Monticello’s Model Broadband Effort in Peril

Monticello’s Model Broadband Effort in Peril

Date: 7 Jun 2012 | posted in: Media Coverage, MuniNetworks | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Star Tribune, June 7, 2012

Once seen as a national model, Monticello’s broadband network can no longer pay its bills. The city, about 40 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, notified banks and bondholders Wednesday that it will no longer make debt service payments on $26 million worth of revenue bonds that were sold to build the fiber optic system in 2009.

The system, FiberNet Monticello, offers high-speed Internet bundled with phone and cable TV as a municipal service that competes with private companies.

City administrator Jeff O’Neill said that the city has no intention of abandoning FiberNet’s 1,700 customers, including about 130 businesses.

“The one-year delay because of the lawsuit was the determinative factor that sent FiberNet down a much harder path than it should have had,” said Christopher Mitchell, a telecommunications researcher for the Institute for Local Self Reliance, a nonprofit that advocates for city-owned broadband networks.

But Mitchell said the city’s only choice in 2007 was to do nothing and face the likelihood of no improvement in services, or force the issue by offering its own city system. “Monticello has the fastest speeds in the state for broadband now, and some of the lowest prices for services, and yet the city is being told that it failed because they haven’t been able to make enough revenue,” he said. Tipper agrees. He says the city did everything right and doesn’t deserve blame for the failure.

Read the full story here.