The Superior City Council put a decision on the $31 million broadband master plan on hold Tuesday, Aug. 3, after councilors received an email from a representative of Charter Communications challenging facts in the proposal.
“In advance of your scheduled vote on a Broadband Master Plan, I think it’s important to set the record straight regarding the many inconsistencies and factual errors that were presented to you recently, so that you have all of the facts before making an informed decision,” Adam Raschka, a regional senior director for Charter Communications wrote in an email sent two hours before the council meeting. “The so-called ‘market analysis’ from EntryPoint regarding Charter Communications (Spectrum) is not only misleading, but also incredibly inaccurate.”
Among the misstatements Raschka cited were data caps, the cost to use a Spectrum modem, and taxes and fees that represented an additional 20-30% of the standard pricing, none of which are added costs for internet service provided by Spectrum. Raschka also noted that Spectrum offers a $17.99 broadband option for seniors over age 65 who receive supplemental security income and also for families with children eligible for free- or reduced-price meals.
“It’s important to set the record straight,” Councilor Tylor Elm said.
Elm said he looked into data caps mentioned in the email.
“I know that personally, looking into this, Spectrum had been part of a petition that they withdrew in January to look into imposing data caps,” Elm said. “They also have an acceptable use policy on their website so if there is over-usages, they can throttle and slow users down. So, in theory, even though there is no data cap, they can impact the performance.”
The policy specifically states that unauthorized use, resale of the service or use for illegal activities allow Spectrum to take action such as suspending service, reducing service resources or terminating services without prior notification.
Jeff Christensen of EntryPoint Networks said the claims made by Charter are all challenging footnotes in the plan and don’t come close to the core claims of the report. EntryPoint plans to provide a written response to Charter's claims to the council.
“It’s important that the report is accurate; that’s critical,” Christensen said. “I think it’s really important to refocus. I think this is somewhat of a distraction from the core findings of the report. The core findings are the city can conveniently lower the cost and improve speed and reliability.”
The city council gave EntryPoint time to respond by postponing a decision about adopting the broadband plan to its Aug. 17 meeting.
“I don’t want to get in the way of moving it,” Councilor Keith Kern said. “I represent a district that has a need for connectability, especially out in the Billings Drive area … but we really need to look at this overall project and make sure that we’re doing the right thing. I’m glad we’re doing that now.”
The draft plan was introduced to the city’s Communications and Information Technology Committee in January and was subsequently updated to include information on federal resources that could help pay for the project. Public input from a series of meetings was also added.
“I find a number of inaccuracies in what they have sent us, as well,” Elm said of Charter. “… They’ve had the opportunity to mention this in the past. It’s disappointing to me that we received this email just a couple of hours before (the meeting). I absolutely would like a response to this.”
In other business, the council approved making Martin Luther King Jr. Day a paid holiday for city staff starting in 2022.