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Minet Gets Ready For Busy Year

By CRAIG COLEMAN

The Itemizer-Observer

MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- Officials of the Monmouth-Independence Network (MInet) will seek an additional $2.5 million in loans to complete the expansion of the broadband utility.

MInet has also reached non-exclusive franchise agreements with both cities.

Both steps come as MInet leaders attempt to finish a build-out of the network to residential users by mid-to-late February, officials have said.

City councils in Monmouth and Independence recently granted approval to MInet, which operates independently of the cities, to acquire loans on the towns' behalf to pay for the fiber system.

Engineers discovered that there were 7,000 living units between the two communities, 1,500 more than estimated in 2004 when city leaders revealed the business plan for delivering broadband service to residential customers.

There are also about 70 street miles MInet needs to pass through instead of the initial 57-mile estimate, MInet Manager Phil Garrett said.

Independence City Manager Greg Ellis said those statistics were further validated by a recent (and unrelated) marketing survey by the Monmouth-Independence YMCA, which also showed about 7,000 families.

The Oregon Economic and Community Development Department originally loaned out $8 million for the project. Ellis said the state has given preliminary approval for the additional loan, to be divided between the towns based on population.

Independence would incur debt of $1.125 million, Monmouth $1.375 million.

Garrett said the fiber lines have been installed through every neighborhood in the communities, and that the final touches on the network include finishing the central office that houses the head-in equipment.

He said he didn't believe this would delay the February start-up date.

"We're still hoping to get customers turned on by then," he said.

The additional cost to construct MInet would be offset by the expanded potential customer base, and wouldn't increase the amount of time needed to for the utility to break even -- about 11 years, Garrett also said.

MInet signed franchise agreements with both cities last week.

Franchise agreements spell out the concessions phone companies and other service providers give to install operating infrastructure in municipal rights-of-way.

MInet will pay 5 percent of its gross revenues to Monmouth and Independence -- the same rate that Charter Communications pays -- and will donate equipment to the towns' public access television station, Monmouth City Manager Jim Hough said.

MInet Board member Steve Milligan said those agreements must be in place before the utility's cable content distributor, the National Cable Television Commission, begins providing MInet with its television offerings.

This will also allow MInet representatives to produce a price schedule of its services for customers within the next month or so, Milligan said.

For more information on the Monmouth-Independence Network: 503-751-0157 or www.minetfiber.com.

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