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Wicked Broadband project seeks $500,000 city grant; downtown hotel project seeks adjustment to incentives package; historical society seeks $20k for new exhibit

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Reading the agenda for Tuesday night’s Lawrence City Commission meeting is kind of like reading my household’s credit card bill: There are plenty of questions, and all the answers seem to have dollar signs.

There are three outside organizations requesting financial assistance from the city, with two of them each asking for a half-million dollars.

We’ll try to fill in more details later, but here’s a look at the basics of the requests:

• Lawrence-based Wicked Broadband announced last month that it will start a pilot project to bring super fast 1-Gigabit Internet service to a neighborhood later this year.

A kick-off event for the project spelled out a lot of details about how the company, which previously did business as Lawrence Freenet, could bring the same type of high-speed Internet service to Lawrence that Google Fiber is bringing to Kansas City. At that event, the idea of financial incentives from the city wasn’t envisioned. Well, it is now.

The company has filed an application for a $500,000 economic development grant from the city, plus is asking to receive up to a $20,000 a year rebate in franchise fees it pays to the city. It also wants to have the right to enter into $10 per year leases to use a portion of new fiber optic cables that the city plans to install throughout the community in future years.

Joshua Montgomery, co-owner of Wicked Broadband, said there are several factors that have caused him to rethink the need for city incentives for the project. But perhaps the largest is that he’s been contacted by several significant New York-based capital investment companies that are interested in investing in a locally owned, high-speed Internet service. Those investors have made it clear that the city of Lawrence needs to do something to show that it is committed to the idea of bringing a high-speed network to the city.

“If the city says that it is behind it 100 percent, that opens the door for the next $30 million in private funding that will be needed to spread this service to the rest of the community,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery said the $500,000, one-time grant would allow the service territory for the pilot project to grow to 1,000 households, up from 500. The neighborhood or neighborhoods haven’t been selected yet. Wicked is taking pre-registrations for the service on its website. The neighborhood with the highest percentage of residents pre-registered will serve as the pilot project. An announcement is expected June 15.

Montgomery said he and his business partner and wife, Lawrence school board member Kris Adair, are putting up $500,000 in private money for the pilot project.

City commissioners on Tuesday aren’t being asked to approve the request. Instead, Tuesday’s vote is just to direct city staff to begin analyzing it.

Wicked Broadband’s service will be a direct competitor to existing Internet providers, such as Knology and AT&T, which generally do not receive such city subsidies. So, it will be interesting to hear what those companies have to say as the process unfolds.

As for Montgomery, he said he’ll argue that the city won’t be making an investment in a private company as much as it will be making an investment in a new infrastructure system that will be critical to future commerce. “It is an economic enabler,” Montgomery said.

•••

The second request comes from a group led by Lawrence businessman Doug Compton, which is seeking to build a new hotel at the southeast corner of Ninth and New Hampshire.

It is a bit more complicated to understand, and I’ll try to get a better handle on the numbers before Tuesday’s meeting. But the request seeks to raise the amount of Tax Increment Finance dollars the hotel is eligible to receive to $4 million, up from $3.5 million.

Unlike the Wicked Broadband request, this doesn’t involve the city writing a $500,000 check to the development. Instead, a TIF allows the project to get a rebate on a certain percentage of the property taxes it pays. It is kind of like a tax abatement, except the money has to be used to pay for infrastructure type of expenses. In this case, that includes a private parking garage for the hotel.

What makes it a bit complicated is that the developers also have proposed a multistory apartment/office project for the northeast corner of the intersection. It also uses Tax Increment Financing. It looks like a likely option is to increase the amount of TIF money available for the southeast corner hotel project by reducing the amount of projected TIF revenues available to the northeast corner apartment project.

If that is ultimately what happens, then the overall amount of incentive basically would be a wash. We’ll have to see how those details work out.

The more interesting part is what developers have said about the hotel project. It has had its necessary building approvals for months, but hasn’t yet started construction. A letter to the city now makes it clear that there are financial questions the investors are trying to answer.

Bill Fleming, an attorney for the development group, told the city in a letter that “the hotel investors are keenly interested in the ‘cost per key,’ which is the average cost for each hotel room.”

If the additional $500,000 in TIF money is not available to the hotel project, then that will raise the average cost per room the investors must pay.

“The investors may conclude the project is not feasible at that cost per key, and the project in that case will not proceed,” Fleming wrote.

That would be a major turn of events for the project, which faced stiff opposition from the adjacent East Lawrence neighborhood, and had to fight hard to win city approval.

•••

Maybe the folks at the Douglas County Historical Society are more than just masters of history. Perhaps they also are masters of timing. After those two big-ticket items, they are asking for a mere $20,000 in city funding. The money will be used to help fund a permanent exhibit on the second floor of the Watkins Museum commemorating the 150th anniversary of Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence.

The new exhibit is set to open on Aug. 17, and will “explore Douglas County’s history, issues that shaped the development of the community, and events that made it a focus of national attention.”

Ultimately, the exhibit will be expanded to the third floor of the museum. The bulk of the nearly $257,000 in exhibit costs has come from private individuals, businesses and grants.

City staff members are recommending approval of the $20,000 in funding. The money would come from the city’s guest tax fund, which receives its revenue from the guest tax charged at hotel and motel rooms.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday.

