Loveland Pulse passes halfway point for buildout of municipal broadband network

·4 min read

Loveland Pulse’s take rate is increasing as the city’s municipal broadband service surpasses the halfway point for construction.

About two years after the start of construction, the residential take rate for Loveland’s phone, internet and TV service now sits at 26%. That means over a quarter of households with access to service for at least 90 days have signed up. The city is projecting it needs a 32% take rate after full buildout to break even. Pulse isn’t sharing customer numbers yet.

Loveland is about 60% done with network construction as it begins the third year of a four-year buildout. The project's $75.94 million budget is about 59% spent.

The progress of Loveland Pulse, paired with continued progress of Fort Collins Connexion, means that the majority of Larimer County’s two largest cities could have access to municipal broadband by the end of 2023. Connexion, which started construction about nine months ahead of Pulse, expects to finish construction by mid-2022 and reach buildout by the end of the year.

Pulse service is now available in a “pretty good portion” of Loveland, though less than 60% because service availability lags behind construction, Pulse spokesperson Lindsey Johansen said. Pulse leaders will likely share a map of service availability for the first time later this year so residents can see which areas of the city are under construction or have service available.

Loveland's municipal broadband service, Pulse, celebrated its groundbreaking Nov. 13.
Loveland's municipal broadband service, Pulse, celebrated its groundbreaking Nov. 13.

The city added an address search feature last year that lets users see if service is available at a specific address. Loveland residents can check availability in their area at lovelandpulse.com/residential.

Pulse’s take rate was 22% when the city first shared that information in fall 2020. Johansen attributed part of the recent increase to Pulse’s addition of TV service in October 2021.

“I know we had a lot of people that were waiting because they wanted TV,” she said. “That was a big one for our community.”

Previous coverage: Broadband competition heats up as Fort Collins Connexion, Loveland Pulse gain ground

Adding to its TV offerings, Pulse announced a new service called PulseTV Everywhere this month. It’s a free upgrade for TV customers that allows them to watch programming from their subscribed channels on mobile devices.

Johansen expects Pulse’s take rate will continue climbing as service becomes available to more households, word of mouth continues to spread and more potential customers reach the end of their contracts with private internet providers. The city’s business plan for Pulse projected a take rate of 42% at full buildout.

Pulse has also launched its Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides a $30 credit for lower-income households. That credit brings the monthly price for Pulse's starter package to about $15 and the price for gig-speed Internet to about $45.

A challenge for Pulse is reaching agreements with multi-dwelling units (MDUs), such as apartment complexes. The city has to develop individual agreements with each one, and Johansen said it’s been hard to track down the right contact for each property and develop all the contracts. Connexion in Fort Collins has faced a similar challenge.

Both Pulse and Connexion are in talks with Larimer County to expand broadband access in unincorporated regions of the county. Pulse recently started offering service to the Lago Vista Mobile Home Park, which is just outside Pulse’s original service area. The city reached an agreement with Larimer County to add the community to its service area with the help of a state grant program and the Thompson School District.

Larimer County, Pulse and Connexion submitted an application to the state for grant funds to improve broadband access in the county, Johansen said. As part of that work, Pulse pinpointed several areas near Loveland that could be a good fit for expanded broadband access in the county.

Fort Collins Connexion, meanwhile, reached a 31% residential take rate at the end of December 2021. The take rate needed to pay back the city’s construction bonds is 28%, and the city expects a 35% take rate by the end of 2022. Service is available in about 69% of the city’s service area.

The city of Fort Collins is likely to add money to Connexion’s construction budget this year because the city has spent 93% of its available budget, including $6 million of redeployed operating expenses. City staff attributed the issue to inaccurate projections about how much boring and new conduit would be needed for the network. The city had intended to use a large amount of existing underground conduit for broadband, but once underground, crews found much of that conduit wasn't usable.

Pulse leaders don't expect to see the same issue with their budget projections because the network didn't anticipate using as much existing conduit, Johansen said.

More Loveland news: McWhinney details plans for 26 oil and gas wells in Loveland's Centerra area

Jacy Marmaduke covers government accountability for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @jacymarmaduke. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

This article originally appeared on Fort Collins Coloradoan: Loveland Pulse passes halfway point for municipal broadband buildout

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