Letters to the Editor

Co-op should look before giant leap | Letters

Thank you for Steve Wehrly’s timely report on OPALCO’s latest broadband plan (Link restored, what next, Nov. 20, pg. 1).

I also appreciate how OPALCO has gone beyond the call of duty to help us through the difficulties caused by CenturyLink’s cable break.

OPALCO clearly has a role to play to fill the communication void. The support for OPALCO to expand broadband services in the county is greater than ever.

The board has thus decided to accelerate and fund this effort through the use of OPALCO equity and electricity rates. I trust that OPALCO will do a competent job based on financial prudence, transparency and its wish to serve its members.

To demonstrate these qualities on this important decision, I request the following information to be made public to all members.

1. The details of the broadband investment plan and financial analysis. What does the approved $12 million budget include? How will the $72 million long-term cost be paid for? What’s the cost-benefit ratio for the co-op? What are the risks?

2. Cost allocation and affordability. What’s the cost split between electricity and communication network users? What’s the impact on the electricity bills? I heard the electricity rates will increase 18 percent from broadband alone in the next three years – is this true? If so, how will this affect affordability of electricity?

3. More detailed information and meeting minutes in future board packets, especially on items of policy and financial significance to the co-op.

The Nov 21 board packet, for example, which led to the decision to speed up broadband, left the “Broadband Deployment Options” page blank.

OPALCO’s earlier broadband proposal of charging every electricity user $10/month to underwrite the $35 million investment was abandoned due to insufficient subscriptions to make the venture financially feasible.

Now members are not given much information on the new plan, let alone the opportunity to vote with our checkbook, but the price tag has risen to as high as $72 million.

As a co-op, we, members, would like to be treated as partners/co-owners, not as passive bill-payers with no voice in decision-making. Thank you.

Chom Greacen, Lopez Island


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