By Morgan Bryce and Robert Noles
For the Opelika Observer
A formal press conference was held this morning at City Hall to announce the City of Opelika’s sale of OPS ONE to Point Broadband of West Point, Georgia.
The Opelika City Council voted to approve a resolution of the sale of the city’s fiber telecommunications and operations during last night’s regular meeting for a total of $14.1 million, with $1.4 million of that total being held in escrow. Opelika Power Services will continue supplying power services to residents and retain the city’s electrical smart grid assets.
Mayor Gary Fuller said the sale will ensure a continuation of adequate competition, competitive rates and quality product among internet service providers in Opelika.
“What was important back when we did this … there wasn’t competition for the incumbent (service providers), and frankly, our citizens, which I am one of them, were not treated very well. There was a lot of predatory pricing, because if you don’t have competition, you can pretty much charge what you want to and pretty much have the customer service that you want and we thought we deserved better than that,” Fuller said. “What we have tried to do is always do what is in the best long-term interest for the City of Opelika, and that’s what we thought about when we began negotiating with Todd and (his company). This fits the bill of that perfectly … and is a win-win for us, win-win for our citizens, win-win for Point Broadband and win-win for folks that don’t already have service.”
Established in 2012, OPS ONE’s construction helped Opelika become the state’s first “Gig City,” but its growth was stifled by a lack of assistance from Alabama and successful lobbying from larger internet service providers to prevent legislation that would have allowed the city to extend its services beyond city limits. According to a 2017 city audit, the venture showed a negative balance of $13.4 million.
As a privately owned company, Point Broadband, a subsidiary of ITC Capital Partners, LLC, will not be bound by those conditions and instead expand and offer high-speed internet to customers in communities like Beauregard and other parts of Lee County.
“Our culture and our values are very similar (to the City of Opelika). We operate all of the ITC companies with a value system that starts with conducting ourselves with honesty and integrity (and customer service), and that’s what we see here in Opelika,” said Point Broadband CEO Todd Holt. “We’re pleased to be continuing the great things that Opelika did … the ambition and the innovation for the city to bring competitive fiber is fantastic, because that is our mentality too, because we want to bring competitive fiber to the marketplace. We have a lot of things in common and we’re very excited about this transaction.”
The only obstacle left in completing the transaction is the the city’s approval of a franchise agreement with Point Broadband, which will be up for a public hearing during the Nov. 6 city council meeting. If positive action is taken, finalization of the sale is expected to be completed by Nov. 8.
Fuller and Holt assured the public that the changing of the company name will be a seamless transition and will not affect their rates or services provided. Point Broadband will be renting the same space that OPS ONE occupied for $5,000 a month, according to City Attorney Guy Gunter. Holt added that all OPS ONE employees have been retained by his company and will receive competitive benefits and salaries as they did previously.
“They (customers) will see the same faces, same field technicians (and the) same people answering the phone. We hired all of the OPS ONE employees to be Point Broadband employees, and there will be no changes in prices or plans,” Holt said. “We will increase the sales and marketing effort and open up the web page and the phone lines to take installations. We’re identifying the areas (in which) we want to grow outside of Opelika to extend the fiber network, but the easy answer is that everything will be business as usual.”
OPS Director Derek Lee confirmed that the agreement between the two entities is 12 years in length. In the 25th month after closing, the City of Opelika will receive 3.5 percent of Point Broadband’s gross income to offset its $7 million internal debts that was borrowed from OPS.
For more information, call OPS at 334-705-5150 or visit www.opelika-al.gov, www.opelikapower.com or www.point-broadband.com.