A plan unveiled last week to provide every West Des Moines residence and business with high-speed internet access has developers looking forward to the possibility of having the service installed in areas where current internet providers are reluctant to enter.

"We have in some cases had to work hard to convince an internet service provider to run the infrastructure to the development," said Chris Costa, president and CEO of Knapp Properties Inc. "It’s certainly a capital expense that they have to figure out a way in which to recover the spending. … They want to know how many residents will sign up to use their service.

"When they run the analysis, it doesn’t always work out in their favor. So they say, ‘No, not now.’"

The West Des Moines City Council this week approved a conduit network license agreement with Google Fiber, a fiber optic broadband internet service that delivers high-speed connectivity to residences and businesses in 18 U.S. cities.

Under the agreement, West Des Moines will install conduit throughout the city, including to existing houses, apartments and businesses as well as new developments. Google Fiber, which provides a gigabit of connectivity, will be the first tenant to lease space in the network.

Other internet service providers will also be able to use space in the conduits.

The city is committing up to $42.8 million to the project. Google Fiber will pay the city $2.25 per month for 20 years for each address to which it provides services. The annual payment from Google Fiber will be capped at $20 million a year, according to the agreement.

High-speed internet service is a needed amenity, Costa said. "Internet is almost a public utility at this point. You need it just like you need water and electricity."

The pandemic, which prompted shelter-in-place mandates across the country, has shined a light on the need for high-speed internet in residences with people working at home while their children streamed movies and did school work online.

If the pandemic had occurred five years ago, people would likely not have been able to work at home with the ease that they now can, said Richard Hurd, president of Hurd Real Estate Services Inc.

"An awful lot of jobs will not be returning to office buildings, and in order for people to perform their duties from home, fiber is the way to go," Hurd said. "This is a very positive move for West Des Moines."

Rachel Flint, vice president of Hubbell Homes and president of Home Builders Association of Des Moines, said providing more bandwidth to residences and businesses will draw more people to West Des Moines.

It also will provide more competition between internet providers, she said.

"Sometimes it’s a struggle to get an [internet service provider] to provide service to an area," Flint said. "If they agree to do it, they sometimes charge exorbitant fees. With another provider in the area, costs will come down."

The availability of high-speed internet service throughout West Des Moines will be an attractive draw for residents and businesses, said Mark Rupprecht, president of R&R Realty Group.

"This is going to help attract more residents to the city and businesses that need a lot of band width will be giving West Des Moines a hard look," he said.

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