In the News

Published March 1, 2006

Ft. Wayne Courts a Baby Bell

When Mayor Graham Richard of Ft. Wayne, Indiana learned Verizon was set to roll out its FiOS fiber-to-the-home broadband platform in 50 U.S. cities, he did much to make sure his town was one of them.

Richard expedited building permits and held a job fair so Verizon could hire employees. Given the amount of digging in streets and customer front yards–10,000 utility locations in all–he helped facilitate communications with other utility companies as well as consumers. The cooperation allowed Verizon to move up service availability schedules by six to eight weeks, Mike Millegan, North Central Market area president for Verizon, told Rachael King, who reported the story for Network World.

Verizon hired 700 contractors in Fort Wayne to build the network and 200 permanent workers to run it. The mayor hopes to incubate start-ups and encourage larger companies to relocate to, and invest more in, his city.

Kansas Aims for Franchise Reform

The Kansas State Senate is considering a bill that would grant immediate authorization to telephone companies and other licensed facilities-based telecom service providers in Kansas to provide video services without going through the local franchising process.

The bill, SB 449, authored by the Kansas Senate Commerce Committee, bars sub-divisions from demanding specific franchise agreements but gives sub-divisions the right to collect a fee of up to 5 percent on video revenues from new entrants. The bill also says competitors must provide “reasonable” accommodation for the transmission of community-related video and information, but it does not hold competitors to the same requirements that apply to cable companies in Title 47, Section 531 of the U.S. code.

Franchise reform legislation was introduced in Missouri in January and is also part of a sweeping telecom deregulation bill in Indiana (see article, page 3). Both would replace local video franchising with statewide authorization.

EarthLink Seals Philly Pact

Wireless Philadelphia has finalized its agreement with EarthLink for a 135-square-mile wireless broadband system covering the entire city.

Few details of the agreement were disclosed. At press time, there was no information about retail pricing, technical and security specifications, bandwidth requirements, or what penalties, if any, EarthLink will face if it fails to complete build-out by the proposed completion date of spring 2007. EarthLink expects the system to cost between $10 million and $15 million.

The agreement must still be approved by the Philadelphia City Council, which has raised questions about pole attachment fees and other right-of-way concessions EarthLink is receiving. There is legitimate concern that if any of these fees has been discounted, the city may be legally obliged to offer all other utilities the same discount. Wireless Week, the industry trade paper, reported the council vote may not come until March.

Chicago Sets Wireless Plan

The City of Chicago’s chief information officer was scheduled to unveil a citywide municipal wireless plan for the Windy City in early February.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the final plan will call for a city contract with a service provider and/or technology vendor, which will pay the cost of the network, and no taxpayer dollars will be used on the project. A request for proposal is to be issued to dozens of equipment suppliers, such as Motorola and Tropos Networks, and service providers such as T-Mobile, EarthLink, and MetroFi.

Chicago CIO Chris O’Brien told the Sun-Times‘ Ted Pincus he estimates it will take three months to have the RFPs circulated and returned, and another three months for review before contract award–which probably will go to a consortium of equipment makers and service providers. Initial service rollout could then take place fairly rapidly, probably before year-end.

Shortly after the announcement, O’Brien resigned.

Steven Titch ([email protected]) is senior fellow for IT and telecom policy at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of IT&T News.