Cheney Free Press -

By JOHN McCALLUM
Managing Editor 

Cheney's expanding internet options

Council approves three-year contract with Avista for fixed wireless broadband service

 

Last updated 8/20/2020 at 9:21am



CHENEY – Residents will have another option available to them when it comes to internet service in the city.

At its Aug. 11 meeting, the City Council approved an agreement with Avista Edge to begin a pilot program “for the provision of fixed wireless broadband internet services” in the city. Details on how Edge will work were not available at press time, but the technology will be installed and available through the city’s electric metering system.

The resolution authorizing the agreement originally came before council at its July 28 meeting, but was tabled over concerns with some of its structure, such as worrying it would put the city at risk for maintaining and replacing technology it was not familiar with.

Under the agreement, the city will lease and install the system from Avista, with the Light Department doing the field work. The city will also perform the billing, with Avista providing and managing the integration of their billing system into the city’s in order to charge customers for the service.

Avista will also provide various levels of support throughout and after the installation process, including customer service for the equipment. The agreement also established a pricing structure for the internet service, beginning at $60 a month for residential service.

Part of concerns for council stemmed from the pricing structure between Avista and Cheney in correlation to responsibilities. Avista is to receive 93 % of gross revenue from the leases while Cheney retains just 7 %, but is responsible for not only billing but installation and maintenance.

Those concerns seemed to have been assuaged in the new agreement hammered out between the two parties and adopted Aug. 11. City attorney Stanley Schwartz pointed out at least seven areas of revisions he said made the contract more favorable towards the city.

Under the revisions, Avista shall maintain, service and repair equipment in compliance with the manufacturer’s standards and standards required by law while Cheney will replace any components lost, stolen or damaged, with Avista supplying the city the replacement components at its own cost and expense. In exchange, the city agrees to allow Avista the right to collect and keep most of any equipment deposits and insurance to help it recoup losses.

“This is important to the city here because we’ve limited the cost to the city,” Schwartz said.

Also, the city’s total liability to Avista “shall not exceed the sum of the customer deposit in respect to any item or equipment and the total insurance proceeds received by the city arising from or related to such loss.” Finally, the three-year agreement included a revised termination clause, making it easier for both parties to end the contract.

“This agreement has been significantly modified to what was tabled two weeks ago,” Schwartz Said. “I think the modification has resulted in a much more balanced risk between the city and Avista with regards to this pilot technology.”

In the July 28 meeting, Councilman Paul Schmidt raised the termination issue, noting there really wasn’t one. Under the new agreement, the parties shall meet to negotiate a renewal of the agreement in the final 12 months, and according to a new section, Cheney has three opportunities — “off ramps” — to terminate in the initial year.

One of the termination opportunities allows Cheney to end the contract if there are less than 100 customers one-year after the service commences on Jan. 1, 2021. Schwartz said the idea here is the city wouldn’t be receiving enough lease revenue to warrant continuation, and that the “market simply is not interested.”

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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