In Wisconsin, Sun Prairie Utilities (SPU) and TDS Telecommunications Corp. have signed a letter of intent (LOI) for the sale of the city’s municipal network to the Chicago-based telecommunications company. The parties plan on having a final deal hashed out and concluded by the end of March.

 TDS Plans For Growth

According to Sun Prairie Mayor Paul Esser, approximately 700 homes are connected to the SPU network, leaving 12,000 households left to be hooked up. TDS has expressed a desire to accelerate the Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) expansion, in keeping with its recent growth strategy.

 “We plan to expand the network to launch 1 Gigabit broadband speeds, as well as phone service, and our industry leading IPTV solution, TDS TV, to residents,” [Drew Petersen, vice president of external affairs and communications at TDS] said. “For businesses, we would look at providing dedicated fiber connections and our hosted VoIP phone solution, TDS managed IP Hosted.”

TDS has also recently acquired Interlinx Communications and its subsidiary Tonaquint Networks in southern Utah.

Sun Prairie Residents, Businesses Not Happy With Incumbents

About a year ago, we learned that an FTTH pilot project had experienced incredibly high demand: 54 percent of households in the pilot area requested the service. It was a good problem to have, but perhaps the community's leaders got cold feet. The demand for high-quality Internet access is strong in Sun Prairie where residents are fed up with poor service from Charter and Frontier. Enter TDS.

What The Future Holds

Will TDS be able to do a better job? Will TDS maintain the assets or sell out to some other behemoth like Comcast? Time will tell. Whether or not TDS will encourage the current providers to improve services or just offer another poor option to the people of Sun Prairie remains to be seen.

On the plus side, if Sun Prairie had not chosen to make any investment in Internet infrastructure, they would not have set in motion the events that will bring them some competition and, hopefully, put Frontier and Charter on notice. TDS hasn't impressed us with good business practices in the past, having engaged in price wars and in Monticello, Minnesota, to steal customers from the local municipal network and try to stop the project with a lawsuit. The company has also been reluctant to upgrade its old infrastructure in other areas, but if we give TDS the benefit of the doubt, maybe the recent acquisitions signal a willingness to turn around that old mentality.

We'll be watching to find out.

A Certain Sacrifice

We prefer to see local communities able to choose Internet access from a provider that is accountable to local people. When they maintain control over the infrastructure, they also maintain control over their future. With the sale of local assets to a company centered in Chicago, local dollars will leave Sun Prairie and a voice is weak when sent from Sun Prairie all the way to Chicago.