Shopping around: Residents compare telecom prices

Posted 2/4/09

The couple was among dozens of residents who visited with Tri-County Telephone (TCT) employees and city officials Friday during a Powellink open house.

Mayor Scott Mangold said Friday that he believes the recently-completed network accomplishes …

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Shopping around: Residents compare telecom prices


Vernon and Becky Smith want to know what Powell's new fiber-to-the-home network will do for them. What are the plan options? Is the telephone service decent? And, most importantly for the couple, how much is it going to cost?“We want to see if we can save some money,” said Becky Smith.

The couple was among dozens of residents who visited with Tri-County Telephone (TCT) employees and city officials Friday during a Powellink open house.

Mayor Scott Mangold said Friday that he believes the recently-completed network accomplishes what the city set out to do — provide high quality broadband service at a competitive rate for residents within city limits.

“We wanted to show that there is another option and wanted it to be competitive,” Mangold said.

In recent months, regional service providers Bresnan and Qwest have offered new rates in the Powell area.

“Bresnan is adjusting their rates,” Mangold said.

He said aggressive pricing is no surprise.

“We predicted from the very beginning that if there's more competition, then the competition will offer better rates,” Mangold said.

However, Shawn Beqaj, Bresnan's vice president of public affairs, said the new rates in Powell are not a direct response to Powellink.

Competition is just one of many factors Bresnan uses to determine its price structure, he said.

Beqaj added that the local rates are offered in other markets as well, not just Powell.

In 2006, before the Powell City Council signed a 20-year contract for the network, representatives from Bresnan and Qwest voiced their concern to the Powell City Council and questioned the network's necessity. City leaders moved forward with the network plans, and the project was funded through a $4.9 million joint-revenue bond.

In the agreement, TCT will lease the infrastructure for the initial six years, and then Powellink will be open to competitors.

Local consumers have to determine which provider is the best for their individual situations, as plans differ in features, bandwidth increases, contract agreements and fees.

Basic Residential Package Prices

(plans differs in feature, channels and other fees. information from Bresnan, Qwest and TCT representatives.)

“Look deeply at what's offered by all of the providers,” Beqaj said. “Don't just look at the top line — look at the detail and then make a decision.”

City Administrator Zane Logan said the infrastructure of Powellink is the city of Powell's responsibility, but TCT determines the prices for service.

“TCT is 100 percent responsible for the service rates,” Logan said.

TCT service for telephone, television and high-speed Internet through Powellink was installed at Mangold's home last week, he said. Mangold said he will be saving $60 per month with the new service.

Logan also recently switched his home service to TCT, and said he saved about $20 per month when comparing apples to apples for the three services.

However, not all residents think the new fiber-optic service is a bargain. Bryant Startin used the fiber-optic network during its testing phase in November and December. After comparing providers, he determined that he had more features for less money with Bresnan.

“I'm not saying this to be an advocate for Bresnan or discourage people from using Powellink,” Startin said Monday. “It just costs more.”

Mangold, however, is pleased with the network's features.

He added that he's enjoyed watching shows in high definition (HD) — but joked that he doesn't find it useful for the Food Network.

“HD is amazing,” he said. “But I don't need a high-definition sandwich.”

Logan said that because competitors are offering specials to Powell residents, even those who stay with another provider are benefiting from Powellink.

“Everyone is saving money, even if they stay with Bresnan,” Logan said. “Competition is good for capitalism.”

Startin added that the Internet speed through the network was “really nice” during the three weeks he used it, but said the average resident likely will not notice a difference.

“The typical person doesn't upload that huge of files on a regular basis to notice a difference between 8.5 Megabits-per-second and 10 (Mbps),” Startin said.

During Friday's open house, TCT General Manager Chris Davidson fielded questions about Internet speed, among other inquiries.

He said hundreds of people have shown interest in the network and the waiting list for installation is into early April.

Mangold said the city wants to continue educating residents about the new network.

“We had a lot of retired people showing up,” he said. “People hear fiber optic and think it's something from the future. It's actually pretty basic, pretty simple.”