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Telecommunications plan still being debated

ABHUTCHISON, Sierra Sun

Truckee-Donner Public Utility District staff and board members went before the Nevada County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) last week to participate in a workshop on the district’s proposed telecommunications plan.

The workshop had the dual purpose of helping provide LAFCo staff and commissioners with a better understanding of the district’s broad-band plans and to develop standards to measure whether or not the latent power to offer the services can be granted.

The LAFCo commission appointed a sub-committee to review the district’s telecommunications study documentation and develop a list of questions that PUD staff will have to clarify or expand on.

Don McCormack, Nevada County LAFCo commissioner from Truckee, and Paul Norsell, commissioner from Grass Valley, will serve on that subcommittee. Both have business backgrounds.

“LAFCo has a role to play here in being sure there’s not unfair competition with private businesses … and it’s also to protect the ratepayers in being sure the investment is a good one,” McCormack said. “One of the key items we need is an objective assessment of the business plan. We need to be assured that it’s an objective view.”

The district recently accepted a study by Vectren Communications Services which recommended the business plan include local telephone services in addition to a platform for numerous Internet service providers, cable television and point-to-point data services. The company and its insurance company, AON Risk Services, gave a preliminary agreement to underwrite the project’s capital expenses and guarantee buy-out should the PUD decide to exit the business within five years.

Alan Harry, telecommunications director for the PUD, said district staff will sit down with Vectren in the near future to crunch numbers and determine what sort of partnership could exist between the two organizations.

McCormack said LAFCo could ask for additional assessment on the business plan by an outside consultant.

“It may just be we’ll need to have some kind of outside assessment of the Vectren report to shed some objective light on the subject,” McCormack said.

Local cable provider USA Media has raised criticism about the district’s plan, and McCormack said those criticisms and questions will need to be addressed.

Because LAFCo will not meet in December, the PUD may have to wait until January to find out if it can offer telecommunications services to its customers. Meanwhile, Harry said staff will report additional information to LAFCo as soon as possible so data can be reviewed in a timely manner. He said LAFCo may hold a meeting and public hearing in January in Truckee on the matter.

“The commission seemed interested in the district doing this (offering telecommunications),” Harry said. “They just want more information so they can get their arms around it.”


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