Letter: Astound Contract is Penny Wise and Pound Foolish

By Crilly Butler

It’s my understanding that the purpose of city government is to act as both the elected and the paid representatives advocating for the needs and welfare of the entire city, including all its citizens, schools, small and large businesses, police, fire, infrastructure, etc. What I heard last night at the task force meeting is that our city government is considering taking care of only itself by accepting a free service from a large for-profit corporation in exchange for throwing the entire rest of the city under the bus. While city government gets free high-speed fiber connectivity to many of its facilities for 30 years, Astound is going to be given free rein to reap huge profits by charging whatever it wants to everyone else in Davis. There will be no competition to control prices, no incentive to innovate, no guarantees of net neutrality or customer privacy, and no requirement that harder-to-reach areas of our city will receive any service at all. Davis will be at the mercy of one more utility monopoly. This is just wrong on so many levels, it’s disgusting.

The proposed contract contains no language to limit the amount of the city’s conduit that will be used, thus providing the potential for Astound to use it all up and leave nothing for potential competitors or for other possible uses. The proposed contract does not include linking our schools to the free network, nor does it connect many other city facilities. The proposed contract solves an immediate need, but in doing so, ties the city’s hands into a monopoly dependency for 30 years. The proposed contract will sound the death knell to DavisGig, which is pushing for a solution that puts our city in the driver’s seat of a comprehensive, municipal fiber network that serves all our citizens while providing substantial revenue to the city.

While the city’s contract with Comcast to provide iNet services to Davis city facilities has ended, it is still available in the short term to keep these offices connected. I plead with you to authorize a new year-to-year contract with Comcast to keep this network up and running while Davis explores its options. Astound says it will cost just short of $2 million over 30 years to implement the initial fiber network using city conduit. I believe a much better decision would be to hire Astound or some other vendor to pull city-owned fiber through our existing city-owned conduit to connect all city offices, and then lease the unused portion of the fiber to Astound, its competitors, or a selected non-profit to provide high-speed connectivity to all of Davis. I believe a sound fiscal analysis of this option would show that this approach would be a windfall revenue source for our city for years to come. Believe me, Astound has run these numbers and that’s why they have made this offer to the city. Please don’t fall for it! It would be a penny wise and pound foolish choice! We don’t need another for-profit utility monopoly in this town gouging its citizens!

Thanks for listening!

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