Comments

Douglas Thompson 1 year, 7 months ago

Why is it every time Wicked/Freenet/Whatever They Are Called Today is in the news, they are asking the city to give them something? Free access to water towers, discounted access to right aways, $500,000.

somebodynew 1 year, 7 months ago

And why is it, that if the City wants to show it's "committed", it has to come with a $500,000 check -and ONLY to this guy ??? I think committed might be the correct word if the City goes for this, but with a slightly different meaning.

ljwhirled 1 year, 7 months ago

They are also in the news in Wired Magazine. That is a first for a Lawrence technology company: http://bit.ly/12NGXuq

The City of Lawrence is second from last in economic development. Perhaps we should give something else a try.

After 8 years of operations, we have a 3rd ISP in our community. One that is locally owned. How many medium sized cities can say that. Instead of whining like babies, maybe we should provide some support for a local infrastructure project.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

In an article that curiously has the comments disabled.

NotImpressed 1 year, 7 months ago

With 3 ISPs, all at fairly competitive price points, how is commerce not already enabled with respect to reasonably-priced telecom services? And how would this make anything any different.

If there is something else that we need to try, why would what we need to try have to do with telecom services?

It's not about whining, it's about using scarce resources in the areas that it will have the greatest impact. Count me a no on this boondoggle. They already have preferential treatment. Where/what are the benefits of that endeavor? A half mil is a bit steep for this city. A top 50 market, maybe.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

The rights of way thing is actually pretty standard. Any ISP laying fiber would need that access. Perhaps they could tie the grant to reclaiming ownership of the fiber should Montgomery reneg on any of his promises.

ksrover 1 year, 7 months ago

The city has given Freenet quite a lot over the past 8 years. Sounds like a good open records request.

And what ever happened to the Community Wireless (Freenet's for-profit side) deal 2 years ago?

Keith 1 year, 7 months ago

Regarding the hotel, we must give the already wealthy everything they ask for, then listen to them gripe about the 47% takers.

jack22 1 year, 7 months ago

It's time for the city to get Doug Compton his own charity meter like the ones we set up downtown to help the homeless. Anytime anyone wants to help Doug buy a new apartment complex or jet airplane they can drop their spare change into a meter in front of his hotel. I'll be the first to donate my fifty cents to buy the meter so Doug doesn't have to stand on the sidewalk all day with his hat in his hand asking us for another hand out.

Amy Heeter 1 year, 7 months ago

Just say no to Joshua, Freenet, wicked and New York city.

average 1 year, 7 months ago

Everyone who saw this coming, feel free to send in another $10 to a project with no 'here's how many people we need in neighborhood X' nor any timeline.

But, you can be pretty sure he'll be at city hall again, real soon now.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

Why aren't we sending in that proposal to Google?

ljwhirled 1 year, 7 months ago

Google got free office space at city hall, free locations to host their servers, free access to fiber in the right-of-way and $10 pole attachments.

Provo sold Google $40,000,000 worth of fiber for $1. Then had to spend another $500,000 mapping fiber that they had lost.

Just something to think about.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

Yeah, but they're actually following through with their promises to give free Internet access to poor people.

ljwhirled 1 year, 7 months ago

First Off, Google's "Free" internet costs $300 up front or $25/Mo. Not very free.

And Wicked Broadband Doesn't? Their presentation lists the Lawrence Housing Authority, Habitat for Humanity, the Homeless Shelter, O'Connell Youth Ranch.....

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

Google's free is the cost of installation only (which can be paid off monthly), and the service will continue to be free for seven years. Their free includes hospitals, schools, and libraries, and doesn't include a series of broken promises or a cap of "up to 10%."

NotImpressed 1 year, 7 months ago

I know someone at one of the schools, and Google is now changing their story. So much for their promises.

Dan Blomgren 1 year, 7 months ago

I can't get over the jealousy you all have for Compton. You hate him because he is successful! And do you know why he is successful? It's because he makes smart business decisions just like he is doing here. He's playing within the law to try to make his deals as good as he can. Wouldn't you do the same thing?
His net worth doesn't matter in this decision at all. What matters is whether or not this project is financially sound? End of discussion!

gccs14r 1 year, 7 months ago

So if Compton doesn't build his hotel, maybe the lot can be converted to greenspace and we can again have an outdoor movie venue downtown.

Jonathan Fox 1 year, 7 months ago

Yeah, cause that will bring in tons of jobs and tax income for the city...

Matthew Herbert 1 year, 7 months ago

The city can't SERIOUSLY be considering giving Wicked BadFreenet half a million dollars, right?

average 1 year, 7 months ago

I think you can be assured that they won't. There was nobody with standing to sue that they were getting the shaft on the library or rec center (other contractors on the latter project, but there was a bidding process of a sort).

If the city gives an unencumbered nickel to Montgomery, AT&T and WOWWAY will have lawsuits filed before the end of that commission meeting.

Bud Stagg 1 year, 7 months ago

Mr. Compton, Gamble with your own money. That hotel will not do much for the economy or provide good jobs. It will probably displace another hotel. I don't think the city should be a part of putting one hotel out of business or putting another in business.

If Mr. Compton wants to bring some new industry or high paying jobs to town, then we can talk.

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

It's very unlikely that investors didn't have the same questions before the project was approved, and could have make these requests at that time.

