The Cedaredge Town Board agreed at its March 16 meeting to what is essentially a non-compete agreement with DMEA (Elevate).
A memorandum of understanding that was provided by DMEA and approved by the town board last week bars future town-owned broadband infrastructure from being used for selling access or signal provided by DMEA, except through established networks.
The issue goes back one year to last March when at a bi-monthly work session the county commissioners were surprised by news that DMEA's broadband system would be in direct competition with the publicly funded Region 10 system for the desirable anchor institution business. The county commissioners had jumped heavily on board with the Region 10 system, pledging over $750,000 to provide carrier neutral locations (CNLs) in each of the county's municipalities. The CNLs are places where private sector free enterprise internet service providers (ISPs) can obtain their broadband signals to sell to their retail customers.
The publicly-funded Region 10 broadband proposal was also being pushed strongly by economic development groups when it was the only broadband game in town. Then DMEA decided to enter the broadband middle mile/ISP business. When DMEA decided to do that, some of the previous agreements that had been made with Region 10 took on a different meaning.
DMEA had agreed to share certain infrastructure and service access to the Region 10 broadband network. But after DMEA and Region 10 became competitors, DMEA realized that local municipal governments might be able to sell internet services to customers via the towns' own fiber optic cable installed as part of the Region 10 system. In addition, they would be doing so in direct competition with DMEA while accessing DMEA's fiber infrastructure and source signal.
"That wasn't the deal we had agreed to," DMEA CEO Jasen Bronec told the Delta County Independent last week. To heighten DMEA's concern, a content serving arrangement is already taking place between two local governments in at least one instance, Bronec explained.
Also a year ago, voters in the county and local municipalities gave their governments permission to participate in the telecommunications business. That was seen as a necessary step in bringing universal broadband availability throughout the county.
Some people have envisaged the possibility of their local municipal governments entering into the telecommunication business as a means of establishing a "valuable community asset," or broadband municipal enterprise, for Delta County's cash conscious towns.
DMEA administrators told the DCI that other county municipalities are agreeing to the non-compete agreement that the Cedaredge trustees approved. At last week's meeting, town administrator Katie Sickles said that Cedaredge does not intend to set up a municipal broadband utility. And in a change from previous town board discussions, the DMEA non-compete agreement also states that "the Town of Cedaredge has no current plans to build from their CNL to anchor institutions as part of the Region 10 grant."
As recently as last fall trustees were given a map showing the most likely routes for fiber optic broadband service to the town's anchor institutions from its CNL whenever it should get one, and money for providing the links was placed in a draft town budget.
The Cedaredge/DMEA non-compete agreement goes on to state that "if the Town of Cedaredge changes direction and does build to these [anchor] facilities as part of the Region 10 grant, the Town of Cedaredge will not allow any ISP to make connections from hand holes or cabinets along the fiber route, from the CNL to the anchor institution the [fiber] is servicing."