Hundreds facing financial losses from MN muni-broadband network

Lake Maria State Park, Monticello, MN

Lake Maria State Park, Monticello, MN (Photo credit: PugnoM)

By Tom Steward | Watchdog Minnesota

Bill McKenzie’s email was short and to the point.

“I am (an) individual bondholder.  Why doesn’t the city go to the reserve funds and pay the bond interest due on these bonds?  You are hurting bondholders who loaned the city this money,” McKenzie wrote in frustration.

The plea went out last week from the 70-year-Tucson retiree who with his wife lives more than 1,700 miles from the Monticello, Minn., City Council members he attempted to contact.

City officials’ response?  No reply— same as before, he said.

McKenzie may live across the country, but he’s become part of this Twin Cities bedroom community of necessity, following City Council meetings online and tracking its finances more closely than many of Monticello’s 13,000 residents. He reached out to Watchdog Minnesota after reading several online  investigative reports on Fibernet Monticello.

“This is one of my investments,” McKenzie said. “They were rated very high at the time of purchase by Standard and Poor’s.  So we made the buy.”

Some $26 million in revenue bonds were used to build the Monticello fiber opticbroadband network that offers high speed Internet, cable television and telephone.  Touted as a national model for local governments not so long ago, Fibernet faced fierce competition from private providers from the get-go.

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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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