Getting the project approved without asking and then tacking on this request now seems very manipulative to me.

nouseforaname 1 year, 7 months ago

Please don't give any more money to Josh Montgomery. He's really good at telling people what they want to hear and then never fulfilling those visions. Plus, because he's a "local" service he seems to believe that the City needs to subsidize his operations. How many of the Freenet subscribers were low-income? I bet it falls way short of his initial pitch that he told the Commission. The sad thing is, there's no way for the City to recoup any of the money once it gets handed over to Montgomery and he falls way short on his promises.

As for Compton, does Lawrence have vacancy problems with hotel rooms? I can't imagine that there's that many people visiting Lawrence often enough to support another hotel. I understand KU events bring in people, but those are specific events and we have a lot if hotels it seems like already. While I appreciate development of the downtown area, I don't want to see another Riverfront Mall failure (which, ironically, is now partially a hotel) just because some developer only sees the money to be immediately made in construction.

Keith 1 year, 7 months ago

But, but, Fritzel owns a hotel, so Doug has to have one too.

Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 7 months ago

It sounds like something I have read in a Travis McGee novel, where his friend falls for a scam and then Travis has to pick up the pieces. I mean, I am a grandmother and this smells like three day old fish to me.

grammaddy 1 year, 7 months ago

Freenet sucks as an internet provider. I doubt if it will b e any better as WICKED.

ljwhirled 1 year, 7 months ago

Here is a speed test on the 10 Mbps I pay for. Does your ISP over deliver?

Current Speeds on Wicked Broadband WIRELESS link.

Current Speeds on Wicked Broadband WIRELESS link. by ljwhirled

optimist 1 year, 7 months ago

I know Compton is the guy that everyone likes to hate, but I can't understand why. Is it envy because his is bigger than yours (bank account of course)? While I have no doubt that Compton does okay for himself I'm betting he isn't a fraction as "rich" as some of the haters out there assume. His project will bring jobs, some short-term and others long-term. The people that get these jobs will be glad to have them even if some of you don't think the jobs are worthwhile. These are two completely different projects we are talking about here. While the Wicked proposal is essentially a draw from the City's coffers, the Compton project will result in net gains to the city in the form of property taxes. Compton isn’t asking for anything from the city. He is simply requesting to offset some of his costs (some of it city infrastructure around the area) in the form of reducing his property tax costs for a defined period of time. Even during the period for which the property tax breaks occur the gain in property tax revenue to the city will be higher than either of the properties currently brings. Only a fool would look at that as a bad investment from the city’s perspective. As for shifting business from other hotels I have a couple of things to say to that. That assumes the city will not grow or draw in outside events, etc. With the additional hotel space the city can compete for additional outside events that it would otherwise not be able to compete for. The rooms must come first in order to court these events. As for competing against other hotels, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Bringing in newer facilities will encourage other hotels to provide competitive amenities, services and pricing in order to compete. That’s never a bad thing for the consumers. The more people from outside Lawrence that come here to visit the more that will be spent by them and the more revenue to the city to provide things like the library and other projects.

jack22 1 year, 7 months ago

Compton is having his property taxes abated for twenty years so he'll be paying the same amount on the hotel as he would if it were still a vacant lot. He'll also be charging a special tax at the hotel so we'll also be helping him pay for a private parking garage because the public one he took over next door for his apartment building isn't going to be big enough to handle the added congestion his hotel will bring. I don't think it's jealousy that feeds people's dislike of Doug, it's more the fact that Doug is often taking much and in return giving us back more low paying maid, laundry, and dishwasher jobs. We should be saving our tax incentives for projects that bring new industry to our town and better paying jobs that might get us off the bottom of the worst performing cities list. Compton is more a part of the problem with our city than a viable solution to our economic woes.

optimist 1 year, 7 months ago

Sounds like a great plan but until the snobs in this town stop turning their noses up at jobs that they characterize as not being good enough and stop placing stupid demands on every business that shows an interest in coming here nobody is going to come here and bring jobs. The word is out amongst those that would bring business here and the word is that Lawrence is not a friendly place to do business. People need dishwasher jobs and maid jobs as much or more than tech jobs. You clearly demonstrate that you have no clue how to grow this city.

jack22 1 year, 7 months ago

Ok, I'm open to new ideas, how do you propose we grow the city? Do you think we can get people from KC and Topeka to come here with their dirty clothes and we can promote Lawrence as a great place to do laundry?

pizzapete 1 year, 7 months ago

Optimist, you're right, people are just envious of Compton because they know that when they open a new business they'll have to take on all the risks and expenses that go with it themselves. They won't have the advantage of having the tax payers to help them make sure their new project is economically feasible. It's hard for new people and new businesses to get in on the action if the game is so obviously rigged.

Bike 1 year, 7 months ago

I believe the property taxes have already been abated.

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

I love this combination:

Compton isn't asking for anything from the city. He is simply requesting to offset his costs...

optimist 1 year, 7 months ago

So you don’t see a difference in asking the city to cut a check and the city simply not demanding a check from him? I don’t see his getting a tax reduction as taking anything from the city as the source of the money is not the city but rather the individual. As part of this project the city will receive infrastructure improvements to the area paid for by the builder. The city gets the benefit of that and the tax revenue that the jobs that are provided and the visitors that will stay there will bring. That in my eyes is a far better “investment” than cutting a check for some Google Fiber wannabe’s folly. I realize this concept is a little hard for some to get their heads around but that’s probably why Lawrence falls so low on the list of places to do business. Too many that think like you…

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

If he weren't asking for anything from the city, he wouldn't be asking for a tax abatement/incentive/etc.

