10 High-Speed Internet Access Poles to Come in Wildwood
After years of city officials seeking high-speed Internet access solutions for the 3,000 households unserved or underserved in rural Wildwood, the latest update is about securing utility poles and possible recoupment of their cost.
Wildwood's planning and parks director Joe Vujnich, along with former Wildwood city council member David Sewell, presented at a city council work session Monday evening a potential recoupment model for the cost of utility poles necessary to establish new high-speed Internet access technology to the more rugged parts of Wildwood. Wildwood city representatives agreed to purchase the poles, and are considering various ways that technology providers or users might pay for them over time.
Monday's presentation was designed to provide an update regarding progress with two Internet technology providers with whom city officials plan to work for the project: Bays ET, based in Pacific, and WisperISP, based in Illinois.
The citizen-led Rural Internet Access Committee has a meeting set for March 7 to discuss options for a recoupment program before members recommend more concrete options to city council members later this month. Sewell said members hope to finalize a project management plan at the meeting as well.
Vujnich said the number of poles and related locations is critical to the success of the new high-speed Internet rollout, from the standpoint of coverage areas.
Many people have attempted over the past two months to work through a variety of issues regarding securing locations, and the costs, for poles needed onto which to erect Internet technology. City attorney Rob Golterman would be expected to finalize a model lease agreement once city council members approve a recoupment model.
Read related articles for background:
Currently recommended pole locations include the following subdivision or areas: Fox Mountain, Fox Creek Valley, Deer Hollow, Hawks Rest, North Wildhorse Creek Road, Grand Meridian Forest, Shepard Road, Homestead Estates and Rieger Road.
During February, some issues surfaced regarding Wildwood residents who had not been contacted about the poles being erected in the right-of-way at their properties prior to it being announced at a city meeting. The issue at that time was a mixup regarding who was responsible for contacting residents: city staff or the technology providers. Vujnich reported Monday that "conversations with numerous homeowners and others seeking the Internet service have been over the past two weeks."
Mapping has been completed for five of the poles, he said.
New pole sites in the BaysET service area, in the south and southwestern portion of the municipality, have been identified since some of the original property owenrs objected to their placement on or near their lots, Vujnich said.
To nail down future steps, Sewell and other committee members have recommended a project management plan and checklist that defines each step of the process, including:
- pole location identifications
- subdivision notifications
- consulting neighbors
- location finalized
- site development plan
- legal description created
- power source identified
- power source plan created
- site development plan to Planning and Zoning commissioners
- site development plan to city council members
- easement assignment in process
- easement granted
- scheduled pole installation
- purchase pole
- install pole
- install power
- notify vendor pole is ready
- activate Internet
Vujnich said the response from WisperISP regarding the recoupment question was:
"First I will tell you that Wisper typically is not opposed to a recoupment fee or pole rental fee. This case is a little different. Wildwood will continue to own these poles and has dictated where the poles should be located—often times in areas that we as a company would not choose to deploy in. We have a list of several other communities who are waiting for our service. These communities will not charge Wisper any fees to bring high speed Internet into their area. In choosing where to allocate company resources, it typically makes since to allocate them to areas in which we can make a larger profit. That being said, we are committed to the Wildwood project. Wisper would agree to pole rent of $1.50 per customer per month, as proposed by your committee. We would be agreeable to do this for a period of five years or until the recoupment fee is paid, whichever is shorter. We want to reiterate that this fee will NOT be passed on to our Wildwood customers in any way. Our basic package has and will continue to cost all customers $39.99 with no hidden taxes or fees, regardless of where they are located."