SAN FRANCISCO—San Francisco Mayor Mark Farrell, the City Administrator’s Office and the Department of Technology announced on Wednesday, January 31 that the city will begin the process of bringing a citywide fiber network to San Francisco that will focus on net neutrality and privacy protections to deliver fast and affordable internet.

“Trump’s hand-picked FCC and Republicans in Congress have dismantled crucial net neutrality, privacy, and consumer protections,” said Mayor Farrell. “We will provide an alternative that favors the general public and San Francisco values, not corporate interests. Through this project, we will close the digital divide, ensure net neutrality, and create a truly fair and open internet in San Francisco.”

According to a press release from the Mayor’s Office, a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) was issued seeking teams that are able to design and deliver a citywide fiber network to San Francisco. The fiber network will offer universal internet coverage in San Francisco and is a transformative effort to provide affordable, high-quality internet service for all.

“Today marks a major step forward in delivering affordable municipal fiber aligned with San Francisco’s values of net neutrality and digital inclusion,” said City Administrator Naomi Kelly. “San Francisco remains committed to ensuring every household has access to fast, reliable internet service.”

Any internet service provider using San Francisco’s network will be required to follow strict net neutrality protections, including commitments to transparency, the free flow of information, equal treatment of traffic, no paid prioritization and unobstructed access to lawful websites. Additionally, any internet service provider must follow robust privacy and security standards.

The guidelines offer a contrast to the standards of the Donald Trump administration, which has rolled back popular net neutrality and privacy protections, allowing personal internet use to be dictated by the highest bidder.

“We encourage bidders to submit their qualifications and explain their approach for partnering with the City to serve all San Franciscans with affordable, high speed internet service” said Linda Gerull, City Chief Information Officer for San Francisco. “This infrastructure investment will provide new opportunities for businesses and residents as well as enable future City services”.

The fiber network is being designed to ensure that low-cost, high-speed internet is available to all, helping to eliminate the digital divide in San Francisco. Currently, 12 percent of San Francisco residents—approximately 100,000 people—do not have access to the internet at home. About 15 percent of the city’s public school students do not have internet access, a number that increases to 30 percent for African American and Latino students. The cost of internet services is seen as a barrier to access for low-income families.

The RFQ is seeking bid teams capable of designing, building, operating, financing and maintaining a citywide fiber optic network. In 2017, city officials met with industry leaders to gather feedback on the plan to create a robust citywide fiber network.

The RFQ process will identify 3 to 5 qualified groups by the end of April. After, the city will issue Request for Proposals (RFP). The bidding team that is awarded the contract will build, operate and manage the city’s open access fiber optic network for 15 years.