Should the government and your supplier be able to compete with you? That’s the question Declaration Networks, the parent company of Neubeam, is asking.
Bob Nichols, the CEO of Declaration Networks, was at the Northampton County Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday evening with some fair objections to a proposed roll out of fiber to home broadband which is claimed will eventually cover 70% of the Eastern Shore.
The Eastern Shore of Virginia Broadband Authority runs the broadband backbone and is in charge of selling broadband to ‘last mile providers’, like Neubeam and others. According to Nichols, he has no problem with ESVBA offering fiber to home, but he said there has been limited communication between the two. Recently, the ESVBA came in and offered fiber to home to the community of Harborton, an area that was planned to be served by Neubeam. Nichols also claimed the Harborton situation cost the company a $3 million grant from the USDA. This uncertainty has made his planned expansions of service a little more difficult.
Last mile providers have been trying to offer low cost high speed internet for years, but the progress of their build out has been slower than some would like to see. While certain areas are covered, others, like lower Northampton County, are not. Nichols said the technology of wireless internet is improving all the time, and soon the company will be able to offer double the speeds offered now.
“If ESVBA’s build out happens as planned,” said Nichols, “my investors are going to tell us to pull up stakes and leave.”
The ESVBA was once touted as the model for broadband authorities in Virginia. Where others had tried to offer fiber to home to large areas and run up massive deficits, they simply sold packages to large operations and government entities, and let last mile providers distribute to the smaller areas. But now plans have changed. Robert Bridgham, the Executive Director of the ESVBA, has asked both counties to guarantee a $5 million loan to complete the process. Nichols pointed out that the County governments didn’t need to guarantee any of Neubeam’s loans, but what he wanted was a better working relationship with his supplier and government funded competition.
“It’s like Venezuela,” said Robert Duer. “You have a company that does a decent job, but then the government decides to come in and nationalize it.”
But Spencer Murray foreshadowed an all but certain outcome: “I am fundamentally opposed to government competing with private industry, but if we don’t support this, we are going to get hammered by our constituents.”