Public Service Board Approves Burlington Telecom Settlement | Off Message

Public Service Board Approves Burlington Telecom Settlement


The Public Service Board listens to testimony on Burlington Telecom last summer. - KEVIN KELLEY
  • Kevin Kelley
  • The Public Service Board listens to testimony on Burlington Telecom last summer.
Burlington is free to sell Burlington Telecom to ferry magnate Trey Pecor, the Vermont Public Service Board decided Monday evening. The decision clears the way for the city to resolve a longstanding legal battle related to the telecom company.

Last March, Mayor Miro Weinberger announced that his administration had reached a settlement agreement with Citibank, which had sued Burlington for $33.5 million. Since then, Burlington has been waiting for the three-member board to either approve or reject the terms of the deal.

During the intervening months, a group of local activists has urged the city to retain ownership of the telecommunications and cable company. The group made their case before the Public Service Board. 

Under the agreement, Burlington will pay Citibank $9 million — two-thirds of which will come from selling Burlington Telecom to Blue Water, a limited liability corporation created by Pecor, owner of the Lake Champlain ferry system. Pecor will lease the BT infrastructure back to the city and the company will eventually be sold to another entity, with profits divided between Pecor and city. 

In its decision, the board also relieved the city of a requirement that it provide internet service to every Burlington address. That mandate, the board determined, would make Burlington Telecom less desirable in the event of a future sale.

Before giving its blessing, the Public Service Board peppered Burlington officials with a long list of questions. But the final decision exhibits trust in their judgement, noting, "We conclude on balance that the general good of the state will be promoted by allowing the city administration and the city council to make the funding and financing decisions in connection with the Citibank Settlement that they believe best serve the interests of the city, taxpayers and BT customers."

In a statement Monday evening, Weinberger said the unanimous decision "moves the city another major step closer to putting the financial uncertainty caused by the mismanagement of BT fully behind us." 

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