Earlier this week Decatur’s commission approved Network Cabling Infrastructures of Duluth to build a new fiber optic communications network that will cover 14 city and 10 school sites. The anticipated costs are about $2 million with City Schools Decatur paying 28 percent of that.
City Manager Andrea Arnold said she hopes construction will start in June and take 12 to 14 months.
But Comcast Cable, whose predecessor Media One built the city’s current (and original) network in 1999, claims the city owes it money. Andy Macke, vice president of external affairs for Comcast, attended the May 6 meeting and said afterwards that the city has “gotten over a million dollars of benefits at no charge.”
Under the original franchise agreement the city didn’t have to pay anything for its network, but Macke said that was only effective from 1999 to 2009.
“For the last 10 years we’ve been chasing after the city to build a commercial network (Media One built an institutional network or “I-net”),” Macke said. “We ultimately tried to work with them in good faith. They’ve done a lot of renovations over the past [decade—including the Public Works Building, City Hall, the Beacon Hill complex]. We didn’t hold their feet to the fire, figuring that they’d negotiate a deal.”
According to Arnold, late last year Comcast said it would decommission the current network unless the city began paying a monthly fee of $30,000. Macke counters that Comcast has offered “several proposals,” and that the $30,000 figure was “the highest.”
Meantime Decatur will need coverage while its new network gets built. Macke believes that with three CSX crossings, constructing the underground cable will take longer than 12 to 14 months.
“We haven’t had a dialogue with Andrea in awhile,” Macke said. “We have to bring closure to this. Comcast has been a good partner with the city of Decatur.”
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