Contract negotiations remain ongoing between the county and All Points Broadband, the company proposing to bring wireless internet to 3,800 unserved locations.
All Points Broadband’s proposal seeks $3.8 million to install equipment that would provide wireless internet to some of the county’s rural locations. This would be a short-term solution to connectivity issues while the county hopes a private business will explore the possibility of installing fiber cables that provide more stable services to all 4,300 county locations without internet.
Monthly rates outlined in the proposed contract include packages for $49.95, $89.95 and $99.95.
During a Feb. 9 committee meeting, Supervisor Paul Bates said his primary concern is ensuring that the county receives the services for which it would be paying. Should something go awry and wireless connections are not brought to 3,800 homes, he wants assurance that the county has proper recourse to solve the issue.
While this is a large project for Culpeper County, Jimmy Carr, All Points Broadband CEO, explained it somewhat of a small project for the company. Usually, he said the company focuses on long-term broadband partnerships with localities.
If connections are not brought to 3,800 locations within a year, Carr noted that the county could terminate the contract, stop paying the company and claim all of the equipment used so far in the process. He added that this would ruin the company’s reputation “and we would go out of business.”
In such a scenario, Bates responded that Culpeper would still be coming up short on its investment. Instead, he suggested protecting the county via a performance bond.
Carr said the company is not interested in bonds. He noted that the company raised $50 million in the last six months in outside capital contributions for projects and has significant financial relationships with lenders. He said the company is adverse to doing anything that could reduce its capacity to work with those lenders.
While the company would have a year to extend connections to the 3,800 homes, County Attorney Bobbi Jo Alexis explained the government would lose $50,000 if there are no wireless deployments within four months of the contract being signed.
That cost could increase to over $2 million, depending on what equipment the company installs.
While All Points Broadband seems to be a fair company, Alexis explained the county may want contractual language allowing any legal remedies under Virginia law going beyond ceasing equipment and to stop paying. For example, she cited a scenario in which the company is not complying with promised internet rates for customers.
Carr responded that he “is not used to the contract needing to say what would happen if we weren’t honoring the price.” He said that would be a mistake fixed immediately. He noted that the county’s power to stop paying the company and cease equipment is the “ultimate club.”
“I can’t imagine any circumstance under which we would not perform and that club would be required, but you have it nonetheless,” he said.
Supervisor Tom Underwood explained that the county very much desires interim wireless deployments but does not have much experience in the matter. He said the county needs to understand the probabilities of success.
“Finding some way to give that confidence...I’m sure there’s a way to do that,” he said.
Underwood added that he wants to know exactly why the price is $3.8 million.
He said that the county needs “to fish or cut bait” and he looks forward to hashing out the remaining issues “sooner rather than later.”
Supervisors and Carr are expected to meet within the next month to further discuss the proposal.