Tacoma’s Public Utility Board voted to approve agreements with Rainier Connect to operate the municipally owned Click! Network. They also voted to approve a surplus declaration of anything in the system that is not needed for utility purposes.
The agreements will grant Rainier Connect the right to use excess capacity over the Click! Network to provide video and broadband services, while the City will retain ownership of the network.
Next, the proposed agreements will go before Tacoma’s City Council for a vote on Tuesday, Nov. 5.
The twenty-one year old retail Cable TV and wholesale Internet service has not been a financially viable enterprise for the City of Tacoma for several years. Over the last few years, utility staff and policymakers have engaged in extensive public outreach to get input on policy goals and have conducted considerable due diligence reviewing multiple business models to inform their decision to pursue a public-private partnership that would retain and maintain the Click! Network.
Rainier Connect was chosen as the potential partner through a competitive selection process based on their compliance with the policy goals, which include continued public ownership, affordable access, net neutrality, open access to other providers, competitive pricing, consumer privacy, and job options for Click! staff.
In recent months, the board held several public meetings to hear customer questions and comments to ensure community needs, such as choice of service provider, affordability, and continued public ownership, are addressed by the policy goals and proposed agreements.
“The Public Utility Board has thoroughly reviewed all public and private options, and we believe the proposed agreement with Rainier Connect is our best option under current law for publically owned and controlled, high quality, affordable, and competitive telecommunications service for our community, now and into the future,” said Karen Larkin, Chair of the Public Utility Board. “We thank our loyal customers, too. If you stick with Click! through this transition, we believe you will be even happier with our new partnership service.”
“Rainier Connect will invest in our aging infrastructure, including expanding service to equitable 1G service throughout the territory within three years. They will also guarantee that Tacoma has at least three service providers to choose from, which is more than what is available in most other communities,” said Jackie Flower, Director of Utilities.
Public comments regarding the agreements and surplus declaration were heard at the Public Utility Board Meeting on Oct. 23 and at the City of Tacoma’s Citizen’s Forum on Oct. 29. Members of the public who could not attend in person were invited to submit comments online, which were reviewed for consideration by members of the Board and Council in advance of the public hearings. Videos from both meetings can be viewed online.