Becker Protests City Cable's Decision To Deny semo.net Any New Internet Customers
On May 14th, I was sent a letter from Bill Bach, General Manager of City Cable. The letter stated that my company was exceeding the 8meg bandwidth allotment per the 2001 city ordinance. For that reason, semo.net could not sign up new customers until a new rate was negotiated. Within hours I made a reasonable and fair offer for the overage so that our company could continue doing business and simultaneously work with the City Council to update the old ordinance. My offer was ignored.
[Side note: this issue is not associated with the Cable Internet pricing ordinance change made earlier this year]
After speaking individually with City Council members, Municipal Utilities Advisory Board members, the City Manager, City Mayor and Bill Bach; I was given no alternative but to wait several weeks until the June 7th Municipal Utilities Advisory Board meeting.
I appeared before the Advisory Board on Monday, June 7th. The Board refused to directly address my issue citing a possible bond compliance problem that has arisen completely separate from this.
They justify their inaction by claiming that the revenue from ISP partners affects the potential bond compliance. In contradiction to this logic, however, they continue to allow the other partner ISPs to sign up new customers.
At the meeting I offered compensation for the overage; I requested a limited reprieve of the “no signups restriction” to allow them to resolve the bond compliance issue; I requested the board make a motion and vote as to whether Mr. Bach should remove the “current restriction” until the bond compliance issue was resolved; all requests were denied and no motion was made.
The only offer extended to my company was the ability to place a letter at the City Cable desk explaining why customers could not sign up for semo.net’s Internet service.
Below is the prepared statement I read during the City Council meeting on Monday June 7th during the citizen’s input portion of the meeting.
It is my hope that the city will work to remove this restriction while they work out the bond compliance issue and then all parties can work with the City Council to update the ordinance.
JUNE 7th, 2010
My name is Brian Becker, my company Poplar Bluff Internet, Inc., d.b.a semo.net is located here in the city of Poplar Bluff.
In 2001 we worked with the City to develop an open access agreement to allow my company and other ISPs in our area to utilize the City’s infrastructure to provide Internet service to our customers. Once that agreement was reached we began moving our customers over to this network.
The original ordinance in 2001 created limits that, at the time, were sufficient for a community moving from dialup to broadband: That limit was 8 meg and the then-current capacity of the network was 22 meg.
In 2006, our growth of customers pushed us above the 8 meg limit of the original ordinance, simultaneously the city increased the capacity of the network from 22 meg to its current 120 meg capacity. Additional changes could bring the network capacity to over 500 meg.
We notified the city that we were over the 8 meg in February of 2006.
At the same time, City Cable notified ISPs that a 3 meg Internet account was available because the capacity of the network had been increased. Again, this was one more indication from the City that the 8 meg limit was no longer in play. Keep in mind that only three customers using 3 meg service would put you over the 8 meg limit.
My company proceeded under good faith for the past four years. Since 2001, my company has paid City Cable $1,100,000 for use of this network.
In April, we started a campaign to educate people that we were a viable option on the City Cable network. Our campaign stated a simple fact “It’s easy to switch from MyCityCable.” I received a phone call from Dave Presley who was very upset with that advertisement and stated, and I quote, “I don’t know what we are gonna do, but we are gonna do something.”
Less than a month later, Bill Bach sent my company a letter stating we could no longer sign up new customers because we were over the original ordinance’s limit of 8 meg. As the letter suggested and within a few hours, I made an offer to cover the overage they were suggesting I was responsible for. But that offer has been ignored and we cannot sign up new customers.
The current capacity is 120 meg and a simple formula shows that the limit should be raised to 43 meg.
Our typical peak is 40 to 43 meg, and we average 25 meg throughout the day.
Mr. Bach has mentioned to me he was frustrated with our marketing campaign.
I have been told that Mr Bach also showed board members a copy of our Wal-Mart billboard ad campaign, as though, our campaign should justify this enforcement of an outdated ordinance.
We can only view that City Cable and Mr Bach have become retaliatory and torturous in nature toward my business.
I spoke with the Utilities Board today and because of new Bond compliance issue that has arisen completely separate from this present issue, the Board refused to directly address my issue.
In other words, City Cable is delaying my ability to resolve this issue.
I do not know what power the City Council has over Mr. Bach and the Advisory Board, but in today’s MU Advisory Board meeting, I was unable to convince them to remove this arbitrary restriction.
I ask that the Council press Mr. Bach to remove his currently imposed and arbitrary restriction until a time that the city ordinance can be adjusted to adequate bandwidth levels for ISPs like mine.
One last note, Charter Communications offers [a single user] a 25 meg connections for $54. My company is paying almost $20,000 per month and being told to limit [all of our 930 customers to a fraction of that].