After nearly two years of work by iVinton, the citizen’s effort to establish a local communications utility, has received a completed feasibility study. After reviewing the study, the group has recommended that five additional areas be explored by subcommittees. The core iVinton committee wants to involve many more community members before a recommendation is made about whether to build a communications network. The group’s goal is to complete the additional research and to have recommendations made within 6 to 8 months.

If you have expertise in one of the areas of further research, or simply wish to be involved in one of the five subcommittees, click here.

The five additional areas requiring further study include detailed investigation of potential partners under a 28E agreement, market research to determine the services residents currently purchase and how much those services cost, consideration of how various telecom options might be harnessed to improve Vinton’s economic competitiveness over the coming decades, consideration of smart grid technology to improve operational effectiveness of city services, and an investigation of alternative methods of raising capital to reduce borrowing costs.

At present the goal is to provide fast reliable internet, cable television and telephone services. The feasibility study looked at what it would take if Vinton took on the project alone. Options for possible partnerships were left for Vinton to determine which potential opportunity best fit our needs.

To understand the market demand for all telecommunications services in Vinton, the group will be asking the community to help in a community-wide market research project. A clear understanding what is being purchased and how much is being paid for those services will provide guidance on the project’s potential for success, and the information could lower the cost of interest should it be constructed. The group also wants to understand the improvements in speed or service the community expects from the communications project.

Some businesses and organizations require dedicated links to other locations for services rather than relying on standard internet traffic that is less secure and literally bounces around many data centers as information is sent and received. An example of this type of connection would be a doctor’s office or hospital with a radiology practice. This and other specialized uses of the telecommunications utility should be considered before construction designs are finalized.

Smart grid technology can be utilized to improve the speed with which the electric utility responds to outages and it can reduce the cost of labor to find the specific cause of an outage, whether that be to an individual location or an entire section of the city. Additional data about load requirements may provide new options to lower peak usage and provide community savings not currently available.

The pro-forma financials for the telecommunications utility are currently based on the assumption that 100% of the project cost would be borrowed and repaid through subscription fees for internet, phone and cable services. Many alternatives exist for raising capital to lower the total amount borrowed, and those alternatives will be reviewed by another subcommittee.

The engineer’s estimate of the project’s cost is $8.9 million financed with loans to be repaid over 20 years. If a recommendation to build the project is given and accepted, the next steps would include financing, final construction designs, and letting bids. A rough estimate of the time required for actual construction is 1 ½ years.

Again, if you’re interested in helping please click here.