PUD officially writes off $99 million in fiber debt

Why aren’t they just calling this $100 million?

Calling it the “easy part,” Wenatchee World reports today that Chelan PUD commissioners unanimously agreed to wipe $99 million in fiber debt owed to its electric utility off the books.

The next step, they say, is:

for the utility to work with the region’s private Internet service providers (ISPs) to improve efficiency, marketing and sales to turn the revenue-challenged network into a thriving business that can stand on its own.

PUD commissioner Gutzwiler is quoted saying:

“We’ll partner with the ISPs to the extent of the law,” he said. “We’ll encourage the use of fiber every way we can, as long as we don’t step over the line.”

Included in their plans, according to ISP chief Dimitri Mandelis, president of the area’s largest ISP, bundled TV service —

giving customers a better price if they sign up for TV, Internet and telephone together. Service providers need the bundles to go head-to-head with national competitors Charter and Frontier, [he says].

Mandelis also wants the PUD look for:

lower-cost ways to increase speeds in neighborhoods limited by existing technology and create price incentives to lure customers away from the national companies.

If the PUD and its ISPs had a viable business model, one would think that access to ratepayer-subsidized fiber optic cable and other PUD-provided capital facilities would be sufficient to allow the ISPs to compete with private, unsubsidized, shareholder-owned enterprises.

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