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To Click!? or Not to Click!? Tacoma City Council to Decide
The ball is now in the Tacoma City Council's court on the question of the fate of Tacoma's publicly-owned Click! network. That's after the Tacoma Public Utilities board voted to support both keeping the network and leasing it out to a private company.
Click! currently provides cable TV directly to customers. It sells internet wholesale to private, local Internet Service Providers, who then turn around and repackage it for their customers. There seems to be a general consensus that the utility cannot continue to operate as it has been, but that's where the consensus ends. Two possible alternatives for Click!'s future have been kicked around for a while now: to lease the entire business to a private operator, or to keep operating Click! and begin offering internet services directly to customers. On Thursday the TPU board basically said it was okay with either - just not the status quo.
The Lease Option
There have been offers to lease the Click! network from two companies so far: one from the larger Wave Broadband, and one from smaller local ISP, Rainier Connect.
In this scenario TPU would technically maintain ownership of the utility, but would turn over its operation to a private company - either one of the two that have already thrown their hats in the ring, or possibly to another company if one turns up in response to a bid process.
Tacoma could put stipulations on any lease deal, including the provision of low-cost internet to low-income households and retaining a certain number of jobs locally, but would let go of ongoing operational decisions and services. One possible concern with this option moving forward is a question as to whether the City has the right to lease a major part of the public utility without a vote of the public.
Click! Cable + Internet Option
Under this scenario TPU would continue to operate Click!, but staff would come up with a new business, financial, and marketing plan, and the finances of the cable/internet arm of the utility would be separated from TPU's.
Click! would invest in upgrades to allow it to operate gigabit internet service, and would likely buy out the ISPs it currently works with. This would mean that Click! customers would be able to subscribe to both services through Click!, and pay just one bill.
The News Tribune's Kate Martin lays out a few more details of the debate here.
The TNT reports that the TPU board voted 3 to 2 in favor of the option to keep Click! and add internet service for its customers. The board also voted 3 to 2 in favor of the lease option.
Now it's all up to the City Council...
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