After our article earlier this month on US Internet’s problems obtaining permission to install conduit under Minneapolis Park Board boulevard property, several other articles appeared in local media.
TV station KARE 11 ran a piece on the issue and interviewed Julie Stenberg, who observed, "Technically it's park land, but people are not playing Frisbee, they're not picnicking here.” (Watch the video below.)
The Star Tribune also ran an article noting that people like Julie, who live adjacent to park owned boulevards, may never have the opportunity to take Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) service from the local provider. If US Internet wants to obtain a permit to bury conduit along the parkway in order to get to Julie's house - the only option available - they will have to shell out $27,000 in fees. People around the corner from Julie are already getting FTTH service from US Internet.
According to the Strib, Commissioners denied a permit for boulevard placement and for placement under Minnehaha Creek in South Minneapolis because it lacked the detail they required. The Park Bard is concerned about damage to trees during both conduit placement and any maintenance:
“We’d directional drill, and we’d be 12 to 14 feet under the creek bed,” [US Internet’s Vice President Travis] Carter said. “You will not see anything when we’re done. It’s just a pipe deep underground that nobody will see.”
US Internet has no access to Comcast and CenturyLink poles, so an underground network is its only option. Alleys are too tight to safely use the boring and maintenance equipment, especially in the winter, but the Park Board is not convinced, “It’s really important for USI to demonstrate that there’s no alternative,” [Assistant Park Superintendent Michael Schroeder] said.
Caught Behind A Boulevard And A Creek
Addresses south of Minneahaha Creek may not get access if the two parties do not resolve the problem. In order to reach thousands more homes and businesses they intend to pass, US Internet will need to place fiber under the creek in three or four locations as it runs through the southern part of the city. The company and the Board will meet to discuss their concerns and, while Minneapolitans appreciate their parks, many like Julie Stenberg also want FTTH as an alternative to Comcast or CenturyLink.
“I think it’s probably smart to deny this, but I think it’s also probably smart to continue to work with them,” said Commissioner Brad Bourn. “I don’t think we want to be viewed as obstructive to people accessing technology.”
Going OK So Far...
The company has been installing conduit and fiber all over South Minneapolis, including in my neighborhood, where there are many trees on boulevards and none of them appear to have been disturbed. Fiber is rugged, often with a 20+ year shelf life. With the added protection of being tucked away from squirrels and other creatures that like to chew on aerial cables (I speak from experience), it isn’t likely trees on the park boulevards will be bothered often by maintenance crews. Buried fiber is also more appealing to the eye than the ugly overheard wires placed by Comcast and CenturyLink.
"No One Is Playing Frisbee Here"
A three-foot-wide strip of grass next to the street should not be treated the same as a baseball diamond where kids play, a wetlands where wildlife flourishes, or open green space where families fly kites on Saturdays. We’re glad that the Minneapolis Park Board is protecting the city’s jewel - it’s park system - but rather than taking an “all or nothing” approach in this matter, they need to consider the science, look at the pros and cons, and exercise a healthy dose of common sense.