City officials are asking businesses to come up with ideas for providing new services via the Ashland Fiber Network's telecommunications infrastructure.
Businesses can submit proposals and bids for providing the services.

City officials are asking businesses to come up with ideas for providing new services via the Ashland Fiber Network's telecommunications infrastructure.

Businesses can submit proposals and bids for providing the services.

The move could improve AFN's finances while bringing services such as home security systems, Internet-based telephone service and smartphone trouble-shooting to residents. People could manage home and business energy use from afar, get help creating an online store or have their computer data backed up.

"We want to try and bring in more vendors to work with AFN," said Rob Lloyd, who heads AFN and also manages the city's internal computer and technology systems.

On Tuesday, the Ashland City Council authorized city staff to issue a request for proposals from businesses interested in using AFN's infrastructure.

Proposals are due Dec. 6.

New services could become available in early 2011, officials said.

Businesses use the city-owned infrastructure to offer Internet and television service, but AFN and its business partners have been slow to offer innovative, new services.

Lloyd, who was hired at the beginning of this year, wants to change that.

AFN managers are also trying to attract new customers by emphasizing that AFN is community-owned.

Ashland graphic designer Heidi Lee Harless has come up with four preliminary AFN logo designs. City officials are asking residents to take a survey about which design best captures the message that AFN is community-owned, customer-friendly, reliable and affordable.

The designs feature either interconnected buildings or trees, or a mix of buildings and trees.

Public input from the survey on the design concepts will be shared with the graphic designer, city officials said.

To take the survey, visit www.ashland.or.us/afnlogo.

AFN's current logo features a white starburst inside a blue globe.

Launched in the late 1990s, AFN amassed a $15.5 million debt.

In the past several years, AFN's financial picture improved enough that it began contributing toward its annual debt payments. But its contributions have never been enough to cover the payments.

Last fiscal year, AFN paid $356,000 toward a debt payment of $1.43 million. Lloyd hopes to boost AFN's debt payment contribution to $730,000 this fiscal year.

For more information on AFN services, visit www.ashlandfiber.net/.

Businesses interested in providing new services over AFN's infrastructure should call city of Ashland Purchasing Representative Kari Olson at 541-488-5354.

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.