
giving every person in Waterloo equal access to the internet.

“We envision a future where households, every school, every hospital and every business is
seamlessly connected,” he continued, “empowering each member of our community to reach
their full potential.”

Andy Van Fleet, the chairperson of the city’s telecommunications board, said the day was
historic – but the result hasn’t come quickly.

In 2005, voters approved the creation of a municipal utility service, but did not approve any
funding to move ahead with a system to provide internet, television or phone services.
A decade prior, Cedar Falls formed a municipal communication utility through a citizen
referendum and launched its internet and television services – Cedar Falls Utilities – in 1996. In
2015, the city of Waverly also approved a measure to allow for the development of a fiber optic
network broadband telecommunications system.

Courtney Violette, the chief operating officer at Magellan Advisors of Denver, Colorado, said
both of those cities also realized the needs of their communities.

“They made those investments in fiber and communications infrastructure long ago,” Violette
said. “Since then, they’ve been reaping those benefits.”

Magellan Advisors also worked with Waverly Light & Power, which is now Waverly Utilities.
In 2020, a broadband study began in Waterloo but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hart said it was time for the city to “fulfill the dream of the citizens of Waterloo.”
Hart noted that when the project started, the city had “no money and a dream.”

As the pandemic died down, Waterloo became hopeful after securing major funding for the

In a September referendum, more than 84% of residents voted for a $20 million general
obligation bond issue for municipal broadband. The bonds are backed by the government’s
ability to tax its property owners but the city plans to repay them with revenues generated by the
broadband utility as well as revenues from utilities, sewer and storm water services.

Van Fleet said the city has also received $20 million in American Rescue Plan Act money, $3
million from Waterloo Water Works and an outstanding grant application for $15 million.
The City Council approved a $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s
Economic Development Administration to construct a middle-mile network – the physical fiber
optic infrastructure needed for internet connectivity. The EDA investment will be matched with
$667,682 in local funds.

Recently, the council awarded a bid of $77.86 million to ITH Communications, LLC, of
Tullahoma, Tennessee, for the fiber-to-the-premises and backbone network project. Bryan
Siebenberg, the vice president of operations for the company, said ITG has been part of many
fiber build-outs over the years.

“We’ve seen the impacts to the communities … and how it just continues to multiply on their
advantages in the smart devices and (being) able to offer additional services to the home,” he
said. “It’s a great opportunity for this community and we are extremely excited to be a part of

The telecommunications board also appointed Eric Lage as the general manager for Waterloo
Fiber. He previously served as the general manager of Reinbeck Telecommunications Utility for
nine years.

Lage said the rates for the fiber services are the lowest standard rates he’s seen.
The city will offer speeds of 300 megabits per second, one gigabit per second and 10 gigabits
per second for both upload and download.

For 300 Mbps, the cost will be $49.95 per month; for 1 Gbps, it will be $69.95 per month; and for
10 Gbps it will be $109.95 per month. That includes no data caps, no hook-up fees and the use
of a local service.

Residents who want a full package of internet, television and phone have two options. For 1
Gbps, the cost is $179.95 per month. For 10 Gbps, it is $223.95 per month.
Three options will be provided for businesses. For 300 Mbps, it is $109.95 per month; 1 Gbps is
$249.95 per month; and 10 Gbps is $289.95 per month.

Construction is already underway in southern Waterloo, with the access point starting at Fire
Station 6 on Ansborough Avenue.

Hart said starting at this location will allow for the quickest build-out for the project because
there is already infrastructure in place at the fire station from Cedar Falls Utilities.
After the first phase in southern Waterloo is completed next fall, northeast Waterloo will be next
in 2024 and then northwest Waterloo in 2025, weather permitting.

The first Waterloo Fiber customers are expected to be connected by the end of 2023. The entire
construction project is expected to end in 2026.

Hart said with a project like this he is expecting some challenges and obstacles to overcome.
“I am confident that with our collective determination, resilience and unwavering spirit, we will
triumph over every hurdle,” he said. “We will build a fiber system that will serve as the beacon of
progress, a testament of our commitment for innovation and a source of pride for generations to

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