Got Burlington Telecom?
The ongoing debate in Burlington about the use of $17 million in city funds to keep its fledgling telecom utility afloat has taken up a lot of the political, and policy, discussion in the Queen City.
One frequent, and fun, question that comes up in discussions is: Of Burlington Telecom's 4600 subscribers, how many are city councilors?
I know that's not the biggest question people have, and the formation of two special council committees is a step into finding out answers to the bigger questions around how the money was spent, and whether or not the current governance structure is adequate. As this week's lengthy council meeting proved, there is no end to the angles that can, and will, be explored.
I thought it'd be a fun exercise to find out which councilors buy BT and which buy from other companies. Would they fall into neat political categories? Would the pro-BT voices on the council all have triple play? Would the anti-BT voices have Comcast or whomever?
So, I polled the entire council and with all 14 members responding, their answers may, or may not, surprise you.
Eleven out of fourteen buy some form of BT service. And, of those eleven, nine have the "triple play" or use BT for phone, Internet and cable services.
Of the three who do not have Burlington Telecom, the reasons vary.
Councilor Paul Decelles (R-Ward 7) doesn't subscribe based on principle. He doesn't think government should be involved in a private-sector activity. He uses Comcast for phone and Internet and the Dish Network for TV.
Councilor Sharon Bushor (I-Ward 1) has Comcast for all three services, and largely because she took them up on a great offer and can't get out without paying an exorbitant fee. Ward 1 was one of the last areas of the city to get BT service, and she signed up for Comcast because she had no other option.
When her contract is up with Comcast, she does plan on switching to BT.
Provided BT exists, that is.
The third councilor to not have BT services is Bushor's Ward 1 counterpart — Democrat Ed Adrian.
Adrian said the reason he has Comcast is not to make a political statement, but rather just because he hasn't taken the time to make the switch. He said he doesn't subscribe to the 'buy local' aspect of Burlington Telecom. "I don't see them as producing or selling anything different than any other company. I'm much more concerned about the food chain."
To that end, Adrian is, you might say, a "localvore" and is a member of the Intervale Community Farm.
Of the councilors who do have Burlington Telecom, two only subscribe to one or two of the three services. They are: Councilors Marrisa Caldwell (P-Ward 3), who just subscribes to BT for Internet services, and Clarence Davis (P-Ward 3), who buys BT for both Internet and TV.
Of the councilors who have all three services, all said they are happy with BT and several took time to note they find it superior to Comcast.
Those councilors are: David Berezniak (D-Ward 2), Emma Mulvaney-Stanak (Ward 2), Russ Ellis (D-Ward 4), Nancy Kaplan (D-Ward 4), Bill Keogh (D-Ward 5), Joan Shannon (D-Ward 5), Mary Kehoe (D-Ward 6), Karen Paul (I-Ward 6) and Vince Dober (R-Ward 7).
Kaplan said she used to have BT for business services as well until her office was moved to South Burlington where she now has Comcast. She said the service is not as good as BT and their connection went dark four times in the past two months.