IE11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Flexible Procurement Targets Broadband Work

Using a Request for Innovative Ideas, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s tech-focused strategy, the California Department of Technology challenges innovators and entrepreneurs to suggest potential solutions for the state’s high-speed Internet network.

Closeup of yellow broadband cables with blue plugs plugged into a board.
The state technology agency is bringing one of California’s newer, more flexible forms of procurement to bear on broadband as it looks to build out the so-called “middle-mile” portion of the statewide network.

The California Department of Technology (CDT) on Thursday released a Request for Innovative Ideas for the California middle-mile broadband network. (The procurement can be found by searching the California State Government Marketplace.) Also known as RFI2, the process was one of Newsom’s earliest acts as governor; he enacted it Jan. 8, 2019, via Executive Order. Literally a “flexible approach to procurement,” it aims to “challenge innovators and entrepreneurs to provide California with leading-edge solutions” by aligning procurement methods with the pace of change by innovators across academia and in the private sector. Among the takeaways:

  • The area for the state’s proposed Middle-Mile Broadband Initiative (MMBI) is roughly 10,000 route miles, with a backbone design marked by interconnected ring architectures for redundancy and resiliency. This is aimed at preserving continuity of service in the event of a fiber cut. The backbone also features linear spurs to unserved and underserved communities identified by the California Public Utilities Commission as a priority. Proposals are sought to ensure redundancy in the event of a fiber cut or harmful network event, so that service to these communities will remain uninterrupted. GoldenStateNet, the project’s third-party administrator, plans to place huts at about every 50 miles on the routes, to reamplify the light signal through the fiber network and provide power. There could be as many as 180-190 huts along the network, depending upon how much dark fiber is able to be leased. The MMBI will deliver middle-mile services to three major Internet Points of Presence (POP) in the San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles areas. The MMBI partners also plan to build a number of Regional Exchange Points in areas that are distant from the three major urban Internet POPs — carrier-class facilities to aggregate regional MMBI-bound traffic, and to provide resilient facilities to accommodate server colocation requests from third parties interested in providing various types of service over the MMBI network.
  • In an effort to be efficient and cost effective, meet federal deadlines and avoid unnecessary construction, CDT seeks creative proposals from qualified innovators interested in presenting potential business opportunities around their existing or soon-to-be-built facilities that will assist MMBI to achieve its goals and solve for the remaining mileage of the network. Proposals may include dark fiber, colocation, joint builds, lit fiber services, conduit or purchase of an existing network. Innovators are encouraged to provide other suggestions and ideas beyond what is listed below. Innovators need not provide responses for all services sought. The California Department of Transportation has reviewed its current projects and has identified those where there may be synergies for installation of MMBI conduit. MMBI especially seeks innovators with facilities like central offices, a regional POP or similar structures where the regional exchange points may be colocated.
  • The RFI2 has two phases. Phase 1 involves the state engaging innovators through a conference, an online workshop, and questions and answers, as well as confidential discussions and the selection of vendors to advance to Phase 2. It’s an opportunity for companies to get additional information to inform their ideas and to submit Innovation Concept Papers detailing their ideas to address the problem statement. Phase 2 will likely see the state consider proposals and award “contract(s)” to implement the ideas described in Phase 1 at a state level; however, it’s possible no contract award will be made as a result of this RFI2.
  • A conference on the RFI2 will be held online at 2 p.m. Nov. 27. Questions are due by Nov. 30. Innovation concept papers are due by 2 p.m. Jan. 26. Evaluations and, as necessary, confidential discussions will be Jan. 29-Feb. 15; finalists will likely be notified Feb. 16. Negotiations to perform Phase 2 of the work will likely be Feb. 20-March 8, with Phase 2 final proposals estimated to be due March 15. Negotiations following that will be March 18-July 30 with contract award July 31.
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.