Victoria residents may have another option for broadband internet services in the future.
The Victoria City Council on Tuesday discussed a possible franchise agreement with Victoria Electric Cooperative that would grant the company authority to provide broadband services throughout the city. The agreement would exist through an ordinance allowing VEC to run its fiber optic cables in city rights of way for 10 years.
Thomas Gwosdz, the city’s attorney, explained to the council that VEC currently has a franchise agreement to provide electricity in some parts of the city. The company is expanding its business to add internet service. The council discussed the matter and conducted a public hearing about the possible franchise agreement Tuesday.
No members of the public spoke during the public hearing on the matter. But prior to the discussion, Dr. John McNeill approached the council to reiterate a complaint about Suddenlink, which has been under fire recently throughout the city as residents express complaints about the service provider.
Every day last week, McNeill’s office struggled to operate without most or all of its phone and fax service, something he said was a “nightmare.” Among many issues, he said, his patients struggled without the usual methods of getting their medical needs addressed.
“Something like that happening is bad enough,” McNeill said, “but the way that my staff, myself and my IT people were treated by Suddenlink was appalling.”
Authorizing VEC to use city rights of way to offer broadband internet services could be a benefit to the community, McNeill said last week. Gwosdz said Tuesday that the franchise agreement would cover the entirety of the city of Victoria, not just the geographic area where the company is currently offering electricity services.
Nina Campos, a manager of human resources and communications with VEC, attended the meeting. When asked about speeds, she said the speeds start at 10 megabits per second and go up to 1 gigabit, depending on the service the customer would opt into. The company offers wireless service as well as fiber optics through the home, she said, so speeds depend on which service the customer needs and which package they purchase.
Under the agreement, VEC would pay a franchise fee based on the number and type of connections provided in the city. VEC would initially pay the city 86 cents per month for each residential connection and $2.90 per month for each commercial connection. Based on VEC’s projections, Gwosdz said, the annual franchise fee is estimated to initially total between $6,500 and $22,000.
The council unanimously approved the first reading of the ordinance for the franchise agreement, which will return to the council two more times, Gwosdz said. If it is approved each time, the ordinance could become effective in March.
Campos said VEC has been authorized to start a feasibility study for the Victoria area. Right now, the company is serving Bloomington, Palacios and Port O’Connor, but it can’t offer a timeline for providing service in the Victoria area until the feasibility study for the Victoria area is complete, she said, which will likely take a few months.