Windstream discussion tabled by City

ALBANY, Ga. -- Albany city commissioners voiced concern Tuesday over a proposal to allow a high-speed Internet access provider to bury fiber-optic cable on city rights-of-way after a report showed they had only an "interim certificate" from the state to do so.

Windstream KDL is seeking permission from the city to use its rights-of-way along Pine Avenue, Jefferson Street and Roosevelt Avenue to bury more than 5,000 linear feet of fiber-optic cable that would allow the company to connect from Q-WEST trunk line to the AT&T exchange on Pine Avenue.

During discussion Tuesday, some on the commission expressed concern that the Georgia Public Service Commission had granted only an "interim" Certificate of Authority to provide telecommunications services in 2005 when it approved a request made by the company, which was then known as Kentucky Data Link.

One of those voicing concern was Commissioner Dorothy Hubbard.

"I'm just a little cautious here because we haven't seen a business plan and we don't know when 'interim' becomes permanent," Hubbard said. "There are still some questions that need answering before we vote on anything."

Commissioner Bob Langstaff voiced the same concern and told commissioners that city leaders should be careful to not overload their rights-of-way and infrastructure. He aired additional concerns over a clause in the PSC agreement that stipulates that the company should amend the agreement if it does business under any name other than Kentucky Data Link.

Jeffrey Reimer, with Windstream KDL, said that he would have company attorneys research the timeframe on the interim certificate and the name issue, but added that his company wasn't looking to add any Albany customers in the immediate future.

"This is not designed to put additional customers on the line," Reimer said. "What we're trying to do is build a line from the fiber backbone to the AT&T exchange for regeneration of our signal."

In lay terms, he explained, the "speed" on fiber degenerates about every 50 miles and periodically it requires hooking into a new exchange to "regenerate," or restore, the signal.

Other commissioners voiced support for the project and advised the city to move forward.

Roger Marietta, commissioner from Ward IV, urged his colleagues to be business friendly and to not get in the way of Windstream's efforts.

"I think we need to support them," Marietta said. "It's a simple, pro-business decision. We're often criticized for not being pro-business and here's an opportunity for us to kind of get out of their way."

Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike also voiced support, but in different terms.

Pike said he didn't believe that there was any liability to the city and therefore it should move forward.

"There is no damage or liability to the city here. We're not guaranteeing them anything and the city gets paid whether they light up the fiber or not," Pike said.

Still, on the recommendation of Mayor Willie Adams, commissioners voted to table the measure until the board's July 26 night meeting to allow staff and Windstream to provide answers to the commissioners' questions.