North Kansas City officials aren’t saying they want to sell the city’s fiber optic Internet service, but they would like the option to do so.
On Aug. 5, voters will decide whether they can do that.
“We’re not saying if we would or wouldn’t sell it or lease it,” said Mike Smith, assistant city administrator. “The ballot language is very purposefully structured to say if there is a yes vote, it doesn’t mandate that we have to sell.”
The network, liNKCity, is a city-owned utility with about 900 customers in North Kansas City, its only operating area. It was built in 2006 and started taking customers in 2007.
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Since then the network has been buoyed by city subsidies, though there have been financial improvements recently. In the last three years it has been breaking even more or less on operations, though it’s still being subsidized on the capital side, said Byron McDaniel, the city’s communications utility director.
Right now the utility offers services to residential and commercial customers. It has about a 40 percent penetration rate of the market and has continued to grow since its inception, McDaniel said.
The utility has also gained revenue from leasing its extra fiber space, or dark fiber, to companies such as Google Fiber. Google Fiber hasn’t set up in North Kansas City, but it does pay to lease liNKCity’s fiber to get across the Missouri River and provide service to other cities north of the river.
Smith said there have been some questions about the ballot issue but not much pushback from the community.
“I think initially there was some concern there would be no liNKCity (if the bond issue passes and the network is sold), but that’s not the plan,” Smith said. “We want to make sure it continues.”