Edmonds Council votes to pursue customers for its broadband business

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The Edmonds City Council unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday night to support efforts to pursue customers for the city’s 24 strands of fiber optic cable, which so far have been largely unused by anyone other than the city itself.

A helpful background article on the fiber optic issue appears here, but the main points are this: The city has a valuable broadband service with the potential to generate revenue for the cash-strapped city. Efforts so far to market broadband have been stymied by a poor economy and a year-long delay while the city successfully went to court to secure the right to sell broadband services to private entities.

“We are recovering, renewing and resetting ourselves in spite of the recession,” said Councilmember Michael Plunkett, chair of the Citizens Technology Advisory Committee that presented the resolution to the council for their consideration, along with a white paper on the issue. “We need to reaffirm where we are at and move forward.”

While the city has spent $492,000 to activate the broadband network, it is saving approximately $97,000 annually because it doesn’t have to purchase fiber optic services, and is expected to recoup its investment by 2015, Finance Director Lorenzo Hines told the council. Target markets that the city is looking at include other government entities, private sector businesses, education and medical facilities, Hines said.  A copy of the advisory committee’s white paper is here.

In other action, the council:

-Heard a second quarter budget report and proposed budget adjustments, but wanted more time to study the numbers so will hold a special meeting of the Council Finance Committee next week.

– Voted 6-1 to approve a $10,000 market study — funded by savings from an unfilled development services director position — for a proposed “Green Futures” neighborhood plans for the Westgate and Five Corners neighborhoods, with assistance from the University of Washington. Voting no was Councilmember Lora Petso, who said she feared that this would be “another study that will sit on the shelf” and was also concerned that this may not be the highest priority project the council should be focused on.

– Heard a quarterly update on activities of the Cascade Land Conservancy and Sustainable Edmonds.

– Voted 6-1 (Councilmember Strom Peterson voting no) to issue a request for proposals for city attorney and hearing examiner services, which each have contracts expiring this year.

– Voted unanimously to amend the interlocal agreement with Southwest Snohomish County Public Safety Communications Agency (SNOCOM) to restore membership of Snohomish County Fire District No. 1.

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