Burlington Narrows Down BT Purchasers

September 22, 2017

VTDigger.org reports (https://vtdigger.org/2017/09/20/one-drops-3-bids-burlington-telecom-unve...) that Burlington is winnowing down prospective purchasers for Burlington Telecom. The City Council will decide on October 16 with public meetings scheduled in the next few weeks. Submit your comments to BTfeedback [at] burlingtonvt [dot] gov. Review the proposals here: https://www.burlingtontelecom.com/settlement/

All three bids would include anti-monopoly protections to prevent Burlington Telecom from being sold to a company already providing service in the region, according to City Attorney Blackwood, though the precise nature of those provisions are still being negotiated.

Their purpose would be to ensure Burlington residents have choice among broadband and internet service providers, one of Burlington Telecom’s original aims, not necessarily to prevent its sale to a national telecom giant in the future, Blackwood said.

All three offers also include plans to expand service in Burlington and the region, pay for the infrastructure needs of the company and commitments to net neutrality, or equal access to all online content.

The bidders also say they’re uniformly committed to leaving Burlington Telecom’s management team largely in place, while also maintaining or expanding local customer service.

More information on all three bids can be found at https://www.burlingtontelecom.com/settlement/

As previously reported, two offers come from established telecommunications companies. One is from Ting and its Toronto-based parent company Tucows. Tucows is publicly traded (NASDAQ: TCX).

Ting’s bid is a $27.5 million cash offer with an additional $500,000 if Burlington Telecom exceeds financial targets in the current fiscal year. They would also cover the estimated $800,000 cost of removing Burlington Telecom equipment from Memorial Auditorium. The company would give $250,000 toward Burlington Ignite, and other local tech ventures and community projects.

Ting provides service to 280,000 mobile devices in the United States and operates fiber networks in Charlottesville, Virginia; Westminster, Maryland; Holly Springs, North Carolina; and is building networks in Sandpoint, Idaho, and Centennial, Colorado.

In a letter of intent, Ting officials write that they have “never subsequently sold an asset we’ve acquired.”

Indiana-based Schurz Communications, which operates Antietam Broadband, is offering $30.8 million cash with a possible increase if Burlington Telecom exceeds financial targets this year. The company is also willing to discuss paying to remove equipment from Memorial Auditorium.

Schurz Communications is a privately held fifth-generation family-owned business, with a publishing company that includes more than a dozen outlets in the Midwest, and broadband services.

The third offer is from Keep Burlington Telecom Local, which is offering $12 million, with $10.5 million cash. The proposal relies on a $1.5 million investment from the city, which would allow Burlington to retain a 12.5 percent ownership stake.

KBTL is proposing a co-operative ownership model, wherein all existing subscribers would automatically become co-op members, eligible for rebates and a role in Burlington Telecom’s governance.

Both bids from the telecommunications companies would allow the city to retain a 20 percent ownership stake in Burlington Telecom, or possibly more if regulators and other parties to the sale allow it.

The lion’s share of the co-op’s cash would come as a $10 million loan from Maine Fiber Co. Maine Fiber would also serve as a partner with experience operating a fiber network that serves national telecom companies, local service providers, businesses and the University of Maine.

The co-op has an additional $500,000 it raised through the local crowd-funding site Milk Money. Its bid has enjoyed vocal support from residents at public meetings.

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