The clock is ticking for Chaska.net.
Facing a pricey $3 million equipment upgrade next summer, the council is opting to shutter the residential arm of the service rather than reinvest in the service.
“The council didn’t see us reinvesting in infrastructure,” Chaska City Administrator Matt Podhradsky explained.
Podhradsky said the city explored its options this fall, sending out requests for proposals to see if anyone from the private sector would be interested in buying Chaska.net. “We got one full and one partial proposal,” said Podhradsky.
He added that one of the proposals included an offer of $5,000 for the equipment. The city has spent more than $2 million on its Wi-Fi equipment since it started the residential service in 2004. “It became clear there wasn’t value in the equipment,” said Podhradsky.
Podhradsky said that it appeared that the proposals were more of an attempt to gain access to the city’s water towers. “We started asking ourselves, ‘Should we be in the business of picking winners and losers?’” said Podhradsky. “We decided that’s just not the right direction for us.”
City staff are therefore recommending that the Chaska.net Wi-Fi service be suspended when the existing equipment’s support runs out in July.
Podhradsky said Chaska.net’s 1,100 existing customers will be given six-month’s notice in early 2015. Staff are proposing that service be provided free of charge the last four months. In the meantime, the city is working with Google to try to help customers migrate their email.
While residential Wi-Fi service is ending, the city will continue to provide fiber service to District 112 and the KleinBank data center.
Podhrasky said the city is proud of what it accomplished with Chaska.net. “When you think back, there were a lot of cities that tried things and spent a lot of dollars to get something like this off the ground.”
He noted that the goal of the Internet utility was to provide high-speed service at an affordable cost until the market caught up. “We were a gap,” he said.
Today, that market has caught up. “It sort of feels like we completed our goal,” said Podhradsky.
The council will finalize its Chaska.net decision at its Dec. 15 meeting when the general fund budget and city utility budgets are approved.