Broadband gets the green light | SierraSun.com

Broadband gets the green light

Christine Stanley
Sierra Sun

Six years and $2 million later, the Truckee Donner Public Utility District has finally gained the upper hand on its plan to construct the infrastructure for a broadband cable system in Truckee.

On Wednesday, the California Appellate Court ruled in favor of the Nevada County Local Agency Formation Commission, the government body that granted the Truckee utility authority to become a broadband provider.

SuddenLink Communications took LAFCo’s ruling to court in June, 2005, claiming that public utility districts are not allowed to provide nonutility services.

“Not to be out of line, but can we get a ‘yahoo’ that we won that case?” said Telecommunications Director Alan Harry in a board meeting Wednesday night.

SuddenLink, which already provides broadband Internet service to the Truckee area, now has 40 days to ask the California Supreme Court to review the decision.

“I am waiting for an answer from our legal counsel as to the next steps, but that’s really all I can say at this point. [SuddenLink] will discuss it next week,” said Pete Abel, the company’s vice president of community relations.

In a coincidental turn of events, SureWest, a publicly traded telecommunications, broadband and wireless service provider from Roseville, gave a presentation to the board on Wednesday night regarding its services and possible interest in partnering with the district to provide a fast optical-fiber service.

“From a staff level, we are very excited that SureWest approached us, we think it can be a real benefit for the entire community,” Harry said. “They have a proven track record in the provision of broadband services, and their head-end facility is probably the best in the nation.”

In the fourth quarter of 2006, SureWest reported 57,000 broadband customers in the Roseville area, some of whom subscribed to its “triple play” package of telephone, television and Internet service, accounting for more than $60 million of the company’s $222.7 revenue for the year, President Steve Oldham said.

Staff will meet with SureWest representatives in the coming week for a “number-crunching meeting,” Harry said.

District staff have remained adamant that ratepayers will not be responsible for footing the multi-million-dollar bill for the project.

The original cost estimate was $24 million, but Harry said costs for materials have dropped substantially over half a decade, so the cost to build could be much less.

“Electric and water departments will not be responsible for any of the cost of this business ” we’ll be a stand-alone utility,” Harry said. “We will be looking to raise funds through certificates of participation which are paid off over time with money generated from the broadband division.”