As I’ve said before, our fully built fiber-to-the-home network has many benefits, but comes with a cost, and we need a more reliable, transparent way to pay for it. The annual bond payment is $3.2 million. Since selling the network three years ago, the payments from the sale have been applied to the bond payments, but the payments from the sale ended earlier this year, and surety funds intended to secure the payments will run out soon. I’m recommending to the Provo Municipal Council that we pay for it with a monthly charge to electric utility customers. However, in the end it is a council decision.
It’s not something any of us want, but I believe it’s the right thing to do. Many of us were not involved in the original decision to build it, but we benefit either directly or indirectly, and more importantly, we have an obligation to pay for it. This at least is an open, transparent way to do it. Even the Utah Taxpayers Association agrees it’s the “least bad way forward.”
There will be a public hearing at the Provo Municipal Council meeting on September 20 on how to structure such a charge. The options include a fixed charge, charging a percentage of each customer’s utility bill, and combinations of the two. The meeting will start at 7 p.m. and will be held in the Municipal Council Chambers of the Provo City Center. I encourage residents to participate. Come and hear a presentation on the options, and tell us which you prefer.
Here are some other things to keep in mind about this issue:
- Under each of the options, the average residential customer would pay up to $7.65 per month.
- The charge would begin November 1 and would continue until the bond is paid in 15 years.
- The city is continuing to evaluate its options regarding the future of the network, including reselling it, managing it again, and “going dark,” and will seek public input on that later this year.
- The new utility charge would be required to cover the bond payments under any of those options.
Update: After the public hearing on September 20, the Provo Municipal Council voted on a method that is a combination of flat rates and percentages. All residential customers will be charged a flat rate of $5.35 per month. Commercial customers will be charged a flat rate of $10 and an additional 2.3% of the electric portion of their utility bills. The charge will appear as a separate line item on utility bills labeled “Telecom Debt Charge” and will begin November 1.