CSU Broadband—You Asked the CSU Board, Some of Them Answered 

Photo Credit: New America

In August, we brought you news about the latest Broadband Boondoggle from Colorado Springs Utilities. In that article, we asked you to contact the CEO of Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU), and the CSU Board, using our handy take action tool. Lots of you did, many of you heard back from your public servants, and some of you shared those answers with us. Below are responses from four CSU board members, who are also Colorado Springs City Council members.

First, we’d like to say that it is proper and encouraged for you to contact your public servants, and we always appreciate when they take the time to respond. That said, we also have some reactions to those responses we have seen so far.

Response 1, From Mike O’Malley:

Good morning [name redacted],

Thank you for reaching out.

I disagree with your assessment.

Please join me in remembering the fallen 21 years ago this day.  We all have so much to be grateful for each and every day.

Very respectfully,

Mike O’Malley 

Springs Taxpayers reaction:

Our interpretation here is that Councilman O’Malley thinks the taxpayer is wrong, and she should be glad she was not killed on 9/11. Or something.

Response #2 from Nancy Henjum:

Dear [name redacted],

I have received your email and hope to remedy what seems to be a misunderstanding about our fiber network. As communicated robustly, Springs Utilities will not provide internet service to customers and will not compete with private companies. This fiber network infrastructure will serve our internal needs while making excess fiber available for lease by other organizations (tenants). Further, as a not-for-profit utility, we will invest any revenue from leasing excess fiber into system improvements for the benefit of our customers.

We knew that we needed to build the network to serve as the essential foundation for our utility systems growth and grid modernization. We chose to follow the utility lease model as it provided the least risk and least expense to our customers compared to other potential models. We have signed a contract with Ting internet that will cover our build out costs while keeping Colorado Springs Utilities out of the internet service provider business. This model also allows us to build the network much quicker than it would take for us to do it on our own.

If we had chosen the internet service provider route, we would carry the market risk of ensuring we have sufficient subscribers on the network to help offset costs. If we chose to build a network strictly for utility purposes, our customers would bear the entire financial burden of a very expensive network. This model has been successfully deployed in other cities. We modeled our citywide fiber network after Huntsville (Alabama) Utilities and City Utilities of Springfield (Missouri). Both examples show it’s possible to build what we need for our purposes and overbuild to support dark fiber leases for third-party entities and leverage the lease payments to offset the costs to our customers.

Owning this fiber network will help us increase our data security, improve safety and optimize customer value. For example, we will be able to monitor in real time overhead transmission line temperature to help reduce power outages and improve wildfire prevention. It will also allow us to fully utilize transmission capacity to get the most out of our existing assets.  

As a board member of our 4 service publicly owned utility company I take my fiduciary responsibility very seriously and believe that we are doing the right thing for our City and the citizen rate payers. If you have additional questions, I recommend you visit our website’s FAQ page about fiber. 

Take care,
Nancy

Springs Taxpayers reaction:

As we saw a similar response from a few different places, we have made the assumption that it originated from the CSU communications shop, and that this is their official answer. 

If CSU is building the infrastructure, ratepayers are subsidizing the cost. We have not yet seen the Google or Ting contracts, and we have no indication from CSU that they will be releasing them. CSU needs to fully show their work here. Otherwise, we have to take them at their word. Can we trust their word? 

Springfield, MO and Huntsville, AL are both being held up as successful models. How long until something is branded a success? 

Springfield hasn’t even completed their installation, so we think it’s premature to be deemed a success. Huntsville has not released their Google contract information, so no one knows the financials. They did get an award as a gig city, but that doesn’t scream success to us. We only care about the ratepayers and the burden on them.

A success equates to an economic profit or an economic benefit to ratepayers. Did Huntsville utility ratepayers see utility bills decrease? No. Huntsville utility customers are facing sky-high utility costs – much like what we’re experiencing in Colorado Springs. As far as we know, the contract between Huntsville and Google was never released to the public. 

If CSU ratepayer money is being spent in order to bring us a “gig city”, CSU should detail precisely what that means, and show us the all of the documentation. Let’s see some transparency!