What? Tax revenue may come from individuals, but goes to the city - when they abate it, that means less revenue for the city, less revenue to spend on public uses. It's not intended to "offset costs" for private developers.

If there are public infrastructure improvements necessary, the city should collect taxes and make those improvements.

Let the private sector operate as it should, and the public operate as it should, rather than these murky mish-mashes of public/private.

Actually, there are few in positions of power in Lawrence that think as I do, otherwise these sorts of tax abatements wouldn't be used.

Lane Signal 1 year, 7 months ago

When the city leaders look at Mr. Montgomery's track record, I think they should see a string of unfulfilled goals, but more than that, I think they will see a string of sneaky and deceptive business practices. Freenet was represented as a grass roots, nonprofit organization created to bring internet to the masses. It never really worked that way and the number of lower income beneficiaries was limited. Freenet may have been nonprofit, but it was designed to turn a profit on the support side. Now he wants us to pony up a huge pile of cash. I think not. It might be different if there was a track record of good faith effort and success realizing goals.

ljwhirled 1 year, 7 months ago

Yeah, how dare he build a local ISP from scratch! We'd much rather some corporate whale come and take our money out of town.

Patricia Davis 1 year, 7 months ago

Let him build his ISP with his own scratch.

Lane Signal 1 year, 7 months ago

I'm all for local, grass roots efforts. If there were someone local that I trusted and believed in asking the city to pony up $500K to make reasonably priced super fast internet happen in Lawrence, I'd lend an excited voice to say, "Yes, please". I don't trust Montgomery and I think there is reason not to. I'd rather the city give $500K to Google if Google is willing to bring fiber to Lawrence. Giving our money to a big corporation who can deliver the service is better than giving it to someone I don't believe will deliver and I don't trust.

Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

The demographics of Lawrence are very favorable to supporting a high speed internet system. This is one area where the market certainly doesn't need taxpayer support. While I certainly would prefer the involvement of a local REPUTABLE company, I simply don't have a whole lot of faith in Mr. Montgomery's track record. I say let the free market control what happens.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

Honestly, the free market has done a crappy job of getting ultra high speed Internet to anywhere in the US. That's why Google stepped in, and they didn't do so with just free market. They got city concessions in every place they've chosen.

I don't mind taxpayer support. I think it's worthwhile and about the only way we'll get it done. I'm just dubious about Wicked Broadband and the company's ability to deliver on promises.

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

Then there's not a real need/demand, otherwise the private sector would fill it.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

So there's not a real need or demand for farms to have phone access or electricity? The only reason they do is because we've legally required companies to string the wires in order to stay in business.

Not having a real need or demand is also different from having a high cost of entry into the marketplace. It would be expensive but not impossible for the city to build out their own fiber network. The city has even looked into it. However, it would be cheaper and easier to create a public/private partnership to get the city that access.

I'm just not sold that this particular partnership is the way to go.

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

Well, ok.

Needs that exist that the private sector won't fill because they're not profitable enough should be filled by the public sector, in my view. And/or we can simply require that private companies do it.

I am greatly opposed to public/private partnerships - I think you get the worst of both worlds that way.

Does everybody in the country "need" ultra fast internet service? I don't need it.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

Just because you don't think you need it doesn't mean that it isn't a huge deal for the community. When it comes down to it, you don't need electricity, either. If we actually want those high tech, high paying jobs in Lawrence, they're going to need a lot of available bandwidth. This is like the comparison of global math test results. The USA is falling behind in network speeds, but we don't even see it.

I'd be behind an initiative for the city to build our own fiber network. It's one of many options I'd like to see us explore.

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

And, just because some think we need it doesn't mean we actually do, right? I also think we don't need the new sports complex.

It's not like the math scores - I think children should be learning math. And, not just because of the "global competition" element, but just because it's a useful skill, and a basic one that our educational system should teach.

I'm not all that interested in competing with everybody about everything - there's no need for that. It's fine with me if some other countries are "ahead" of us in some regards, and "behind" in others.

One of the things that Obama is gung ho about that makes me a bit uncomfortable is this sort of thing, the idea that we have to continually compete with the rest of the world. Why?

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

I'll agree with you on the sports complex, but it's not the same thing at all. This is more like insisting the telegraph is just fine when someone proposes a phone system. Or insisting we don't need broadband because you've already got dialup.

We're talking about the speed of information access, and that is something that matters. Increased independence for the elderly and disabled. Students who could find virtual tutors on another continent. Small business developers who don't need to relocate to the more expensive big city in order to get access to clients. Mom and pop businesses that can set up shop and thrive without a commercial structure. We're talking about the speed and availability of first responders. Enhanced research for KU. Increased access to telemedicine. Smartgrid infrastructure. High quality jobs.

The city could build the infrastructure, but that means you're stuck with a larger portion of the bill than if we have the dreaded public/private partnership and allowed you to opt out of the service you claim you don't need.

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

And, there may be any number of people who are just fine with the existing internet services.

Only a few of your items sound appealing to me, but I'm not sure they're necessary.

