Pulse powers up Loveland with completion of $110M fiber network

Loveland, Colorado has reached a milestone with the completion of its municipally-owned Loveland Pulse fiber network build.

The network, through an investment of nearly $110 million, was finished on time and on budget, Pulse announced. After four years of construction it is now Loveland’s largest capital project in the city’s history.

The network infrastructure took 250 local Pulse employees and contractors to build, in total adding 631 miles of conduit and laying over 1,316 miles of fiber-optic cabling. Pulse owns and operates all the infrastructure it has built, and will provide service directly to residential and business customers.

Pulse services available in Loveland include internet, TV, voice and Wi-Fi with speeds up to 10-gig. Service can be free for households that qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which providers discount vouchers up to $30 per month.

As a municipally-owned broadband utility, Pulse was able to fund its network through revenue bonds which were backed by the Loveland electric utilities enterprise fund. A revenue bond is a type of municipal bond typically used to fund projects that are expected to generate revenue, like public utilities. Unlike general obligation bonds, which are backed by the taxing power of the issuing government, revenue bonds are supported by the income generated from the project they are financing.

“We're fully self-sufficient,” Brieana Reed-Harmel, Pulse's broadband manager, told Fierce Telecom. “That's one of the things about being a government-run business, is that the services that we provide and the revenue that we receive fully supports our operations. We don't receive any taxpayer or other tax-provided revenue.”

When Pulse took out its initial revenue bond, it was with the mission of completing fiber in front of “every home and business within our city limits,” Reed-Harmel said. It has taken the company many years to go up and down every street, she added.

The provider launched its first services in the Loveland community in June of 2020 and has been lighting up services as its completed construction, neighborhood by neighborhood.

“But this is us being able to say we have finished off that build and everyone is available for service,” explained Reed-Harmel.

According to her, Loveland had an incumbent cable provider and an incumbent phone provider that made DSL connections available to residents and businesses.

“Unfortunately, there were huge gaps in coverage. There were pockets of our city that were being left either unserved or underserved with lower speed tiers and the incumbents were really cherry picking the different parts of our community for the areas that they sought to be most profitable and leaving the rest of the community behind,” said Reed-Harmel.

Of the few areas with fiber before Pulse's construction, she noted most were enterprise locations, which is why Loveland decided, “as a community,” to take matters into its own hands.

“There just wasn't a lot of investment being made by the incumbents or by anyone else, to come into our community and provide those advanced services,” added Reed-Harmel. “And because of that, we decided to go our own way and build it ourselves.”

According to Pulse, it is so far exceeding the subscribership goals outlined in its original business plan with an average 34.5% residential take rate accumulated since 2020, surpassing the initially targeted 32%. Reed-Harmel told Fierce that the provider expects that number to tick up now that it has reached an infrastructure milestone.

With its main capital build complete, Pulse will continue network construction as Loveland grows, and expand to serve regional neighbors.

Reed-Harmel said there are “a handful of neighborhoods” that are in an active construction stage, and Pulse is partnering with Larimer Country to expand into the unincorporated areas outside of the city boundaries. Currently, she said there is a “huge dichotomy” between connected and unconnected homes, sometimes across the street from each other, because of the unincorporated boundary.

Pulse is also in the process of expanding into the town of Timnath and that's through a partnership with the local government.

As for future funding, Reed-Harmel said Pulse is “absolutely looking to participate” in the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program. She noted that because of Colorado’s law prohibiting government entities from gaining a letter of credit (LOC), it was a “relief” to hear that there are now alternatives to the BEAD program’s LOC requirement .

“We are very thankful that there are some alternatives related to that,” Reed-Harmel said. “Obviously, we're all patiently waiting to hear what the BEAD funding opportunity will entail and what the requirements will be, but we are actively looking to pursue those.”