Truckee utility OK’s Internet spending plan | SierraSun.com

Truckee utility OK’s Internet spending plan

Andrew Cristancho
Sierra Sun

Ryan Salm/Sierra SunA bank of cables delivers high-speed Internet to the Tahoe World office in Tahoe City.

In a unanimous vote Wednesday, the Truckee Donner Public Utility District’s board of directors agreed to seek financing for a proposed $25 million fiber-optic Internet system.

Telecom Manager Alan Harry said the district could provide lightning-fast Internet service within two years.

In cooperation with managers from 180 Connect, Quanta Services/ North Sky Communications and Victor Capital, the public utility will begin pursuing funds to finance a system that would compete with private-sector providers.

Suddenlink, a firm that serves 7,000 Truckee residents with video and Internet, currently offers three tiers of Internet service starting at $24.95 per month for 1 megabit download time. Other, more expensive packages offer download speeds up to 10 megabits per second.

In past discussions, Harry has said the district could provide Internet service with upload and download speeds of 5 megabits.

The district could also monitor and control its water wells and electrical systems by remote control through an Internet connection.

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Construction would take two years once the district secures funding, according to Harry.

“We want to get started before the snow flies,” he said.

The district plans to seek $25 million through Victor Capital, a venture capital firm, then hire the consulting firm of 180 Connect to work with district engineers and Quanta/North Sky Communications to string fiber-optic cable above and below ground.

The utility district would have 20 years to pay for the system in a lease-to-own arrangement with Victor Capital by using revenues generated from Internet customers.

Once the district repaid the loan it would own the system.

In order to minimize excavation costs, Harry said some of the 200 miles of optical cable could be threaded through existing electrical conduits that are already buried.

The district is considering SureWest, a Roseville-based communications company, to market the service and provide customer service.

The system could allow the district to provide ratepayers with the “triple play” of information services: Voice, video and data, or in English, telephone, television and Internet service.

According to preliminary figures by 180 Connect, customers would have a choice of packages ranging from a monthly fee of $24.99 for telephone only up to $74.97 for the triple play. An advanced option would provide more bandwidth at a higher cost.

Utility ratepayers would not see their utility fees increase unless they subscribe to the new service. California law prevents utility providers from raising rates to pay for another facet of service.