Nulty firm loses Minnesota broadband project

Freedom to Connect First Panel

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Burlington Telecom concerns spurred county board to review contract issues

By John Briggs, Free Press Staff Writer

Burlington Telecom’s financial woes played a role in the decision this week by the Lake County, Minn., Board of Commissioners to end negotiations with a broadband company run by Burlington Telecom’s former chief executive officer.

National Public Broadband, whose CEO is Tim Nulty, had been in line to build a $70 million federally-funded communications network in rural Minnesota.

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Former BT manager Nulty defends own tenure

Burlington, Vermont

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The financial and legal woes with Burlington Telecom’s municipal fiber deployment is typical when only one individual is holding the plan together.  Municipal broadband deployments have many working parts that require support from several individuals throughout the city government and community to make them successful.  In the case of BT, one man was driving the project and support:  Dr. Timothy Nulty.  When Dr. Nulty left to head up ECFiber, the city of Burlington failed failed to provide the long-term support to BT required to make the project successful.

Burlington Telecom under the direction of Dr. Nulty thoroughly planned and implemented their business plan, and by all indications they were on track compared to other successful deployments.  As Dr. Nulty indicated in his open letter, municipal FTTH networks typically take approximately 5 years before reaching a positive ROI.  BT was a bit more conservative in their estimates to account for any potential cost increases that BT may incur. Under his leadership, they were well on their way to meeting their business case objectives.

When Dr. Nulty left to take his current position heading up ECFiber, most of the experience, leadership, and drive left with him. Support in City Hall was weak which left no champion of the project to hold it all together.  It is this lack of leadership and support that drove the Marketing Director to resign.  Without a strong sales and marketing drive to keep signing up new customers, the network was is doomed because it could not keep up with its debt payments and operating expenses.

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AP Takes Annoyingly Narrow View Of Muni-Fiber Focuses on debt-riddled Burlington Telecom as ‘cautionary tale’

Church Street, Burlington, Vermont

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Dave Gram of the Associated Press takes a rather myopic look at municipal fiber operations, noting that the now 70 such operations now make up about 3% of the U.S. fiber to the home business — the remaining majority of course owned by Verizon’s FiOS service. Like any business, some of these operations succeed and some fail — some are based on sound financial logic and some aren’t. The AP decides to specifically focus on the failures of Burlington, Vermont‘s Burlington Telecom — whose $50 million in debt and looming Federal investigation the AP declares is a “cautionary tale” for cities interested in wiring themselves for broadband:

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