Putting the brakes on broadband
The commission charged with blessing the Truckee Donner Public Utility District’s broadband project wants more information, effectively delaying financing of the district’s effort and the start of construction. At a public meeting held Thursday at the Truckee Town Hall, Nevada County Local Agency Formation Commissioners voted to continue their discussion on the broadband plan until Oct. 14. They will meet next at a special meeting in Nevada City, where they will delve deeper into some of the issues and questions raised by local cable provider Cebridge Connections, which filed an appeal with LAFCo against the district’s plan, and local telephone and DSL provider SBC.Both Cebridge and SBC will compete directly with the district if it gets the go-ahead to build its broadband network. Both questioned the need for another broadband provider in town.Cebridge complained that flaws in the district’s broadband business plan make the likelihood of failure high and therefore risky for the district’s water and electric rate payers.LAFCo commissioners had initially dismissed those claims at their Aug. 11 meeting, stating that the district’s rate payers were adequately protected should the broadband utility fail. Additionally, commissioners said that it was up to the district’s board of directors to decide whether their business plan was viable and in the best interest of its customers. At that time, the LAFCo commissioners gave the district the green light to begin financing and building the proposed fiber-optic network.However, at Thursday’s meeting the commissioners were not as confident that their job was over, and in a unanimous vote decided to continue gathering more information on the broadband proposal, Cebridge’s objections to that project and LAFCo’s responsibilities in the approval process.Ted Owens, the Town of Truckee’s representative and a member of the LAFCo telecommunications subcommittee that had worked to refine the project, was absent from yesterday’s meeting.If the district eventually gets LAFCo permission to build the broadband system, the it plans to move forward quickly to finance and build the network. The project will be financed by issuing $24 million worth of certificates Of participation to interested investors. That sum should be enough to pay for the construction and operation of the high-speed network until the service becomes self-sustaining, according to Alan Harry, the district’s director of telecommunications services.Construction was scheduled to begin in October on the main fiber-optic conduits that will reach the various neighborhoods the utility district serves. That work has been put on hold until further action is taken by LAFCo.