Response #3 from Stephannie Fortune (substantially similar to the one above):

[name redacted], thank you for sending me your concerns about Utilities and 
the new fiber network plan. We have some clarification about this that I 
think will be helpful to read. Once you have read the comments from our 
CEO, we should communicate again with any concerns you still have. I am 
interested to hear your perspective.
———————————–

We hope to remedy what seems to be a misunderstanding about our fiber 
network. As communicated robustly, Springs Utilities will not provide 
internet service to customers and will not compete with private 
companies. This fiber network infrastructure will serve our internal 
needs while making excess fiber available for lease by other 
organizations (tenants). Further, as a not-for-profit utility, we will 
invest any revenue from leasing excess fiber into system improvements 
for the benefit of our customers.

We knew that we needed to build the network to serve as the essential 
foundation for our utility systems growth and grid modernization. We 
chose to follow the utility lease model as it provided the least risk 
and least expense to our customers compared to other potential models. 
We have signed a contract with Ting internet that will cover our build 
out costs while keeping Colorado Springs Utilities out of the internet 
service provider business. This model also allows us to build the 
network much quicker than it would take for us to do it on our own.

If we had chosen the internet service provider route, we would carry the 
market risk of ensuring we have sufficient subscribers on the network to 
help offset costs. If we chose to build a network strictly for utility 
purposes, our customers would bear the entire financial burden of a very 
expensive network. This model has been successfully deployed in other 
cities. We modeled our citywide fiber network after Huntsville (Alabama) 
Utilities and City Utilities of Springfield (Missouri). Both examples 
show it’s possible to build what we need for our purposes and overbuild 
to support dark fiber leases for third-party entities and leverage the 
lease payments to offset the costs to our customers.

Owning this fiber network will help us increase our data security, 
improve safety and optimize customer value. For example, we will be able 
to monitor in real time overhead transmission line temperature to help 
reduce power outages and improve wildfire prevention. It will also allow 
us to fully utilize transmission capacity to get the most out of our 
existing assets.

If you have additional questions, we recommend you visit our website’s 
FAQ page about fiber.


Stephannie Fortune

Springs Taxpayers reaction (same as above):

As we saw a similar response from a few different places, we have made the assumption that it originated from the CSU communications shop, and that this is their official answer. 

If CSU is building the infrastructure, ratepayers are subsidizing the cost. We have not yet seen the Google or Ting contracts, and we have no indication from CSU that they will be releasing them. CSU needs to fully show their work here. Otherwise, we have to take them at their word. Can we trust their word? 

Springfield, MO and Huntsville, AL are both being held up as successful models. How long until something is branded a success? 

Springfield hasn’t even completed their installation, so we think it’s premature to be deemed a success. Huntsville has not released their Google contract information, so no one knows the financials. They did get an award as a gig city, but that doesn’t scream success to us. We only care about the ratepayers and the burden on them.

A success equates to an economic profit or an economic benefit to ratepayers. Did Huntsville utility ratepayers see utility bills decrease? No. Huntsville utility customers are facing sky-high utility costs – much like what we’re experiencing in Colorado Springs. As far as we know, the contract between Huntsville and Google was never released to the public. 

If CSU ratepayer money is being spent in order to bring us a “gig city”, CSU should detail precisely what that means, and show us the all of the documentation. Let’s see some transparency!

Response #4 from Tom Strand:

Got this email [name redacted] expressing your concerns and opposition to the current CSU broadband infrastructure program.  You make it clear that this is a private company business arena, and not one for our municipally owned utility.  I do appreciate your input, and hear you loud and clear.

Tom 

Springs Taxpayers reaction:

Our interpretation is that Tom Strand isn’t making any commitment on his stance, but wants the taxpayer to know he’s been heard.

Call to Action

  1. If you have not read our article on what CSU is doing related to broadband, read that now.
  2. If you have not yet sent an email to your public servants, (use our language or put in your own), you can take action here.
  3. Share our original article with your neighbors who are also ratepayers to CSU.
  4. Share our original article on your local neighborhood pages like Nextdoor, and other local social media sites.
  5. If you receive answers from your public servants, please let us know by forwarding the response to springstaxpayers@gmail.com.

Thank you all for your vigilance!

Laura and Rebecca

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