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A wireless communications company with a national footprint has received preliminary approval to install a wireless network in Fort Collins using public rights of way and infrastructure on which to mount equipment.

The Fort Collins City Council gave the city manager authorization to sign an agreement with Crown Castle Fiber LLC. The Houston-based company, which bills itself as the largest shared communications infrastructure company in the U.S., will build out a fiber network and likely provide access to it to companies such as Verizon.

Documents provided to the City Council noted the Verizon connection: “Toward the end of wrapping up discussions, staff learned from Crown Fiber that Verizon is planning to work with Crown Fiber to deploy a significant portion of Verizon’s overall Fort Collins build. Staff therefore expects the initial submissions from Crown Fiber to largely be focused in this vein, though Crown Fiber may choose to contract with any number of carriers.”

Mark Guillen, public affairs director for Crown Castle, said in an interview with BizWest about a month ago that it will focus its early attention in Fort Collins on the area around Colorado State University and the downtown area. The small-cell network and fiber-optic cable network that is planned will support services such as 5G communication technologies.

The agreement approved by the council Tuesday would permit Crown Castle to use “city facilities” such as poles on which to install infrastructure. Crown would pay an annual $270 fee for every city facility used, plus administrative and permit fees.

The agreement, if signed by Crown and the city, sets height restrictions and location preferences, and requires notice to nearby property owners. Fiber will be installed underground, and small cell infrastructure will be installed in rights of way using “structures that are very similar to existing light standards,” the company said.

Guillen said Wednesday in response to BizWest questions that Fort Collins came onto the company’s radar screen as part of its small cell development effort across the country. “As one of the state’s most important regions and the business center of Northern Colorado, more connectivity will bring benefits for residents and businesses,” he said.

Instead of directly providing high-speed wireless broadband, the company will build the infrastructure that will enable other companies to offer that service, he said. “The infrastructure will expand coverage and network capacity … by supporting a vast diversity of devices and services with improved performance, efficiency and cost,” he said.

Guillen said construction will begin in 2022 and continue until early 2024.

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