TDPUD approves plan to design telecommunications network |

TDPUD approves plan to design telecommunications network

The Truckee Donner Public Utility District’s proposal to provide telecommunications services to its customers moved forward last week with the board’s approval of a contract for the design and engineering of a broadband system.

The board of directors voted 4-1, with Pat Sutton dissenting, to approve a $321,000 contract with Third Networks to design the fiber-optic infrastructure system. Once the system is built, the TDPUD could provide cable, phone and Internet services to its customers.

Alan Harry, director of telecommunications services for TDPUD, said the study will provide the district with a better idea of the broadband system’s scope.

“The design and engineering of the infrastructure will really give us a feel for what the exact cost is going to be, and what it’s going to take to provide the services that we have in mind,” he said.

The contract is estimated to take 29 weeks, which would mean an early February 2002 completion.

“When all is said and done we’ll have plans and specifications for the aerial and underground portions of the infrastructure, as well as the head end (the base of operations),” said Harry.

The TDPUD board of directors has not given final approval to the broadband system, however. Once the Third Networks contract is completed and other regulatory requirements are met, a vote by the board is expected.

“The board has not yet taken action to say we are definitely doing this,” said Harry. “This approval was strictly of design and engineering services.”

Harry said that the study is the best way for the total cost of the broadband project to be known.

“It’s much like constructing a home,” he said. “You can sketch out in your mind on a piece of paper what you want your home to look like, but until you have your engineer or architect sit down and really map out your home, you’re not going to know how much lumber it will take to build it.”

If the board votes to approve the project and all other requirements are met, some TDPUD customers could have telecommunications services by mid-2002.

“If we can pull everything together I believe that we would be able to turn some customers on within about a year,” said Harry.

Getting customers for the system sooner than later would help the TDPUD expand broadband services quicker, he added.

“As with any new venture you want to get customers online, thus creating revenues as soon as possible.”

Harry said if the TDPUD approves the broadband system, it will eventually include all of Truckee.

“Our plan is to make every home and community accessible,” he said.

However, some remain opposed to the idea of the TDPUD, which already provides water and electric service to Truckee, getting involved in telecommunications.

Roger Terneuzen, regional manager for USA Media cable provider, has expressed opposition to the TDPUD entering the telecommunications market. At a public hearing held by the Nevada County Local Agency Formation Commission in January, Terneuzen expressed his displeasure with the TDPUD’s plans.

“The issue is not about USA Media or my fears about competition,” Terneuzen said at that meeting. “The issue is about TDPUD – whether it’s proper for them to spend ratepayers’ money recklessly, whether it’s right for them as a government agency to compete with a private business. The real issue is that they’re proposing no services that aren’t already available in this community.”

But Harry said that he frequently has TDPUD customers ask him when the broadband plan will be available to them.

“Almost every day, I have someone ask me when we’ll start offering these services,” he said.

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