FFM Follow Up: City Council votes to publicly release previously withheld analysis of financial risks-- Despite a memo from the city’s bond counsel warning of “substantial risks”, the Gaylord City Council has voted to guarantee to pay up to 16.5 percent of the debt service on $77 million of revenue bonds should the proposed RS Fiber telecom network fail to pay for itself. The bond risk analysis prepared for the city at a cost of $1,500 to taxpayers was initially withheld from the public under a ...
--Officials in the city of Gaylord have informed the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota (FFM) they will not make public a key analysis of the potential financial risks posed by a plan to invest $70 million in bonding for the RS Fiber telecom network. Proponents of the municipal broadband project expect RS Fiber to start paying for itself after three or four years. If not, a $4.5 million reserve fund replenished by local taxpayers in eleven cities and two counties partici...
Construction of the proposed taxpayer-backed telecom network known as RS Fiber has been quietly pushed back until at least next spring. Yet you’d never know this if you visited their website. According to the RS Fiber website, groundbreaking was to occur last month.
PRIOR LAKE, MN—A recently minted $35 million taxpayer-backed telecom proposal in Prior Lake takes a sharply confrontational posture toward the very sector the project ostensibly aims to attract—private business. An $80,000 feasibility study aggressively singles out three telecom providers with thousands of Prior Lake customers that the proposed city network would compete for, even as it lays claim to “creating an environment in which the private sector can thrive. This is about enabling the priv...
City manager says “marketplace has responded” and voices concerns about Ramsey County fiber proposal-- In 2009,North Saint Paulcity administrator Wally Wysopal was the loudest cheerleader for a proposed $18.5 million taxpayer-backed telecom network dubbed PolarNet. “It provides economic development opportunities like we don’t have today and that’s what we want to do is distinguish North Saint Paul from any other community in the metro area,” Wysopal said at the time. ...
Monticello's model broadband effort in peril TOM MEERSMAN, Star Tribune June 7, 2012 But Monticello says it won't abandon FiberNet's 1,700 customers. Once seen as a national model, Monticello's broadband network can no longer pay its bills. The city, about 40 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, notified banks and bondholders Wednesday that it will no longer make debt service payments on $26 million worth of revenue bonds that were sold to build the fiber optic system in 2009.
Is city headed toward default of $26 million in bonds? The City of Monticello has notified bondholders that it plans to stop repayment of $26 million in bonds for the troubled FiberNet Monticello telecom system, due to a shortfall in operating revenue from telecom subscribers. This development marks the most dramatic step yet in the downturn for what was once a nationally touted municipal telecom model.
Hiawatha Broadband Communications pulls out amidst a range of concerns-- The news just keeps getting worse for the troubled Monticello publicly financed telecom system. Recent news reports and events continue to confirm that Mayor Clint Herbst was right when he admitted “we shouldn’t be in the telecommunications business at all”. Following up on the heels of FiberNet’s 2011 loss of $2.6 million (in spite of receiving a one-time $1.5 million legal settlement), ...
When Dale Malheim retired from the Army last year, he never planned to be on the front lines in his new hometown of Winthrop, Minnesota. But the more he learned about the $70 million proposed RS Fiber telecom network, the more he felt duty calling again. So Malheim began a petition drive to force a referendum, thus allowing Winthrop residents a chance to overturn the city council’s recent decision to support the sprawling countywide broadband network.
Featuring: Minnesota Non-Profits Receive $440,000 to Fight Keystone XL Pipeline, Monticello muni-fiber gets the MPR treatment, Stossel special promotion, Human Achievement Hour, and more!
The city with the greatest number of potential subscribers for the proposed $70 million public broadband network in Renville and Sibley counties is poised to pull out of the project, taking 12 percent of the system’s population base with them.
Nearing the halfway point of the decade-long agreement, the project has failed to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in projected payments to the city’s Digital Inclusion Fund.