But, if the city does it, that means that we have (or should have) a robust discussion/debate about whether or not we need it, and how much it will cost. These murky partnerships seem to happen all the time without that.

Then, you and others can make your case, and the rest of us can analyze it and consider it.

The sports complex is sold in the same way - we need it, it's an improvement, will help the city, etc. Those in favor say the same kinds of things you're saying. I'm skeptical about all of these things with all of these projects. Right now is a very bad time to be "investing" in such projects - as state support drops, local areas will have to increase local taxes to cover basic services and things like schools.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

Generally broadband has about a 65% adoption rate, so if you really want it to be up to a city vote (unlike Rock Chalk, which had neither true robust discussion nor a vote), you'd probably lose.

65% isn't everyone. But it's more than half.

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

So be it, if that's the case.

But, is your 65% a Lawrence statistic, or a much broader one?

NotImpressed 1 year, 7 months ago

Not to mention that this is all a play to get NY investment in his corner. Why should the taxpayers be doing that? If he can do that, well I want the city to back me so I can bag some investment cash, too

waitjustaminute 1 year, 7 months ago

Free money, just show with a half-baked plan, give some lame excuses about how it's needed for this and that, and then wait for the checkbook to open. All the while, basic city services go underfunded, delayed and scoffed at. And it it's this bad at the local level, just imagine how screwed the system is at the state and federal levels.

patkindle 1 year, 7 months ago

amazing, how soon we forget, I remember everyone oohing and aahing about how wonderful freenet was because they helped po folk and were competition to sunflower you folks sure changed horses in midstream plus know you can only cuss the journal world for their paper and not the internet, must be frustrating for you

Tomato 1 year, 7 months ago

If the city was going to spend 500k on showing it's committed to improving its infrastructure - why wouldn't it spend that money on trying to entice Google here instead of spending it on trying entice New York venture capitalists?

ljwhirled 1 year, 7 months ago

Google isn't coming to Lawrence. They are going to Austin where there is a tech hub and Provo where they got free fiber.

I guess we could spend 500k and change our name to "Google". They still won't build it though. The City doesn't own the utility poles and the business environment is hostile.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

We haven't put in another request to Google, so we don't know that they're not coming. You're just guessing.

hs_reader 1 year, 7 months ago

Did everyone miss this or is it old news by now? "What makes it a bit complicated is that the developers also have proposed a multistory apartment/office project for the northeast corner of the intersection."

So they want to build another building at that intersection? Is there not enough vacant office space in the downtown area? Or housing? I hope they put in a stop light and not a roundabout a block from Mass street like I've heard they want to do. Not very pedestrian friendly.

Lawrence Morgan 1 year, 7 months ago

ljwhirled - thank you for your excellent comments. Lawrence needs a high speed internet badly and I, for one, appreciate what you've written here.

I am all in favor of a local ISP (Internet Service Provider). Could you give more information on the speeds so that the average person could understand it?

In a different area, If Lawrence had a local power service - which I think at one time was a possibility - much would be possible. But Lawrence, like San Francisco, didn't develop that possibility. I wonder about Baldwin City, which does have its own power service. Recently Santa Clara (in Silicon Valley) put in internet via the power lines, so that all of its residents could have the internet (and Santa Clara owns its own service). Could Baldwin City do the same? I know it wouldn't be google speed, but it would make the whole town internet ready at almost no cost, and that could be a major turning point for Baldwin City.

Also, what other cities in Kansas have their own power plants?

ljwhirled 1 year, 7 months ago

They are building a fiber network with 1 gigabit per second speeds. According to their website that is 100x faster than current services.

That makes is equivalent to what Google is building in Kansas City.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

Except for being more expensive and not available in all areas, not also having TV access, and maybe not even building it at all. Yes, totally equivalent.

ljwhirled 1 year, 7 months ago

Wicked Broadband has been operating in one form or another for 8 years. How long has Google been operating its ISP 10 Min?

Also, 35% of Google projects are eventually shut down with little or no notice. Something to think about.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

Google has been operating a gigabit fiber company for longer than Wicked Broadband (who has been in that particular business since, um, just now and is copying Google's business model to set it up). Google services far more customers, has a larger phone support staff, and wins on just about every other metric. Oh, and people like Google more. The (mostly free and beta) projects Google shuts down aren't under contract to exist for the next seven years, unlike Google Fiber, but nice attempt at FUD.

So what exactly is your undisclosed conflict of interest here? It's pretty obvious you've got some strong tie to Montgomery, who I notice hasn't been here to fight his own battles.

bearded_gnome 1 year, 7 months ago

okay in order that would be:

  1. no. suspicious of montgomery

  2. no. already enough incentives and don't like plans for NE corner of 9th.

  3. yes, should've had this kind of exhibit perminent in our community many years ago.

poolside 1 year, 7 months ago

Have you not been to Carnegie lately? THAT mural should have been in Watkins. Take it out and move it maybe but don't make a second for the same reason.

jhawk1998 1 year, 7 months ago

NO NO NO to more spending, even though I have a soft-spot for the historical society request, I just paid my property taxes and am broke. If the hotel is going to be such a lucrative investment they don't need my help. If the broadband service is going to be so popular they don't need my help. How bout we all send in what we can to pay for the historical exhibit and we call it a day? I say there should be a spending freeze this summer so we can all take a deserved vacation. I don't know about the rest of my fellow Lawrencians but I could use a break from all this money talk.

workinghard 1 year, 7 months ago

They still do NOT provide service to North Lawrence or East Lawrence. Tax payers should not be required to fund something they cannot access. At least ATT and Knology is available to most citizens. Montgomery keeps ignoring this issue and sweeps it under the rug. Until he provides service to these areas he should not receive taxpayer money.

ljwhirled 1 year, 7 months ago

They don't currently provide service to those areas so we don't want to provide funding for them to expand service?

