After filing a formal protest of the first Escambia County bid solicitation award for fiber internet to North Escambia homes and county facilities, Cox Communications has declined to submit a second bid.
The county originally accepted proposals to provide fiber to homes north of 10 Mile Road and approved entering into a memorandum of understanding with Escambia River Electric Cooperative in late November. Cox Communications retained a law firm and filed a formal protest against the award.
The county decided to reso bid with a deadline of December 22.
In a letter to Escambia County’s purchasing director, Cox said they “determined that the change in geographical scope with regard to areas of the County be served is much further away from our existing fiber network that reaches to Cantonment. Therefore, after careful consideration, we do not think it is feasible for us to respond to the RFP (request for proposals), as amended.”
The first proposal from EREC included only their electric franchise territory, an area essentially north of Barrineau Park Road. As a member owned electric cooperative, EREC would provide fiber internet service to all 4,000 plus homes and businesses in their territory. In the first round, Cox submitted a proposal to provide broadband internet to about 2,500 homes in unspecified areas north of 10 Mile Road.
The New Request For Proposal
In the new solicitation, Escambia County is seeking a company to provide high-speed broadband in an area from Muscogee Road/Becks Lake Road north to the Alabama state line.
In addition to providing broadband services in unserved and underserved areas of the northern part of the county, the county is seeking an estimated 104 miles of fiber to serve 40 county facilities in the geographic region. The broadband service must be capable of achieving symmetrical residential speeds of 1 GB or greater.
The “leading-edge” broadband services” must also list retail prices and include a rate cap for residential customers for the first three years after connection and specify a maximum annual percentage increase.
Escambia County is committing up to $10 million American Rescue Plan Act funds toward the project, with the company owning and operating the network.
Proposals were due by December 22. The county is expected to review those proposals with a possible award by the county commission coming in January.
Second Phase Coming
Escambia County has committed another $12 million in a second phase for a future fiber to the home buildout and service to county buildings to the south of Muscogee Road.
In their letter to the county, Cox hinted that they would bid on that southern phase.
“Cox remains dedicated to providing connectivity to unserved and underserved areas, and we look forward to future partnerships and competing for opportunities with Escambia County,” the company said.