Council: Fiber-optic deal approved

A months-in-the-works deal allowing FiberTech Networks to stretch fiber optic cables on utility lines was approved Monday by Amherst city council.

The unanimous vote also allows the company to mount other high-tech, high-speed data equipment as needed on 37 poles.

Under the law, the city doesn’t have much say in whether the Cleveland-based company can use the right-of-way, but officials do get to decide how much to charge.

Even that amount is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.

FiberTech now has permission to attach aerial cables, antennas, transceivers, amplifiers, wires, and other hardware to specific poles.

By contract, Amherst will charge $8.54 per pole each year, escalating by about two percent a year. It won’t be a huge cash-maker with proceeds totaling only about $300 per year.

Council in November gave FiberTech the green light to use 140 poles at $5 each per year. The company was expected to stretch fiber optic wires and antennas to benefit wireless carriers such as Sprint, said auditor David Kukucka.

City leaders at one point explored the idea of levying big franchise fees on tech firms similar to the way cable television providers are charged.

Some cities in Ohio have tried litigation to be able to charge franchise fees on companies that stand to make millions of dollars using the public right-of-way to deliver services to customers.

Councilman Chuck Winiarski said in May that data lines installed today could pave the way for generations of technological services.

“I have no issue inviting them in to do business, but it should come at a cost,” he said.

Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.