How exactly do we expect them to expand service into these neighborhoods. Magic?

ljwhirled 1 year, 7 months ago

Its amazing how folks think that private investment just falls from the sky like manna from heaven.

Look around Lawrence and show me where the private capital is? Any local technology start-ups doing well? Local capital conferences, VC firms, investment banks. Nope. Not in a state that has a reputation for teaching creationism and growing wheat.

No one wants to invest in Lawrence. I bet your retirement, like everyone else's, is invested in New York.

workinghard 1 year, 7 months ago

So I decided to do an availability search of all the elementary schools. The only schools with access was Schwegler (no surprise there-close to 23rd St), Cordley (no surprise-close to Mass St, Hilltop (again, no surprise) and Kennedy (that one was a surprise). I imagine Kennedy gets service because it is close to businesses on 23rd St. So if you live around any of the other elementary schools, you most likely not have access to Wicked. Now the question is, are they really trying to provide the service to the citizens or just KU students and businesses. Notice they don't name the New York investors. Why don't they ask KU and the business for the money and not taxpayers?

workinghard 1 year, 7 months ago

I did put in 1900 Harper, just north of Kennedy, and it says service unavailable.

ljwhirled 1 year, 7 months ago

Yeah, we want a new Marriot Hotel, not a gigabit Fiber-To-The-Home system. Our Internet is fast enough and there is plenty of competition.

Oh, wait........

Lane Signal 1 year, 7 months ago

Again, ljwhirled, it's not that we don't want gigabit internet. It's that we do want gigabit internet. We just don't want to flush our money away on an group that has a bad track record and has not dealt honestly with the city in the past. A vote against Wicked is not a vote against progress, it's a vote against Wicked.

ljwhirled 1 year, 7 months ago

Exactly what has Wicked Broadband done that is "dishonest". They built and maintain a network here in Lawrence, they provide free services to low income families. What more do you want from them?

Lane Signal 1 year, 7 months ago

I would refer you to this article:

I think it outlines how Freenet represented itself as nonprofit with the promise of a mission to bring internet to low income families only to funnel most of the money to a for profit company. They then continued to ask for public money for expansion efforts. And the number of low income families helped was not many. Others should read the article and draw their own conclusions, but my take is that Freenet deceived the city into giving them access to city resources by representing themselves as nonprofit when in fact Freenet was just a shell nonprofit.

My other issue is even after gaining a big advantage (through deception) Freenet was never able to extend their network through all of the city.

So, that's 2 strikes. Dishonest and unable to grow the business.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

Well, for one thing they've got an anonymous spokesperson coming on the boards to defend the group and smear competitors instead of having Josh Montgomery do it himself with the account he clearly has.

ljwhirled 1 year, 7 months ago

I'm still waiting for the dishonest part.

Did they do what they said they would? Build a network? Yep.

Do they provide free services for low income families and non-profits? Yep.

Is anyone over there getting rich? I've been to their offices and I can tell you, nothing fancy there.

What do we care HOW they arranged it. I am sure they had good reasons. Maybe it was the only way they could raise the money?

ljwhirled 1 year, 7 months ago

Also, I find it interesting you site the LJWorld. At the time, they were OWNED BY THE CABLE COMPANY.

Do you think that might figure in to the coverage? Hmmmmm. That same cable company was divested less than a year after that article for $160,000,000.00. Maybe the pending sale had some impact on the coverage?

Show me an INDEPENDENT article.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

Asking for an unbiased article wins you one irony award.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

There are consequences of helter skelter aimless spending, aimless growth and over saturation of the markets that usually goes unmentioned by the local media.

Big city type growth brings on big city type crime rate increases not to mention city hall, elected officials and local profiteers are draining OUR pocketbooks and raising OUR taxes.

Some people move to smaller communities to get away from big city crime only to discover oops this plan isn't working.

Currahee 1 year, 7 months ago

The investors may just want to see a city commitment because it would cement government support for the project. More importantly, google fiber has been luring in businesses to KC because of the the availability of cheap fast internet. Not having gigabit internet reduces lawrence's attractiveness for potential businesses. At only 500k, I would consider this a bargain and a must in order for lawrence to compete with the KC metro area.

workinghard 1 year, 7 months ago

But those businesses would have to locate in a limited area instead of where they want to. We've all seen how that has worked out, they don't like being told where they have to locate their business.

ljwhirled 1 year, 7 months ago

Is your complaint that Wicked Broadband isn't universally available in Lawrence?

You think that might have something to do with limited financial resources?

Perhaps this is a good reason to SUPPORT them, not oppose them.

Currahee 1 year, 7 months ago

Well the hope is that Wicked's infrastructure will build out to most of the residential areas of Lawrence and that would mean building out infrastructure to where a lot of businesses are here in Lawrence, hopefully.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

Developers coming in after the fact for more taxpayer money has become a pattern NOT an exception.

