SiFi Networks advances open access fiber in Illinois

SiFi Networks and the City of Rockford, Illinois announced the construction launch of the Rockford FiberCity project, an infrastructure investment that will build an all-fiber internet network across the area.

The $200 million project will bring symmetrical speeds up to 10 Gbps internet speeds to all of Rockford’s 78,000 households, businesses and institutions.

Many providers are working to provide faster residential speeds in the U.S., with larger companies like Google Fiber and Lumen Technologies trotting out symmetrical 8 Gbps broadband tiers in cities across the country. Some jurisdictions are ahead of the game with citywide 25-gig service.

“We expect there will be increasing appetite for multi gig services over time. The retail experience is determined by the service providers on the network,” a SiFi rep told Fierce.

The Rockford FiberCity project will be an open access network, so the fiber infrastructure will be shared by multiple service providers including those with internet, wireless or other services.

U.S. operators can adopt the infrastructure model and sign on as tenants on SiFi’s wholesale fiber network rather than building out the last mile themselves. According to SiFi, this enables the fastest speeds at the most competitive prices for consumers.

While open access networks aren’t nearly as prevalent in the U.S. as in Europe, they are slowly beginning to proliferate.

“In general, we have found that operator interest in open access networks has certainly increased,” the SiFi rep said, adding the company will announce which service providers will tap into the Rockford network “in due course.”

Like all SiFi’s fiber builds in the U.S., the Rockford FiberCity project will be privately funded, meaning no taxpayer dollars will be used for the buildout.

Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara in a statement said Rockford residents and businesses will see “a great benefit from the Rockford FiberCity project, ensuring that affordable, high-speed internet service is available throughout the entire city.”

The project will take multiple years to complete, and the deployment process will be similar to that of SiFi’s projects other cities, the company’s rep said -- “it will be citywide so we will pass every home and business in the city.”

“We have had a very positive reaction to the FiberCity project in Rockford,” the SiFi rep said. “Residents and businesses are excited and have expressed a great deal of interest both now and prior to us starting construction of the network. We expect a high take rate for the service.”

SiFi has projects planned under its FiberCity brand in over 30 other U.S. cities including Mesa, Arizona; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Kenosha, Wisconsin; Farmington, Michigan; Saratoga Springs, New York; Salem, Massachusetts; East Hartford, Connecticut; three cities in Texas and 26 cities in California.

In November, CEO Ben Bawtree-Jobson told Fierce the company was in active fiber construction in 8 markets and that number was set to increase to 20 by the end of Q2 2023. SiFi was unable to comment on the headway it has made with that goal, but the rep said the company is “progressing well in multiple markets with plans to activate in many more before the end of the year.”