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Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC) has provided the City of Monticello, Minnesota, notification of its intent to end its management of the FiberNet Monticello (FNM) telecommunications system. The decision was conveyed Friday, May 25, in a letter to Mayor Clint Herbst from Gary Evans, HBC President and CEO. Many matters regarding FNM are in flux and in the midst of those changes HBC had concerns about being able to continue to manage the project in accordance with HBC principles. According to Evans, this seemed a prudent time to end the agreement with FNM and free the city to negotiate with other prospective managers. Evans said HBC is very proud to have participated in the launch of the system and to move it to a position where its subscriber number forecasts have been met. Achieving that position, Evans indicates, is a significant accomplishment, considering the number of negative factors that affected the system in its early operations. Included were a crippling law suit and subsequent appeals brought by telephone provider TDS, the economic downturn that struck in 2008 slowing growth in the community, accumulation of interest debt due to law suit delays, inadequate recovery of legal damages, and a series of predatory pricing practices by cable and telephone incumbents. HBC understands discussions about refinancing the system and discussions with other potential prospective managers are underway to help assure the continued growth of the network. All the employees of FNM are City of Monticello employees except for the General Manager, Ben Ranft, who is employed by HBC. Ranft will be re-locating to the home office in Winona, Minnesota, when the details of the transition to new management are complete. Evans, in leaving the door open to future cooperation, emphasized that HBC believes that the City of Monticello is dedicated to making the network a success.And the Press Release from the City of Monticello:
With the current management contract for FiberNet Monticello scheduled to expire at the end of the year, the City has held discussions with FiberNet Monticello manager HBC regarding operation of the system and renewal of the management contract. The City has also been exploring other operation and management options. The City was recently informed by HBC that they do not wish to renew the management contract and prefer to end the agreement before the expiration date, as allowed under the current agreement. The City of Monticello would like to express appreciation to HBC for the key role they played in successfully developing and delivering high quality and reliable video, voice and internet service to the community. The HBC legacy in Monticello includes the development of a well-trained FiberNet Monticello staff and the establishment of a strong and loyal customer base, which provides a great starting point for moving forward with new management. It is anticipated that a draft agreement for interim management services by another qualified and capable telecommunications company will be presented to the City Council for consideration at the next Council meeting.