Friday, May 29, 2020

Kewaunee County Broadband Expansion, May 19th

The County Board Chairman Dan Olson invited Steve Schneider, the CEO of Bug Tussel to address the full board concerning the Bug Tussel proposal that had been approved by the Board previously. 

Board members had questions, and so do I.  I presented many of my questions in a letter to each of the Board members prior to their May 19th Board meeting.  Kewaunee County is poised to execute a nearly two million dollar tax spend with Bug Tussel.  Bug Tussel claims the County will be reimbursed for their investment ($960,000) over a 10-year period.  If indeed Schneider doesn't want the money, why then a 10 =-year payback?  Why not a 1-year payback?  What about a payback for the $960,000 from the PSC?

The entire Board meeting was recorded and can be viewed here.  May 19th Kewaunee County Board Meeting.

The dialogue concerning Broadband begins at 16 Minutes and 50 seconds.  At this time, a letter I submitted was read during the citizen input.  Following are some of the highlights of Mr. Schneider's presentation:

20 Minutes and 39 Seconds -  Schneider begins his presentation.  Says nothing of importance for five minutes, talks about childhood, life in Kellnersville, Wi.

26 Minutes and 00 Seconds - Schneider explains to the Board that if they don't spend the $960,000 of PSC money, that money will go someplace else, so they had better get onboard, or the train is leaving the station.  What a great reason to spend taxpayer money!

26 Minutes and 45 Seconds - Schneider claims the other companies that submitted proposals all asked for money and he did not.  Well, that is not true as, for example, didn't ask for any money.  Schneider wasn't a damned bit interested in Kewaunee County until he was able to get the commitment for $960,000 from the PSC with another $960,000 from Kewaunee Co.  A gift indeed!  Remember, Bug Tussel is getting paid by AT&T to array these towers with AT&T systems for cell phone switching. 

32 Minutes and 35 Seconds - Schneider justifies his taking the $960,000 of PSC money because he alleges other internet providers that have been providing service in the County have taken $8.7 million of federal taxpayer dollars over the years.

34 Minutes and 05 Seconds - First Schneider alleges that throughout the time with the Broadband Committee that he was interested in providing service to rural customers (that is what this is supposed to be about), then he indicates he will be providing services to the folks in the cities of Algoma, Luxemburg, Kewaunee, and the town of Casco. 

35 Minutes and 30 Seconds - Schneider says they won't service all customers, but will do his best to reach whomever he can.  Wow, that is a very impressive commitment for two million of our tax dollars.  He then goes on to talk about putting in poles on peoples properties to reach them (remember line of sight is the issue), then charge the customer an amortized rate for the pole.  He then goes on to say, if that customer cancels their service, they will come, take the pole back and re-deploy it?  Seems to me that if that is his plan, he'd have some problems getting the pole back if it is on private property.

40 Minutes and 00 Seconds - Schneider admits they will be getting about 200 people per site (per tower).  Let me see now, 7 sites (towers) times 200 people equals 1,400 people he would reach in the County.  That would be about 6.8% of the people in the County, a far cry from "ALL"!   He then goes on to say that after 5 years, they will have 8% of the market.  Why in God's name would that dismal performance be acceptable to anyone on the Board?  Schneider doesn't say this, but I would venture to guess that a majority of  the 1,400 people are already serviced by one of the 10 or so internet providers already here.

53 Minutes and 20 Seconds - Supervisor Romdenne asked for clarification as to what service Bug Tussel will provide because the RFP specified "service to all residents."  Schneider responds with some amorphous statement about people in a valley in upper Michigan who have snow in July.  Then goes on to say that Bug Tussel is entering the market to supplement the service that is already here.  I want to call a B.S. on that statement as the Broadband Committee didn't want a supplemental service for $2,000,000 of taxpayer funds.  Schneider also says here that if anyone wants to hold his company to any specific levels of how many customers will be serviced, he basically won't do business here.

56 Minutes and 00 Seconds - Mr. Feldt, our Administrator jumps in and explains to the board that when developing a RFP that you propose any and all items you may have dreamed of in hopes the vendor provides them.  I would argue, the opposite, an RFP is a document that succinctly lays out in exacting language what the requester is requesting.

57 Minutes and 30 Seconds - Supervisor Vollenweider asks "What determines success of this project?"  This was a great question that promoted a long silence.  Supervisor Romdenne provided the answer in saying the Broadband Committee hadn't gotten to that, it was never considered.  Now, this is where I really become a little agitated and unglued as a taxpayer.  In fact, I can't think of one person I know that wouldn't be upset that certain performance standards would be set and if those standards were not met there would be some penalty.  There has to be some accountability in this project, and if Bug Tussel doesn't want accountability, then we have selected the wrong vendor.

107 Minutes and 40 seconds - Schneider is asked by the Chairman how big of an area each of these towers would cover.  Schneider responds about 3.5 to 4 mile radius.  That means each tower would cover about 38 square miles; with seven towers, they would cover a total of 266 square miles.  Kewaunee County is 1,084 square miles meaning Bug Tussel would reach a whopping 24% of the County.  That my friends, is not ALL, IN FACT IT IS WOEFULLY LACKING.  Lacking because even with 24% reach, there will be the homes in the woods and the homes in the valleys that those towers won't reach either. 

In summation, the presentation by Mr. Schneider was disappointing and if the Board Members were listening carefully, they would come to the conclusion that spending $2 million of our tax dollars with Bug Tussel is a waste of our money.  There were a few good questions asked of Schneider, and the answers were disappointing at best.

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