The powers that be like to paint concerned citizens as "naysayers" or "anti growth" for being a bit questionable about reckless use of tax dollars for reckless development decisions. Note 25 laters the cost of living continues to rise in spite of blowing tons of tax dollars on local developers.

How deep is this tax dollar money hole? Where is the payback for using taxpayers money? How red is the red ink regarding no rate of return on the tax dollar investments?

This game is for selling real estate NOT economic growth or jobs?

Why is it taxpayers must "buy" jobs for the community? Where did this nonsense originate? The powers that be then proceed to intimidate the public as "unfriendly to business" simply because many taxpayers see this corporate welfare as a scam on the taxpayers. That's right a scam because citizen taxpayers are in the red ink hole from day one. The more corporate welfare that goes up in smoke the brighter the red ink gets = zero net gain on the tax dollar investment.

Who truly believes that taxpayers do not want a sweet return on THEIR tax dollar money? Low wage jobs never pay back in addition to relying heavy on Social Services. The circumference of the red ink hole gets larger and the hole gets deeper.

Who wants economic displacement?

Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

Typically hotel rooms are filled 5 days a week in metropolitan areas as sales people travel the USA to make money. There are also business conventions but largely it is sales people. Fly in Sunday night or Monday morning and pull out on Fridays.

This is why weekend rates are quite good in the metropolitan areas. Free Parking, happy hours and such.

In Lawrence the busiest days will be Friday and Saturday. Not every hotel is booked unless there are events scheduled typically KU stuff.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

What happens to the grant money IF the $30 million investment $$$$$$ do not surface?

Where are the letters of financial commitment bearing a financial institution letterhead in support of Wicked Broadband?

Are some KCMO "retailers" seeking the same market?

Jonathan Fox 1 year, 7 months ago

I'm still trying to understand what's up everybody's A about a tax abatement? That empty lot isn't helping Lawrence any, but taking a smaller percentage of taxes from a huge hotel is still a huge income for the city. People here literally think that money is just being given to Compton. Please take an economics class so we can create some jobs and economic growth in Lawrence.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

Those tax incentives means new tax dollars are not going into the cookie jars. Why the preferential treatment?

If the city does not need the tax dollars why not issue 20 year tax abatements to the senior citizens of Lawrence?

If the city does not need the tax dollars why did city hall increase utility rates?

If developers cannot afford the developments which are being introduced perhaps the projects should be set aside.

Developers are NOT doing the community any favors after all this is about big profits for developers, landowners,financial institutions and the executives in the real estate industry.

Do taxpayers want the new tax dollars in the cookie jars? So maybe OUR residential property taxes can be significantly decreased.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 7 months ago

New and expanded growth = higher crime rates though never receive mention which is draining our pocketbooks and raising our taxes. Thanks local profiteers.

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

Personally, I don't need faster internet service, and am quite happy with what I have.

I certainly wouldn't be in favor of spending any tax revenue on creating ultra fast service, especially given the information above about this company.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

I would love gigabit ethernet. I think it would be super important for the city and really prepare us for the future. However, I don't want a sloppy, half done job of it. I want us to investigate all alternatives including whether or not Google could do the job for the same price.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

Have you ever used a ten year old computer and realized that you're waiting forever to do even small tasks? Gigabit broadband is like that, only we're over here using that ten year old computer and not even realizing what we're missing.

Not only does it mean you can watch a Netflix video on your big screen without it hiccuping, it means the hospital could have a high resolution video consultation with a specialist in another city, for example. Or with five specialists in different cities at the same time, all with enough resolution to actually see what was going on.

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

Well, if there's a real need, then the private sector will fill it.

Or, if we think the city should provide it, then we could vote on that, and have them do it.

Luxury things like movies/gaming/etc. don't convince me - hospital consultations are closer, but I'd need to know more about it.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

The private sector hasn't filled it. The system we have in this country has created natural monopolies in cities, and they're content to leave it at relatively slower speeds compared to the rest of the world. Furthermore, there are large chunks of the country that aren't covered by broadband at all, because they'd be too rural and unprofitable for private investment.

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

Perhaps there's not enough need/demand for it then.

If a lot of people want ultra fast internet, and they're willing to pay for it, you can bet that service will be offered.

Rural areas that don't have any internet at all are a different story, and a different discussion. If local areas, like cities, want to spend tax dollars on creating internet service for their residents, that's their business. And, if private industry isn't providing that service, perhaps the public sector is the right place to do it.

None of which has anything to do with this proposal, which is for the city to give a private company $500K, plus some other benefits, to get them to create an ultra fast internet service I'm not convinced is necessary.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

No. You can't bet that service is going to be offered, at least not this decade. That's why over 1100 cities applied for Google Fiber to come build a network in their city.

I'm convinced the service is necessary. I'm just not convinced on the supplier.

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

If a lot of people want it, and are willing to pay for it, why wouldn't it be offered?

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

Because the cost of entry into the market is too high, and the companies selling service can keep milking their cash cow of the existing installed service. It's the same reason you can't go comparison shopping for the supplier of your electricity or gas heating service.

Theoretically there are three ISPs in town, but very few people are in good range for all three of them. Most people only have one choice. Buy service, or go without.

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

Well, that's a lot of maybe, and possible future benefits.

