New executive director for connection broadband utility presents at City Council

Matthew Bailey

Fort Collins City Council members introduced Colman Keane, the new executive director for the connection broadband utility in Fort Collins, at the beginning of Tuesday night’s adjourned meeting, during which Colman delivered an update about Fort Collins broadband plans.

“I’m very, very proud of the fact that we’re able to get an executive director who has real life experience from one of the best municipal broadbands, if not, the best municipal broadband utility in the country,” Fort Collins City Manager Darin Atteberry said.

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Keane, who comes from the Chattanooga, Tennessee area as the director of fiber technology at Electric Power Board, started his presentation by giving an overview of everything that has happened with broadband in Fort Collins so far.

“Going back to 2016, broadband was a strategic initiative for the city and that’s one of the things that helped lead us to where we are today,” Keane said.

In explaining this initiative, Keane discussed how citizens voted to approve city council authorization of broadband in November of 2017, how $1.8 million was appropriated in January of 2018 and how bonds were authorized in May of 2018.

Keane said the city netted $142 million for the bond, and the average interest cost was around four percent. The first payment is due for $2.7 million in December of this year, and the second payment is due for $5.8 million.

Both payments are interest only, Keane said. This is capitalized interest that will be funded from bond proceeds itself. The rest of the payments start after these first two payments, with broadband operating income paying for the bond payments

“Broadband is a competitive business,” Keane said. “It does require a little bit of a different approach than a single source utility. The ability to provide the decision-making authority to be responsive to dynamic market conditions is pretty important for long term competitive business.”

Keane then introduced the members of the newly put together broadband team, which includes himself, Erin Shanley as marketing manager, Clint Reetz as outside plant manager and John Robbins as network manager

All broadband team members took up their positions throughout 2018.

Keane talked about what the broadband team is currently up to, saying that the team has worked on requests for proposals and is in the process of working through contracts on those RFPs.

He also explained plans for design-build construction in Fort Collins, saying that design-build modules are due to be implemented within 36 to 48 months, but the team is looking to implement construction within 36 months.

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Keane also talked about guiding principals of the team, focusing on net neutrality, privacy and security and competitive services to meet customers expectations, among other focuses.

“One of the biggest commitments we will make is customer service,” Keane said. “Customer service is the biggest thing that could differentiate us and Fort Collins has a great brand already as a city for customer service and we plan on extending that.”

Keane finished his presentation by talking about code updates that will allow broadband to go forward, saying that the team is currently starting to iron out legal requirements and stipulations.

Councilmembers did not have many concerns with anything that Keane explained, with the exception of minor issues.

Councilmember Ross Cunniff, for instance, explained that he recently had a customer service experience in which the person who was helping him via phone call tried to sell his or her cable company’s products for 20 minutes.

Keane assured this will not be happening in the future.

“I’d just like to add my welcome and look forward to this enterprise,” Fort Collins Mayor Wade Troxell said. “I think it’ll serve our community well into the future and I look forward to our continued working with [Keane] and our community anticipates it as well.”

Matthew Bailey can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @mattbailey760.