Local broadband service is the way to go | SierraSun.com

Local broadband service is the way to go

Recently there have been a number of questions and concerns as to the viability of the Truckee Donner Public Utility District bringing fiber-to-the-user broadband services to Truckee residents.It seems the closer our community-owned network comes to fruition, the more reservations, roadblocks and misconceptions get in the way. Let me assure you, the Truckee Donner PUD has not entered this arena without thorough investigation, extensive due diligence, market comparisons and visits to other communities that have successful broadband systems. We are not entering virgin waters. Community-owned networks have been launched before in communities very similar to Truckee.Last spring, a team including Peter Holzmeister, the district’s general manager, and I visited Jackson, Tenn., a community similar to Truckee. There, the Jackson Energy Authority (JEA), a public utility provides approximately 38,000 homes and businesses with electric, natural gas, water and wastewater services. Like Truckee, Jackson felt its community’s needs were not being well met by private cable television and telephone companies. While Jackson was keeping its larger commercial customers in mind (Procter & Gamble, Maytag), the Truckee Donner PUD saw the need to similarly support its local businesses, telecommuters and second homeowners, all whom rely on high-speed communication. Our town and its businesses are growing. Like Jackson, beginning in late 1999, the Truckee Donner PUD stepped up and proposed the provision of quality and dependable broadband services because our residents requested it.JEA has succeeded in bringing superior telecommunication services to its residents. Why is this relevant to us? Jackson has installed the same fiber-to-the-home network that the Truckee Donner PUD will soon construct. They are even using Wave7 Optics electronics, the company the Truckee Donner PUD has selected to supply the needed electronic equipment and system design.JEA brought its system to life this past April and plans to have the entire network constructed by fall. Their $60 million project has in no way affected the rates or pocketbooks of other JEA utilities or ratepayers. In fact, it’s backed by private bonds to be repaid by its broadband revenue, just like Truckee. The payoff? They’re seeing a 65 percent take-rate in every neighborhood they bring fiber-to-the-user broadband services to.In addition, just like Truckee, JEA dealt with its own set of roadblocks put in place by their cable television provider (and competitor) Charter Communications – a huge corporation when compared to Truckee’s incumbent operator USA Media, now Cebridge Connections. Jackson has prevailed, as will the Truckee Donner PUD.A Sept. 22 article in USA Today painted the landscape of small-town municipalities versus large corporations quite accurately. It drove home the point that Truckee is only one of hundreds of communities taking high-speed communications into its own hands. And it’s happening all over the world, not just the U.S.Frustrated by poor and non-existent services, communities are delving into the broadband revolution and, according to the article, are aiming to be “no longer at the mercy of the big providers.” Sure the providers, some of them monstrous corporations, are stepping up, calling foul and promising better services in the near future. But would they be making such promises if towns and municipalities like the Truckee Donner PUD weren’t stepping into the arena? Or would they still be stuck with run-of-the-mill services, high rates and a deaf ear?The Truckee Donner PUD has been serving you for more than 75 years. We are in it for the long haul. Remember, it is about community, not cable television profits. We’re working diligently to bring superior services to Truckee because it is needed. It is wanted. We’re not in this for ourselves. We’re in it for you.For more information about the district’s proposed broadband project, contact me at 582-3951 or alanharry@tdpud.org.Alan Harry is the director of telecommunications at the Truckee Donner Public Utility District.

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