By Mike Harpold
April 14, 2010
Some Ketchikan residents stayed away from the polls because they had little understanding of the issue. Others voted yes, trusting the city council to fairly weigh an offer to buy the utility. But many question the council s impartiality.
So far, the council appears to view the sale from a balance sheet perspective. The Falkenburg report that it commissioned merely evaluated the salability of the utility, and says little about the impact of a sale on consumers.
Up to date IT services offered at low rates are as much a part of municipal infrastructure these days as water and electric. Competition has led to low rates for GCI and KPU customers, spurred the installation of fiber optic cable, the availability of IPTV and high speed internet, and positioned Ketchikan as one of the most favorable business relocation sites in Alaska.
City management argues that KPU Telecom profits are disappearing because of competition, and fears future technology upgrades will require spending from reserves it needs for electric and water improvements. But subscribers pay for telephone, cable TV and Internet services, including future upgrades, whether the utility is public or private.
KPU Telecom continues to earn profits of over a half-million annually, and its net growth of 25-30 new subscribers a month indicates that the division can remain profitable. In the meantime, the legislature is poised to give the city $21.7 million for electric and $7.2 million for water improvements this year.
The continued existence of KPU Telecom ensures competition. Promoting, not eliminating competition guarantees low rates and ensures that Ketchikan remains an attractive place for business. Residents should urge Ketchikan city council members to vote the best interests of the community, not the narrow interests of city government.
About: " Mike Harpold served on the Ketchikan City Council from 1998 to 2001"
Received April 13, 2010 - Published April 14, 2010
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