Key Talking Points
- The BT Co-op meets key community interest. A survey of City residents by the Burlington Telecom Advisory Board (BTAB) found Local Ownership of primary importance.
- The BT Co-op will repay city taxpayers multi-fold over its lifetime. Residents of Burlington know that they paid $16.9 million towards the existing utility that is now being sold. Local, cooperative ownership will keep both the control and the economic benefits of this asset here in our community. A cooperative approach could yield additional dividends to members and the city at large—through patronage refunds, fewer increases in base pricing over time, and ownership that can respond to the needs of the community.
- The BT Co-op model will keep prices low to serve more people: The most money on the table might not be the best deal in the long-term for Burlington. These “high bidders” will have to raise prices or cut corners in order to repay their investors on a timely basis.
- The BT Co-op is committed to community equity. The community views itself as the original investors in this project with a very real claim on the returns in terms of “community equity.” The Co-op defines equity as “the meaningful claim of residents of Burlington to maintain their right to have a return on their original investment in Burlington Telecom and representation in the governance of this public utility after it is sold.”
- The BT Co-op is guided by a set of key, community-based principles. It will:
- Uphold the rights of Free Speech, especially as it pertains to maintaining a content and carriage-neutral Internet (Net Neutrality);
- Provide programs with social and economic goals that involve, engage and partner with our entire community;
- Provide fair and reasonable pricing to all, but particularly to low income and disabled individuals;
- Support hyper-local television, radio and print Community Media with funding and/or in-kind services, and expand its service territory to surrounding towns and beyond; and,
- Will favor carbon-neutral energy policies and practices in transportation, construction, electronics and human resources.
- The BT Co-op will focus on local needs first. Burlington Telecom under local ownership and accountability will allow BT to be more nimble in seizing opportunities that meet the needs of residents and businesses which build on our innovation economy. Inspired by existing institutions, such as Burlington Electric and City Market which have successfully navigated complex markets and become leadership institutions in their sector, a BT Co-op can build the same kind of innovation economy around telecom working with such organizations as BTV Ignite and local educational institutions.
- The BT Co-op is part of a long tradition of fostering local ownership. The City of Burlington has a successful tradition of maintaining control of vital community assets —from employee-owned companies like Gardener’s Supply to the member owners of City Market, this community equity model keeps more money circulating, and re-circulating, within the city.
- The BT Co-op will maintain top-notch customer service and management. Under the leadership of Dorman & Fawcett, Burlington Telecom has become a lean, financially stable world-class telecom provider with top-notch technical and customer service support. Maintaining this standard of highly skilled, professional management, combined with an engaged community board and robust membership, will guide the BT Co-op’s long-term expansion and competitiveness to ensure it not only survives, but thrives.
- Cooperative Telecom ownership is widespread in the United States, and some of the largest regional telecoms are co-ops. In all there are 260 telecom cooperatives in 31 states throughout the US. Combined, these telecoms generate $3.9B in revenue, $1.3B in wages paid, $1.8B in value-added income, and employee roughly 23,000 people. Some examples:
- ATMC Telecom Coop in Brunswick/Columbus Counties in NC. Established in 1955, it has more than 35,000 customers and has returned $35.9 Million to its member owners.
- The Winebago Cooperative Telecom Association in Iowa (est. 1950) has acquired more than 70 companies and has returned more than $26 Million in patronage dividend payouts.
- Horry Telephone Cooperative (HTC), Conway, SC, Founded in 1952
Over 50,000 access lines
Has returned over $117 Million to members since 1979.
- Keep BT Local believes the community should get to know potential owners. We believe in maintaining an open, transparent relationship with our members, with BT subscribers and Burlington taxpayers. We believe that our bid, while not offering the highest price at closing, will provide both direct and indirect financial benefits over time that will far exceed any purchase price. This multiplier effect has been demonstrated by telecom cooperatives around the country.
- The highest bid is not necessarily the best bid for Burlington. It’s a simple fact that the bigger the bid, the greater the likelihood of bigger rate hikes to subscribers in order to pay back investors. The BT Co-op model is different: We believe that a lower bid upfront allows us to keep BT rates affordable and competitive, and repay taxpayers and subscribers multi-fold over time. At other cooperative telecoms $25-$117 million have been repaid over the course of decades. While those telecoms are larger, the patronage refunds represent another way in which Burlington’s taxpayers, and BT subscribers, will benefit from making BT a cooperative.