Sides fight over fiber

Storefronts in Two Harbors, Minnesota

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This insightful article describes the typical woes that municipalities and counties go through with the incumbent carriers.  Lake County wants to build an open-access network that will offer modern telecom services to this beautiful part of the country.  This network could benefit not only the residents but also the incumbents.  The problem is that the incumbents are happy with the status quo because they do not have to compete for market share or invest capital in their network; thereby, preserving their margins.  Companies like Frontier and Mediacom should embrace these networks as a way to reach more customers and increase ARPU without massive capital expenditures.

My family has vacationed in this area for years.  It was one of the few areas of the country where I could truly disconnect from work and the world.  My pager wouldn’t even work in many parts of the Gunflint Trail.  Such a build-out in Lake County would mean an end to my escape from civilization.  It is a small loss for me and a huge gain for the citizens of this wonderful part of Minnesota.

The first public shots have been fired by a potential competitor with Lake County’s fiber-to-home phone, television, and Internet service project.

By: Mike Creger, Lake County News Chronicle

The first public shots have been fired by a potential competitor with Lake County’s fiber-to-home phone, television, and Internet service project. Mediacom, a cable and internet provider in Two Harbors and Silver Bay, sent letters to the mayors of both cities late last month asking them to reconsider the joint powers agreement the city councils approved as part of Lake County’s application for funds for the countywide project.

But the company may have misfired. In the letter, it cited a portion of the agreement that doesn’t exist; county officials say they believe Mediacom was basing its argument on an early draft of the final document.

A Lake County response, drafted Tuesday by former County Attorney Russ Conrow, disputes other claims by Mediacom and called its letter to the cities “heavy-handed tactics.”

The banter between the county and private telecoms reflects a national debate between established companies and upstarts like Lake County and its fiber project. The federal government is lending its support to more than 200 public and private projects across the country.

Thomas Larsen, a Mediacom group vice president of legal and public affairs, warned in a Dec. 21 letter to the mayors of Silver Bay and Two Harbors that language in the agreement was misleading and accused the cities of helping to falsely represent Mediacom and the service it offers in the cities. He wrote that the county was falsely depicting its fiber project as one-of-a-kind.

Larsen said Wednesday, after looking at a copy of what the county is calling the final draft of the agreement, that he based his remarks on the document approved and signed in Silver Bay. “The ‘county’ version of the JPA is not the same version that was adopted by Silver Bay,” Larsen said. He wondered why there are “multiple versions of this floating around” and maintained that the Silver Bay version still “contains some very troubling findings.”

Larsen said he also learned that the Two Harbors agreement isn’t the same as the one signed in Silver Bay.

Lake County Administrator Matt Huddleston said there is some confusion about changes in the Two Harbors document but said all other signed copies of the joint powers agreement match up. He said Mediacom and others may be finding differences in the resolutions drafted and passed by the separate public bodies to enter into the agreement. The actual agreement is the same for each entity, Huddleston said.

Article Continued on Lake County News Chronicle

About Mark Milliman

Mark Milliman is a Principal Consultant at Inphotonics Research driving the adoption and assisting local governments to plan, build, operate, and lease access open-access municipal broadband networks. Additionally, he works with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to increase the value of their intellectual capital through the creation of strategic product plans and execution of innovative marketing strategies. With more than 22 years of experience in the telecommunications industry that began at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Mark has built fiber, cable, and wireless networks around the world to deliver voice, video, and data services. His thorough knowledge of all aspects of service delivery from content creation to the design, operation, and management of the network is utilized by carriers and equipment manufacturers. Mark conceived and developed one of the industry's first multi-service provisioning platform and is multiple patent holder. He is active in the IEEE as a senior member. Mark received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Iowa State University and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.
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