“Paying for wind we don’t need, can’t use and can’t sell” Taxpayers already pay a high price to subsidize wind energy through billions in federal grants, loan guarantees and tax credits that prop up the “windustry”. Now the bill for state renewable energy mandates is coming due with hundreds of thousands of Minnesota electric co-op and utility customers picking up the tab. Going green cost rural electric ratepayers in Minnesota more than $70 million last year, according to the Minnesota Rural El...
Escalating cost of fiber materials raises questions for similar projects The recipient of a major federal stimulus grant and loan in southwestern Minnesota appears to be having second thoughts about proceeding with a broadband project spread out over three counties. The $15 million project which planned to expand broadband service in 15 communities may be in danger of going into the financial red zone, apparently due at least in part to the escalating costs of fiber optic cable. Woodstock Teleph...
WINTHROP, MN—Local officials promoting a sprawling fiber optic broadband network agreed that the $63 million proposal could be a substantial risk for local taxpayers. The proposed government-backed system would connect some 7,500 homes, farms and businesses in eight southern Minnesota cities. Local elected officials from two counties (Sibley and Renville) have been promoting the venture currently known as RS Fiber.
When a local government broadband proposal runs into controversy almost anywhere in Minnesota, proponents inevitably point skeptics to what’s become their go-to success story: FiberNet Monticello. But has it been all it was cracked up to be?
Three Orono councilors told a dissenting colleague to follow along or step down from LMCC committee assignment. Orono city councilors have told a fellow panelist and his resident counterpart that they must cast a vote as the majority directs or face replacement as the city's representatives to the Lake Minnetonka Communications Commission (LMCC).
FFM research was featured in the latest 5 Eyewitness News piece on a potential taxpayer funded fiber project in the Lake Minnetonka area: Tonkaconnect.
BREAKING: Amidst the poor economic climate and national financial picture, Lake Minnetonka-area taxpayers received welcome news today that the state’s largest and most expensive taxpayer funded telecom network broadband network has been put on hold until at least 2013.
The decision came from the Lake Minnetonka Communications Commission (LMCC).
Tonkaconnect, an $81 million proposal to provide taxpayer-funded internet, phone and cable fiber optic services to communities in the Twin Cities western suburbs appeared to be gaining momentum—until the city of Shorewood recently started asking questions.
When bids were recently opened by the Southwest Minnesota Broadband Services (SMBS) consortium, proponents of the fiber optic stimulus project found out it was going to cost more than they bargained for--$1.7 million more. Suddenly, a venture that started out as a $12.8 million “government giveaway” became dependent upon local taxpayers for a bailout.
It’s enough to give government a good name, if not necessarily the federal stimulus program. After all, when’s the last time the recipients of a $1.7 million federal stimulus grant had second thoughts and sent the funding back to Washington? That’s what happened recently with a high-tech project in northern Minnesota in which a government giveaway turned into a rare government giveback.
Maybe there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but a deal in the works to bring a controversial $70 million broadband network to Lake and St. Louis counties comes pretty close, depending on which side of the county line you pay taxes.
FFM's Tom Steward wrote a piece featured in the Duluth News Tribune on the proposed plan to bring a muni-network to Lake County, MN.
"As municipalities across the state consider whether to invest in mega-million-dollar telecommunication systems, the ones really taking the biggest risk are the taxpayers."
Featuring: Woodbury and Eagan ice rinks, and FFM in the news!
FFM Investigative Director Tom Steward's letter to the editor on municipal involvement for broadband was featured in the Star Tribune.
Featuring: stimulus funded broadband in Anoka County, Tom Steward's Northstar Commuter Rail op-ed in MPR, and public employee compensation.
The commentary piece by FFM Investigative Director Tom Steward was featured in the Star Tribune yesterday. Steward raises the issue of local governments becoming involved with providing broadband service to its citizens, even though it has already cost taxpayers a significant amount in many places.
Featuring: Broadband in Moorhead, health care reform, grading colleges and universities on what they actually teach, Minnesota Energy Citizens' Rally.
Featuring: North St. Paul officials operate "under the radar" on PolarNet
Featuring: St. Louis Park's experiment with a city-owned solar-powered wireless Internet network comes to an end, and Scott County trims 2009 budget.
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