Faith in Burns
As a Burlington Telecom employee I would like to clear up some inaccuracies in the article “City on Wire” [March 3] by Kevin J. Kelley. Chris Burns, general manager of Burlington Telecom, is the one of the most professional, intelligent and personable people I have ever had the pleasure to work for. Mr. Burns always has his door open to anyone who needs him. He has put in many hours of work outside “normal business hours” to keep Burlington Telecom the most technologically advanced telecommunication service available in Burlington today. The words of three disgruntled former employees do not represent the view of the majority, nor everyone else who works here or has ever worked for Burlington Telecom. I have the utmost confidence that Mr. Burns, along with the rest of the management staff at 200 Church Street, can lead Burlington Telecom out of this financial mess that has been caused by mismanagement of the company by former employees.
I’m afraid that this article [“City on Wire,” March 3] has it right when it suggests that even civic-minded sympathy for BT may not be sufficient to overcome the economics of delivering competitive telecom services in Burlington.
That may be especially true for selling to commercial users, which should be the most lucrative revenues for BT. Most of the downtown area is no-man’s land for BT, since access to business buildings is via underground conduit, which BT doesn’t own. That’s something Comcast didn’t have to learn the hard way, and Comcast also has a huge franchise to support their business model, so they focus on selling where they can do so profitably.
Presently, BT touches roughly 75 percent of Burlington’s addresses, but only enjoys 15 percent market share. The remaining 25 percent of addresses may not be cost-effective to build to, and BT’s efforts might be better spent marketing to what’s built, versus looking to greener pastures.
Given their management’s “we know best” attitude, our sympathy may dry up faster than BT’s credibility.
Keve is vice president and managing partner of Caleidoscope Communications.
Telecom in Trouble?
[Re: “City on Wire,” March 3]: Twenty years ago, it would have been almost impossible to persuade an adult American that a telephone company could possibly lose money. Things have certainly changed.
Jeffrey E. Salzberg
Commish Comments on BT
As a former accountant, commercial lender and now the chief protector of Vermont ratepayers, it’s clear to me that the problems at Burlington Telecom and the complete lack of understanding or willingness to understand on the part of Mayor Kiss, Jonathan Leopold and members of his administration has created a significant financial threat to the taxpayers of Burlington [Re: “City on Wire,” March 3].
Let me be clear, that a utility is owned privately or publicly is, generally speaking, not the issue. We have numerous cooperative and municipal electric utilities operating in the state, including Burlington Electric Department. The critical difference with Burlington Telecom is that it is not a monopoly franchise which collects its costs from captive ratepayers. Instead, it is in a highly competitive industry that is rapidly changing in terms of technology. Therefore, BT was always and continues to be a risky endeavor that upon its launch was portrayed to city residents, state legislators and regulators as an independent operation that would only rely on private capital.
Of course, we now all know that some $17 million of city general funds were lent to BT over the course of several years. This activity was purposely kept from the Department of Public Service as evidenced by internal correspondence that has been made public. Our sense of outrage was palpable, not just that we were deceived, but more so that the very people we had sought to protect, Burlington’s taxpayers, were now exposed to the financial implications of BT’s failure. My job is to ensure that all of our state’s utilities are managed prudently from a financial standpoint and that they follow the letter of the law. We are continuously engaged in regulatory cases where we take contrary positions to utilities to protect the public interest. Unfortunately for the people of Burlington, Burlington Telecom and the Kiss administration have failed to adhere to responsible and prudent utility practice and, what might be worse at this point, is that they’ve failed to acknowledge the severity of the situation.
I think it’s time to stop distracting from the real problems with claims that opposition opinions are motivated by anything more than the absolute seriousness of this situation. It’s long past time for leaders in the Queen City to take some responsibility for the financial and legal danger that their city is in and move expeditiously to rectify this problem. I’m encouraged that the new city council will take these important steps in earnest.
Editor’s Note: O’Brien is commissioner of the Department of Public Service. He was misidentified in one of last week’s letters as the chair of the Public Service Board. That’s Jim Volz.
What a wonderful idea [“Sex Spotters,” February 24]. Now every girl who potentially was grabbed by some drunk creeper at a party is now re-victimized by having this picture posted on Facebook. Way to go!
In our “State of the Arts” item last week about a new “Conversations” series presented by the Shelburne Museum, we got the address wrong for the church at which the March series is being held. The correct location of All Souls Interfaith Gathering is 291 Bostwick Farm Road in Shelburne. We regret the error. More info: www.allsoulsinterfaith.org.