By Greg Friestad
I have lived in Payson for 41 years and for 25 of those years I was an engineering manager and fiber optic engineer for CenturyLink.
I have been involved as part of the Broadband Consortium for several years. My primary goal is to bring “redundant” internet service to Rim Country. The definition of “redundant” is a fiber network that has an immediate automatic backup in the event of a cut cable. REDUNDANT = NO SERVICE INTERRUPTIONS.
I am happy to see that the APS fiber team was represented at the Town Council Meeting November 21, 2019. I want to say thank you again for stepping up to provide fiber capacity so that any transport company can have a path for redundant service. Dominic Pagliuca stated,”We are still waiting for a comprehensive pricing structure from APS for the transport companies.”
The State Commerce Authority has allocated $3M in grants to help support rural broadband reliability and there may also be some funding available from the Town of Payson. Several companies are competing for these funds.
My concern at the meeting was that not all of the companies competing to provide redundant internet were invited to the meeting. A simple call to Teri Orman the State Grants & Procurement Manager or a visit to their web page would provide a list of these competing companies (602) 845-1200. I know that APS (Dominic) is currently working with one or more of these other companies.
On May 30th this year Cable One made a presentation to the Town of Payson in an attempt to have $900,000 budgeted to help them build their facilities. My E-mailed objections at having only one company competing for Payson funds was turned into an open meeting law complaint because the FORMER Town Manager collaborated with a member of the council to file a bogus complaint. We now have a similar scenario occurring again. Only one viable internet provider, Sparklight, was invited to make a presentation. Two weeks ago at the Chamber Luncheon Sparklight publicly confirmed again that their plan will not provide “redundant” internet. They also confirmed at that luncheon that the MHA Foundation paid them a substantial sum (reportedly $2M) to bring a new fiber cable to the MHA property. Did the use of MHA Foundation funds essentially created a partnership between Sparklight and the MHA Foundation?
It seems that the MHA Foundation still has deep ties to town staff. Especially when you realize that the acting Town Manager is Secretary of the MHA board. This creates the appearance of a conflict of interest which is amplified because no internet provisioning companies other than Sparklight were invited to the council meeting. I have contacted several of the other companies to confirm this, and the answer from all of them was no, they were not invited.
Only companies that can provide mission critical redundant solutions should be considered for any funding by the Town of Payson or the State Commerce Authority. Neither Sparklight or Gila County’s Ammon Idaho Plan meet those qualifications.
In my opinion the acting Town Manager seems to be advocating for Sparklight.
The story in the Roundup newspaper was completely one-sided in favor of Sparklight, and even went so far as to write, “APS had not committed to bringing cable into Payson – unless it’s paid for.” This is NOT what I heard APS say at the meeting.
The minutes for this meeting have not yet been posted. You can watch it on video at the link below, the place in the video that talks about APS and no cost to the community is at 44:22: