NewsBytes-Oct5_12
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October 5, 2012

 

October 5, 2012

In This Issue

Meetings and Events

MTA Updates

>> Have You Engaged Your Local Tribe?

>> FFM Follow Up: Gaylord Overlooks "Substantial Risks” to City in Approving Taxpayer-Backed Telecom Bonds

>>October is National Fire Safety Month

People and Companies

>> Paul Bunyan Communications Announces Retirement of CEO and General Manager Paul Freude; Appointment of Gary Johnson


MTA Staff

MTA President/CEO:
Brent Christensen
Team Leader:

Jacquie Jaskowiak
Meeting Planner:
Julie Cygan
Member Services:
Chris Swanson
Website/Newsletter:
Janey Duntley
Administrative Assistant:
Lindsey Clancy


Stay up-to-date on daily happenings at the MTA offices by following us on Facebook. From peer group meetings to annual conferences and everything in between, get the scoop on what’s happening at our offices!

 

 

 


December 5-6, 2012: MTA Plant Manager/Superintendent Peer Group Meeting

December 6, 2012: General Manager's Peer Group Meeting

March 25-27, 2013: 2013 MTA Annual Convention & Trade Show


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USF/ICC REFORM:

Have You Engaged Your Local Tribe?

The FCC’s Office of Native Affairs and Policy, Wireline Competition Bureau and Wireless Telecommunications Bureau have issued "guidance" detailing actions that "should" be taken by Tribal governments and carriers to comply with Section 54.313 (a)(9) of the Commission's rules, which requires eligible telecommunications carriers (ETCs) serving tribal lands to "engage" with tribal governments as a condition of receiving federal universal service support. While these rules have not yet been approved by the Federal Office of Management and Budget, ETCs should begin preparations to comply with the new "guidelines.” "MTA members should not wait to be contacted by their Tribal governments; we recommend that they take the initiative,” commented MTA President/CEO Brent Christensen.

ETC/Tribal government discourse should be between decision makers and not ETC sales and marketing personnel with Tribal administrative staff or advisors. ETCs should take immediate steps to do the following:

  • Prepare for and initiate engagement with Tribal governments whose lands they serve; and
  • Establish a lead and/or team to identify appropriate Tribal government leaders with whom they will initiate the engagement process.

Discussions must include at a minimum:

  • A needs assessment and deployment planning with a focus on Tribal community anchor institutions;
  • Feasibility and sustainability planning;
  • Marketing services in a culturally sensitive manner;
  • Rights of way processes, land use permitting, facilities siting, environmental and cultural preservation review processes; and
  • Compliance with Tribal business and licensing requirements.

It appears that the alleged "guidance" amounts to a new or revised rule imposed on carriers and tribal governments without the benefit of notice and comment rulemaking. Nonetheless, the Bureau Guidance states that ETCs must begin discussions with Tribal governments and conclude such discussion during 2012, for inclusion in the ETC's required FCC filing due by July 1, 2013.

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INFORMATIONAL ITEMS:

FFM Follow Up: Gaylord Overlooks "Substantial Risks” to City in Approving Taxpayer-Backed Telecom Bonds

From the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota

Despite a memo from the city’s bond counsel warning of "substantial risks,” the Gaylord City Council has voted to guarantee to pay up to 16.5 percent of the debt service on $77 million of revenue bonds should the proposed RS Fiber telecom network fail to pay for itself.

The bond risk analysis prepared for the city at a cost of $1,500 to taxpayers was initially withheld from the public under a presumption of attorney-client privilege. Upon a request from the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota, the Gaylord City Council voted to waive legal claims and release the memo to the public.

The recent suspension of bond payments by officials in Monticello, Minnesota on their FiberNet telecom network has increased scrutiny of similar taxpayer-backed projects. Proponents of RS Fiber expect the network to start paying for itself after three or four years. To guard against default, however, the eleven cities and two counties participating in RS Fiber will contribute on a proportionate basis to a $4.5 million Debt Service Reserve Fund.

The two-page document highlights the potential downside of participating in an enterprise that will compete directly with several private providers already in the marketplace. The memo produced by bond expert Stephen Rosholt at the city council’s request warns the agreement "nearly doubles the City’s outstanding debt commitments.”

The blunt memo raises fundamental questions about the deal and its potential impact on the city’s financial stability. The memo strongly suggested Gaylord officials consider these key details:
A commitment to paying as much as 16.5 percent of the total debt service on up to $77 million in bonds, more than any other city in the consortium.

The city’s "fiscal capacity” to make large debt payments given its "relatively large amount of outstanding debt.”

The potential impact on Gaylord’s bond rating or access to financial markets should the city fail to appropriate the revenue to make debt payments. "It may also be the case that the fact of entering into the sort of commitment reflected by the Shortfall Agreement would have a negative impact.”

The possibility of additional legal exposure "in connection with litigation that could arise out of the offering of the bonds by the Joint Powers Board.”

The bond counsel’s analysis raises another problematic point—the issue of whether the city has a legal obligation to hold a referendum in order for citizens to authorize participation in RS Fiber. The Rosholt memo notes that state law "requires passage of a referendum in order for a municipality to construct a new telephone exchange” as planned by RS Fiber proponents. State law requires a 65 percent supermajority in order for a telecom referendum to pass. None of the participating cities or counties in RS Fiber has held a referendum.

"We understand the Joint Powers Board believes that the statute does not apply where the (telephone) switching is handled elsewhere. We do not agree with that conclusion,” the analysis pointedly states. "The City should consider requesting that a legal opinion be directed to it addressing that issue.”

The most recent estimates indicate the cost for RS Fiber bonds may be $77 million, a ten percent increase from previous estimates. Groundbreaking was scheduled to occur in August 2012 but has been postponed until at least next spring.

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SAFETY CORNER:

October is National Fire Safety Month

We regularly are instructed to change the batteries in our smoke detectors, take care when using flammables, have our furnaces checked, practice our fire drills, teach our children not to play with matches and many more safety tips which are all very important and should be done.

We’ve been told of numerous fire hazards and safety tips for preventing fires, but some items that we all use regularly are overlooked such as extension cords, power strips and surge protectors which all can pose a serious fire or shock hazard. 

Take a look at the following information to protect yourself at work and at home:

  • Use extension cords only when necessary and only on a temporary basis.

  • Look for a certification label from an independent testing lab such as UL or ETL (Electrical Testing Laboratory) on the package and on the product itself.

  • Use cords with polarized plugs or grounded three pronged plugs.

  • High wattage appliances need special, heavy-duty extension cords.

  • Extension cords used outside should be specifically designed for such use.

  • Always insert plugs fully so that no parts of the prongs are exposed.

  • Never cover cords with rugs or other objects. Trapped heat can result in a fire.

  • Don’t overload cords with too many appliances.

  • If a cord feels hot to the touch, stop using it, and throw it away.

  • Make sure that extension cords are examined on a regular schedule.

  • Damaged cords should be immediately removed from service and discarded.

Remember if a fire starts, your number one responsibility is to get yourself and everyone else out of the building.  If you are trained in using a fire extinguisher, only use it after the fire department has been notified and it is safe to do so.  Far too often, people try to extinguish a fire before dialing 911 and the results can be disastrous.

Take care,
Dan Berg, M.S.
Lead Safet
y Consultant

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Paul Bunyan Communications Announces Retirement of CEO and General Manager Paul Freude; Appointment of Gary Johnson

Paul Freude (L) and Gary Johnson (R)

Paul Bunyan Communications announces the retirement of CEO and General Manager Paul Freude.  Mr. Freude, who joined the cooperative in 1985, has led the cooperative for nearly two decades since his appointment as General Manager in 1993.  Under Paul’s effective leadership, the cooperative has experienced substantial growth in service area, customers served, number of employees, and communication technologies offered.

In addition to his successful tenure at Paul Bunyan Communications, Paul was instrumental in the formation of several of the cooperative’s subsidiaries and partnerships, including Pinnacle Publishing, Cooperative Development, and Cooperative Network Services.   Several hundred local jobs have been created as a result of Paul Bunyan Communications’ expansion and the formation of these subsidiaries.  Mr. Freude was extremely active in the state and national telecommunications industry, serving in key leadership positions within the United States Telecom Association, Minnesota Telecom Alliance, National Information Solutions Cooperative, and the Rural Independent Competitive Alliance.

"It’s hard to even put into words the impact that Paul has had on the industry and, even more importantly, the members of Paul Bunyan Communications.  It’s overwhelming when you look at all the accomplishments achieved under Paul’s leadership” said Brent Christensen, President/CEO, Minnesota Telecom Alliance. 

The cooperative’s Board of Directors has named Gary Johnson as the next CEO and General Manager of Paul Bunyan Communications, effective November 1, 2012.  Originally hired as a computer programmer, Mr. Johnson has served in various capacities throughout his 23 years with the cooperative, currently as Chief Operating Officer and Assistant General Manager.  As COO, he manages the marketing, public relations, television, Internet, web design, billing and customer service departments, focusing on Internet, video, and other broadband technologies.


Do you have an announcement for People & Companies? Send an e-mail to MTA at info@mnta.org or fax to 651-290-2266.

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