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Burlington, Vt. City Council Approves Municipal Broadband Network Sale

December 1, 2017

The sale of Burlington, Vt.’s municipal broadband network is final. According to MyChamplainValley.com, on Tuesday the City Council accepted a $30.8 million offer from Schurz Communications, a family-owned cable company out of Indiana, and the private equity firm ZRF Partners to buy the network. 

Coalition for the New Economy blog readers will remember that Burlington Telecom is the taxpayer-financed network that “borrowed” (perhaps illegally) $17 million from city taxpayers and carries at least $50 million in debt.

The private Internet Service Provider (ISP) Ting and Keep BT Local, a group of residents that wanted to form a local cooperative to keep the network running, also offered to buy the network.

According to the Burlington Free Press, under the agreement that was accepted, Schurz Communications will be the majority owner of Burlington Telecom while ZRF will be the minority owner. It’s not clear which company will run the day-to-day operations of the network. Schurz CEO Todd Schurz did say that, “under the bid, his company would pay cash to the city [and] retain existing BT staff.”

In a statement after the City Council’s vote, Mayor Miro Weinberger said, “I am relieved that after weeks of uncertainty, the City Council has finally selected a winner that does not breach prior Council-approved Burlington Telecom agreements that would have exposed the City and taxpayers to another round of lawsuits.” He also noted that, “with last night’s vote, we are now in a position to close the book on Burlington Telecom’s decade of financial challenges and achieve long-term benefits for BT customers, taxpayers and the city.”

Weinberger will work over the coming days to finalize the deal with Schurz and ZRF. The City Council will approve the final deal next month.

Unfortunately, this agreement may not get the city totally out of the broadband business. According to MyChamplainValley, “The city could own up to 20-percent with the potential to own more of Burlington Telecom.”