The city and the Lampasas Economic Development Corp. are continuing their efforts to improve internet service options in town.
The entities are working with a technology company on a market assessment that could help Lampasas attract fiber optic infrastructure and a wider range of services. City and LEDC officials want to improve service reliability, speed and downloading/ uploading capabilities to help customers -- particularly businesses that depend on internet-based technology.
City Manager Finley deGraffenried and Economic Development Director Mandy Walsh offered an update about the project, which began late last year.
The LEDC is paying Foresite Group Inc. $41,000 for a multi-phase project that includes a technology assessment and a market study. Foresite now is in the final stage -- the analysis of how many residents and businesses might purchase higherbandwidth service if a company were to offer such service in Lampasas.
The market analysis will help determine it if is financially viable for a provider to offer upgraded service in Lampasas, deGraffenried and Walsh said.
DeGraffenried emphasized that the city itself will not be an internet service provider.
"We want to be clear that even though we are taking a lead in trying to facilitate this, it ultimately will be ... hopefully, a private company that's providing the service," he said.
The city might be able to provide some infrastructure -- probably in the form of fiber, the city manager said.
"So I think that's really what we're gearing our study on, is the ability to provide that sort of speed, reliability and scalability," deGraffenried said.
He and Walsh said the city is looking at internet infrastructure construction options, such as the city hiring a contractor or seeing if a third party would be willing to build much of the infrastructure.
"This is going to tell us, 'Is this market attractive to someone to come in?' -- whether it's an ISP [internet service provider] or a contractor that would want to come in and actually build this out for us and then provide the service to businesses and residents," Walsh said.
A subcommittee met Wednesday to discuss a survey that will be distributed soon to gauge businesses' and residents' interest in purchasing upgraded internet service, Walsh said. The survey will ask customers about cost, reliability, speed and problems they may have with their current internet service.
Walsh said companies will want to know how many customers they might gain before they decide whether to offer service in Lampasas. Although she said more details are needed, the economic development director said the city already has had some inquiries from service providers.
Lampasas' current provider, AT&T, is working on installation of another fiber optic line to Lampasas and hopes to complete the project this fall, deGraffenried said. That new line from the north would keep internet service from being interrupted if the line from the south were cut -- as happened several times last year.
A backup line to the city is a major development to prevent internet outages, deGraffenried said, but he added that does not mean there will be additional AT&T services within town.
As a result, expanding service options remains a top priority for the city and LEDC, Walsh and deGraffenried said.
Walsh said businesses depend on internet connections for a variety of tasks -- including selling online, managing inventory and processing credit card transactions.
"A lot of them rely heavily on the internet, and currently as we stand, most of them don't have the required bandwidth to continue to be successful," the economic development director said. "And if they're looking at expanding their business in Lampasas, a lot of them are unable to at this point due to their internet -- their lack of connectivity and speeds."
Walsh said one business has sent employees out of town or out of state to work from home, where the internet service is faster and more reliable than at the business site.
Dependence on the internet will continue to grow, Walsh said, so she said it is important to expand service options.
"In order to attract more business here -- and to take care of the ones we have here, and help them to grow and thrive -- we've got to find a way to solve this," the economic development director said.
DeGraffenried said officials look forward to the completion of Foresite's work so the city and EDC can begin implementing the steps the company recommends to boost technology infrastructure.
DeGraffenried and Walsh said Lampasas has gotten a good value for what the LEDC spent on Foresite's work.
"We knew we were at a point where this was necessary, and we don't have the capability of doing this ourselves, of figuring this out," Walsh said. "This is something they're experts in, that we entrusted [to] them in helping guide us through."