March 4, 2019
For Immediate Release
(Vinton, Iowa)— High priced, slow internet speeds plague small town rural America causing slow economic growth and can deter new job seekers. Forward-thinking Iowa communities are forming their own municipal communications utilities at a record pace, creating a better atmosphere for business growth. Vinton, IA is an example of a community well on its way to having a new municipal communications utility. Vinton city leaders recently accepted $6.5M in bids from the contractors who will install a fiber optic communications system in that community.
Tom Richtsmeier, General Manager of the Vinton Municipal Electric Utility, is looking forward to the upgrades that will improve quality of life for Vinton residents and attract new businesses. “The goal is to provide a much-needed service for the community. We aren’t expecting that the communications utility will generate a hefty profit. However, after careful study, we have concluded that the new utility will have enough subscribers for internet, TV, and phone service to pay for itself and pay off the bonds used to build it. The goal is a sustainable utility funded by the people who use it,” said Richtsmeier.
The changes have been a long time coming. Since 2005, Vinton resident Kurt Karr and other community leaders have been working to create the city-owned communications utility. After a failed referendum in 2005, Vinton residents overwhelmingly supported a 2015 referendum to create a communications utility. “In 2005 we didn’t know better internet service would be essential, not only for the growth of our business community but to attract residents as well. By contrast, the 2015 referendum to establish our municipal communications utility passed with 88% of voters approving the measure,” said Karr.
Following the 2015 election Vinton, Iowa sought experts to design the network, estimate its cost and timelines for construction, analyze the demand for services, develop service pricing and the financial pro forma. FARR Technologies, a telecommunications consulting firm specializing in the design and construction of fiber optic communications systems provided the expertise to design the system and complete the financial pro forma.
Dave Fridley, a Partner with FARR Technologies and the lead member of the FARR team working with Vinton, says the fiber optic systems his company designs have greater reliability than the service provided by existing cable or phone companies. According to Fridley, fiber optic systems delivering internet and other digital services are more reliable, and they offer subscribers the option of gigabit speeds. “When you combine the reliability of fiber with service provided by local technicians and customer service staff, the result is a better experience for the customer than they are getting from their current providers,” said Fridley.
Public utilities have a long history in the U.S. The first public utility was a grist mill constructed in 1640 in Dedham, Massachusetts. Since then, most communities have established public utilities to build and operate the infrastructure needed for sanitary sewer systems and distribution of clean drinking water. Many communities, like Vinton, also have electric generation and distribution systems.