Consultants Group Pitches Muni Savvy

A group of telecommunications providers and consultants have formed a consortium offering one-stop shopping to municipalities that wish to get into the broadband business.

The Muni Consortium is made up of business strategists, financial advisors, regulatory consultants, engineering firms, content providers and equipment vendors. Founding members are Optical Solutions Inc., Aggregate Networks LLC, engineers Burns & McDonnell, law firm Spiegel & McDarmaid and consultant e-Copernicus, among others.

The goal: To drive municipal broadband deployment.

The group's Web site advises cities they "don't have to take it anymore" when it comes to cable companies and their "big city mentality."

Operators make their investments in large communities, making smaller and rural towns wait for upgrades, the site contends.

Kutztown, Pa., inspired the consortium. Its fiber-to-the-home broadband system is controversial in the cable industry because the locality overbuilt a fully upgraded incumbent cable operator, Service Electric Co.

When Kutztown decided to get into the telecommunications business, local officials had to hunt for vendors and financing, according to a statement from Frank Caruso, director of information technology for the Pennsylvania town. Caruso will serve as a consortium consultant.

The Web site urges cities to consider cable services when expanding their fiber backbones, reasoning that video content has appeal. Cities can collect $30 to $38 per household on average from cable service, according to the site, which adds that cable makes for an attractive bundle.