As we have noted previously, Longmont, Colorado, has seen a number of private companies attempt to offer Wi-Fi broadband and then go out of business. As Colorado preempts local authority by requiring a referendum by the city before it can offer services itself, Longmont recently had a vote to authorize telecommunications services. Voters defeated the option.
As is common in these referendums, voters were blanketed with reasons to vote against it as incumbents (Qwest and Comcast) spent $200,000 opposing competition whereas the city is prevented by law from advocating for a ballot measure.
Now the Wi-Fi network will be auctioned off in pieces because it cannot pay taxes.
Ohio-based DHB Networks owes the Boulder County treasurer’s office $87,000 in unpaid business personal property tax, and the county demanded the company cease operations unless it pays those taxes.
DHB also owes the city of Longmont. Longmont-based RidgeviewTel is running the network, at least until the Wi-Fi equipment is auctioned off Thursday — at which point, 400 to 600 customers will be without Internet access, RidgeviewTel CEO Vince Jordan said.
Though the city already has fiber assets that could be used for backhaul as well as other expertise it could use in continuing to run the network, it cannot step in to run a network that would be useful to the community:
While the city can step in and operate the system, it would be only for municipal needs — such as police, fire and utility services — and not to provide Wi-Fi to customers.
“Our hands were always tied,” Roiniotis said. “We could buy the system and operate it, but only for our own purposes. We can’t provide the retail part of it.”
The city’s hands also were tied when it came to campaigning. State law bans governments from spending public money to campaign for or against local ballot questions.
Though 400-600 people may not seem like a lot of people to leave stranded, many of those on the network were the ones that needed a low cost alternative. This is one of the reason some hoped for a last minute resolution to the...Read more