Not enough to warrant giving $500K to a private business, in my view. If there's a real need/demand, then the private sector will fill it.

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

I don't need it.

And, there are lots of things we have right now that I don't need, and that I'd argue nobody really needs. Somehow consumers have been convinced (brainwashed?) that they have to have the latest fastest, neatest gadget every year.

Obviously, this works well for Apple, etc. They make a fortune selling people something new every year.

I've had the same desktop computer for a while now, and it's perfectly fine for my needs. I don't need an Iphone, Ipad, tablet, etc. at all.

It would be in our own best interests to stop believing we have to have the latest toy, I think. And, this proposal is exactly what I said - a private company wants a $500K grant to create ultra fast internet service.

I'm not convinced we need it, and if we do need it, and people are willing to pay for it, then a business will provide it - that's how our system works.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

This isn't a gadget. This is infrastructure. And you're telling us the city doesn't need to be wired for electricity because your treadle sewing machine works just fine.

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

Well, if I'm paying for it, then I have a right to voice my opinion. And, I have a right to be involved with the decision.

And I disagree with the analogy - there are always new things technologically speaking, but that doesn't mean we need them. And, I wouldn't equate existing internet service, which is already quite technologically advanced, with a manual sewing machine.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

Go visit the Google fiber house in Westport sometime and get back to me about my comparisons.

jafs 1 year, 7 months ago

No thanks.

Current computers are light years ahead of what they were when first developed, in a number of ways. They're faster and much more powerful. Internet is amazing, if you think about what it is and what it lets you do.

With all technology, there are "improvements", but you have to evaluate them. For example, when CD's came out, a lot of people loved them, but a surprising number continued to prefer vinyl (myself included). Vinyl had some positive attributes that were lost with CD, although CD offered some improvements as well. I have a CD player that does a very good job of minimizing CD downsides, but it still doesn't sound as good in some ways as my records used to sound.

With movies, DVD's were a clear step up from VHS. But, for me, they're perfectly fine, and I don't need the new Blu-Ray, etc. even though people rave about those, and they may in fact be a little better. It's just that I don't need the improvements enough to buy a new player, high res tv, etc.

The question that has to be answered, both on a personal level and communal one, is are the improvements necessary or desirable enough to warrant the increased costs and trouble of implementing.

Different people will answer that question differently, which is why the private sector is a good place for this, in my opinion.

Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

Ponying up half a million dollars will certainly demonstrate to outsiders that the City of Lawrence is committed .....

to acting like a fool.

And what is that saying about a fool and his money?

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

Actually, it wouldn't demonstrate that to outsiders. Chattanooga TN has spent $110 million laying their own fiber and beating Google to the punch, and the general consensus is that it was a savvy move. Kansas City, Provo, Olathe, Austin, and other future Google cities spent a wad of cash on the deals. They're smart to do so.

It's the particular company asking that raises a few eyebrows, and that's with insiders, not outsiders.

Bob Forer 1 year, 7 months ago

Your comparison is irrelevant. Apparently, in Chattanooga, the money they spent was for building THEIR OWN system which they will operate. In Lawrence, it is not an investment in something the city will own, but a gift.

chootspa 1 year, 7 months ago

No, the comparison is still apt. The city of Chattanooga spent money on their own infrastructure, and I would argue that such a move would be a great (if expensive) investment for a city that wants to see growth in high tech jobs. However, the Google Fiber cities spent it on something they won't own. Provo, for instance, bought a local ISP and essentially gave it to Google as part of the deal.

It's not the concept of using taxpayer money to get this infrastructure built, particularly with the agreement that the company building it would allow other ISPs to lease the lines for cheap. It's the company that wants to do the building.

I'm not even a firm "no." I could be convinced, but I'd have to see a lot of reassurances - such as taking ownership of the company assets if Wicked Fiber doesn't meet their obligations on this one.

bballwizard 1 year, 7 months ago

Do not give wicked broadband $500,000.00!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!'n

drbloom 1 year, 7 months ago

chootspa just because you apparantly can post 100 posts a day doesn't mean you speak for the average Lawrence resident. I know that Greek Housing at KU are enormously thankful for the service Wicked has provided. I have been overdelivered on speed and reliability for as long as I have been a customer. The costs may not be free, but they do help normal residents afford internet service that allows real interaction with the internet.

If someone on this board finds their opinion so important, go run for office and put yourself out there. As it is, you are just another internet troll crying about Compton and Wicked. I am not impressed.

Pr0digy 1 year, 6 months ago

https://www.lawrenceks.org/assets/agendas/cc/2013/05-14-13/wicked_fiber_application_economic_development_funds.pdf

Chris or anybody could you explain on page 2 of the Application for Economic Development Support/Incentives why COMMUNITY WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS CO. shows on the Business Entity Search Station (BESS) for the Secretary of State's office as formed in 2006 and the net index started November 6th 2010 yet there were zero entries before hand? At what time did they first apply for city funds? I am confused it seems these test all started spontaneously and curious who actually gets those speeds

Also why Kristie Adair is listed as the owner/operator on the application to the city but the Secretary of State's corp directory site list Joshua Montgomery as the President or equivalent and Kris Adair as the Secretary or Equivalent in the Annual report submitted December 2012.

I know to some this may seem trivial but once the schools start requesting part of the network well it may become quite an issue...

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