Tonkaconnect Disconnected: A victory for Twin Cities Taxpayers

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).  They released a statement late today as it became clear that city leaders in Victoria, Greenwood, Orono, and Minnetonka Beach planned to join Shorewood in opposing Tonkaconnect.

In a special meeting Tuesday night, the LMCC executive committee decided to recommend no funding for the next phase of the fiber project in the 2012 budget. LMCC representatives will finalize the budget at an August 16 meeting.

“I think [the LMCC executive committee] realized that if a municipal fiber network is ever going to be built, the cities need a considerable amount of time spent in educating and understanding the significance of building such a system,” said a memo from Sally Koenecke, LMCC executive director.

The $81 million proposal sought to provide 25,000 households in communities from the 17 member cities with Internet, phone and cable fiber optic services.

“At this point in time, we don’t see a need for it,” said Minnetonka Beach Mayor Joanne Anderson. “We don’t need to be spending money on it because there just isn’t interest in our community, so I see this as a win for us.”

The three city councils of Greenwood, Orono, and Minnetonka Beach were all planning to vote in the next few days as to whether or not to participate in the project.

“I’m personally against spending any money on the fiber optic project,” said Orono mayor Lili McMillan. “What I want to do is send a message. I don’t feel government should be in this.”

The city of Victoria voted unanimously last week (with one abstention) to pull out of the project as well.

“This was a huge, huge undertaking,” said Mary Hershberger Thun, mayor of Victoria. “I think there really was some concern. Do we really understand what we’re getting into?”

The Freedom Foundation of Minnesota has been monitoring this and several other proposed municipal broadband projects.
“This is a stunning reversal and a great victory for taxpayers in the western suburbs of the Twin Cities” said Annette Meeks, CEO of the Freedom Foundation.  “Our involvement stems from our concerns for local taxpayers who would have faced a considerable and lengthy burden should Tonkaconnect become a government-funded competitor to private providers.  We applaud the decision by local government officials and hope this sets a precedent for other communities seeking to expand government in Minnesota.”


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