Archive for Wednesday, March 5, 2008

City Commission briefs

March 5, 2008


City says $4.9m Freenet plan too risky

City commissioners aren't interested in partnering with Lawrence Freenet to expand wireless internet access in the community. Enlarge video

Commissioners consider special district tax to finance development

A unique plan to finance improvements to a new development in northwest Lawrence is up for discussion at tonight's City Commission meeting. Enlarge video

Freenet proposal seen as too risky

City commissioners aren't interested in partnering with Lawrence Freenet to expand wireless Internet access in the community.

A majority of city commissioners Tuesday evening said the proposal by Freenet presented too much financial risk for the city. Freenet was asking the city to back a $4.9 million private loan that Freenet and its for-profit partner are seeking from a bank.

Freenet was offering to start a program to provide free wireless Internet access to Lawrence youths in exchange for the city's help. But commissioners said they feared that Freenet would not be successful in adding the necessary number of paying customers to make the project work, and that the city would be responsible for paying off the loan. Commissioners said they hadn't seen hard numbers showing that large numbers of Lawrence youths did not have adequate Internet access.

Commissioners were concerned that the proposal was not fair to other Internet service providers operating in the Lawrence market. Both AT&T; and Sunflower Broadband urged commissioners to reject the plan based on financial concerns and fairness issues.

Sunflower Broadband is owned by The World Company, which is the parent company of the Journal-World.

Revisions approved to Bauer Farms plan

Plans for a "New Urbanism" development of retail, offices and residential units at Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive cleared another hurdle at Tuesday's commission meeting.

Commissioners agreed to revise the preliminary development plan of Bauer Farms, slated for the northeast corner of the intersection. The major revisions to the plan involved adding a right-in-only access point along Sixth Street, just east of Wakarusa Drive. It also involved expanding an access point along Sixth Street near Champion Lane, and allowing for a median break along Wakarusa Drive to allow cars wanting to turn left out of the development to do so.

Developers of the project said the new access points were critical to landing retail tenants for the project. The developers said they're close to finalizing a lease with CVS Pharmacy to be the anchor tenant for the development.

Commissioners approved the plan on a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Boog Highberger opposed. He said the commercial part of the project could do a better job of adhering to New Urbanism design, which is a concept that mimics older, more traditional neighborhood design.

Commission quorum remains at 4 members

Commissioners routinely approved a provision establishing the City Commission quorum at four members.

The provision allows two members of the commission to discuss city business privately without violating the state's opening meetings law.

A quorum is the number of commissioners needed to hold a meeting. State law prohibits a majority of commissioners from privately discussing city business. State law normally would set the quorum of a five-member commission at three members, but cities have the ability to pass a special ordinance changing the number.

The city has passed such an ordinance since the mid-1990s.


compmd 10 years, 1 month ago

Well, I guess the city commission did a good job of communicating that they don't want progress and innovation in Lawrence. Its sad that cities all over the country are pouring municipal money (read: tax dollars) into wireless programs without problems from the local telcos and broadband companies, yet in Lawrence, a company developed a municipal wireless network at zero cost to the city, and the city wants nothing to do with it . And the pressure on the city comes mainly from a local monopoly that tremendously fears any sort of local competition.

As a side note, I find it funny that three of the commissioners advertise their email addresses to the public.

This is a disgrace.

workinghard 10 years, 1 month ago

freenet has not provided service to North Lawrence or old East Lawrence, they say they can't because of trees and the grain elevator. If these areas cannot be included then the commission was justified in balking.

secfed 10 years, 1 month ago

We never heard the final rendering of the non profit Freenet comingling funds with the for profit Community Wireless. And the free use of city owned towers by both entities. One would think this should be reconclied before co-signing a 4.2 million dollar loan with them shouldn't it?

compmd 10 years, 1 month ago

ottr, I completely agree with you.

