PRINCETON — The future of broadband Over Power Lines (BPL) continues to be a bone of contention within the Princeton City Council.
At this week’s meeting, Commissioner Joel Quiram said he has felt misled for two years on the financial viability of the BPL program. He had understood the service brings in about $16,000 a year in revenue with 230 customers. But that number does not factor in labor costs. In actuality, annual revenue from BPL, after expenses, is more like $4,000, he said.
Mayor Keith Cain said Princeton City Manager Jeff Clawson and Superintendent of Electric and Telecommunications Jason Bird are working on numbers with outside sources dealing with the fiber optic/BPL service.
In his comments, Commissioner Ray Mabry said BPL has served its original purpose in providing high speed Internet to residents and giving the city a triggering point for private sectors to come forward. However, that purpose has been completed, and his recommendation was to get out of BPL service as of Jan. 1, Mabry said.
Quiram continued looking at the revenue side of BPL to the city, saying the city of Princeton gets about $3 a month per customer from its BPL service. Since the city is no longer taking new BPL customers, as of about five months ago, the customer base isn’t going anywhere, and expenses will continue to go up. He called BPL dead technology.
Commissioner Bob Warren said he disagreed with Quiram and he thinks Quiram is distorting the facts.
“The whole story needs to be told. We are making $4,000 a year, and we are not in the red with this project,” Warren said. “I don’t see any negative here. We are making money on it.”
In response, Quiram conceded the city is making $4,000 a year, after losing its shirt since the start of BPL in 2005.
Cain said he does not know the city has lost its shirt on BPL. There are differing opinions, and the numbers before the council may not be completely accurate. At the time the city brought in BPL, the city couldn’t get anyone else to bring anything into the community. The city is not now losing money on BPL, he said.
Cain said there are also other city services, like the garbage collection truck, which cost the city money that are not covered by rates.
In his comments, Commissioner Ray Swanson thanked Quiram for bringing the issue before the council for discussion.
“It’s good for the city to look at its options and determine where we go from here,” Swanson said. “Before we make any decision to just abandon it for the 203 people, or whatever are in deed using BPL, we owe it to at least look at options and make a decision once we have those before us.”
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