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If Ellensburg creates a public fiber utility, would local cities do the same?

If you're among those who believe that reliable, affordable Internet service is too important to be left to CenturyLink and Comcast, here's something to read.

The city of Ellensburg is considering turning its city-funded fiber network into a public utility.

Still early in discussions, a recent story at the Ellensburg Daily-Record noted that the city will look at possibly using the network for businesses and residences.

Here's a part of the story:

The Ellensburg City Council voted unanimously Monday night to direct city staff to offer a request for qualifications from contractors to write a long-term strategic plan for the city’s telecommunications utility.

The city has operated a fiber-optic cable network that supports information services for multiple public institutions in Ellensburg, from the police department to Central Washington University.
Charter Communications built the network, which the city managed. When Charter asked to change the deal to require the city to pay for use of the lines, city staff determined the city would save money in the long run if it built its own, and awarded a $961,000 bid for construction to Cannon Construction last December. The project was slated for completion late this summer.

Charter’s deal asked for a $10,000 per month lease.

Right now, the city ordinance that established the utility only provides for servicing public entities, as the Charter-owned network did before.

“Typically, for this type of an activity, (a strategic plan) would include a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis for the telecom utility,” city Energy Services Director Larry Dunbar said.

Dunbar said the plan also would also look at how the service would be delivered, and if the city would provide it.
“These are some pros and cons that need to be fleshed out very carefully as this unfolds,” he said.

Council member Tony Aronica called the proposal exciting. He said he remembered how his Internet service was affected when discussions between his provider, which offered Internet from a third party as a bundler, and Charter Communications, broke down.

“It impacts Ellensburg at the business level but also at the consumer level, because there’s not really any other options,” he said. “I think it’s responsible of us to do this.”

The Spokesman-Review business team follows economic development in Spokane and the Inland Northwest.