Note that this is not something I'm known to say to anyone with "right" in their handle. :)

jaydubya 10 years, 1 month ago

This proposal never seemed to have a chance, and I think that it's not all the commission's fault. Freenet currently has 1,300 or so members, and they claimed in their presentation that they could pay for their improvements if they reached 6,600 members within the next 2 years (I think that was the time frame). Frankly, I don't see how that will happen. "Free"net is $20 a month, plus another $8 if your location can't pick up their wireless signal without assistance (which is almost everywhere). Freenet is a non-profit in that they re-invest their income toward community assistance, but they still have to make their money. They have lofty goals, but when listening to their proposal, I found myself quite hesitant that they could really make this work.

Another thing that the commissioners didn't like was that Freenet was telling the city what their needs were regarding internet access. The commissioners want to find out if there really is a need for this service. If they do, the city really should have an RFP, letting everyone bid. Maybe something good could come out of this, like Sunflower deciding to use the infrastructure it already has (which freenet wants to duplicate) to provide free access to the city or children (though I highly doubt it).

Before bashing the commissioners on this issue, remember that freenet needs to grow 900% in the next 2 years for their project to break even.... that's a risky venture that the city would be backing, and a lot of money to back it up with

unite2revolt 10 years, 1 month ago

love the freenet google ad in the ljw, btw.

toefungus 10 years, 1 month ago

Freenet is better off without public subsidies. Wireless should ultimately be cheaper and easier to maintain, giving this type of provider a competitive advantage. Call the Koch Foundation for a loan. They love competition.

Raider 10 years, 1 month ago

I am a Freenet subscriber, and I enjoy their service. I don't mind paying $20 per month for it. If Sunflower weren't so expensive, I would have gone with them. I live on the east side, close to the fairgrounds, and I have had good luck with them so far.

The fact that they (Sunflower) wanted to charge me an additional $10/mo for internet b/c I wouldn't subscribe to their cable package was what made my decision. Their not the only trick in town now, and I'm not forced to use them.

And this is just my opinion, but I seriously doubt execs from AT&T showed up at a Lawrence city commission meeting to fight this. Anyone with any sense in their head should know who/what the driving force behind this was.

dipweed 10 years, 1 month ago

If this was such a great deal the bank doing the loan wouldn't require the City to guarantee a $4 million loan. This is a doubly bad idea in this economic climate when either this money would have to be set aside or else taxes raised (over 5 mils) to raise the $4.X million. FreeNet should stop relying on the City to fund their business for them.

compmd 10 years, 1 month ago

toefungus, what subsidies? There were NO public dollars asked for by Freenet.

dipweed, there is NO requirement to have the city guarantee the loan. Read the proposal that Freenet gave. It was the preferred method of financing. And in case you were not aware, Freenet does not rely on the city at all to fund their business. It is one (if not the only) municipal wireless provider that has NO money coming in from the city whatsoever.

youvegottobekiddingme 10 years, 1 month ago

And this is just my opinion, but I seriously doubt execs from AT&T showed up at a Lawrence city commission meeting to fight this. Anyone with any sense in their head should know who/what the driving force behind this was.

Did you actually go to the meeting or watch it on t.v., idiot? The man that spoke after the Sunflower General Manager was from AT&T.

God, you guys are idiots.

AT&T is Sunflower's competition. If you don't want one you can go to the other. THAT IS NOT A MONOPOLY.

youvegottobekiddingme 10 years, 1 month ago

exclusive control of a commodity or service in a particular market, or a control that makes possible the manipulation of prices. Compare duopoly, oligopoly.
2. an exclusive privilege to carry on a business, traffic, or service, granted by a government.
3. the exclusive possession or control of something.
4. something that is the subject of such control, as a commodity or service.
5. a company or group that has such control.
6. the market condition that exists when there is only one seller.


Both companies offer television, internet, & phone.


Godot 10 years ago

Looks like Philadelphia, San Francisco and other big cities have tried, and failed, at this same idea: why? because the costs are much higher than expected, and profits are unachievable.

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