Indiana telecommunications businesses are concerned about a potential deal between the state and an Ohio based data networking company. Under the agreement Agile Networks would lease unused cell tower capacity and the state would use the money to fund bicentennial projects.
The deal announced in early September requires Agile Networks to pay the state $50 million up-front for a 25 year lease. During that time the state estimates it will make another $36 million in profit.
Agile will also help expand broadband coverage to rural and underserved areas.
The deal raises questions for Indiana’s broadband and technology businesses. Industry Reps sent a letter questioning the deal to the Indiana Finance Authority. Joni Hart is one of the authors of the letter and Executive Director of the Indiana Cable Telecommunications Association.
“We’ve put literally millions of dollars into the ground, investing in our facilities, and we believe this devalues the private investments we have made,” she says.
The group maintains that the agreement gives the state an incentive to favor Agile over Indiana companies.
Hart says they have not received an official response. However, she says the Indiana Finance Authority has told them they are aware of their concerns. The Finance Authority declined our requests for an interview.
Hart says she hopes the agreement will go back to the legislature for more debate.
State Budget Committee member Luke Kenley says the state is still finalizing the contract to ensure the deal is fair to all parties.
“I think the administration and the governor’s office is trying to structure this so that everybody’s a winner in this relationship, and we can take advantages of these opportunities, have better broadband, and maybe get some return on assets,” he says.
Agile Networks Founder, Kyle Quillen says in the past his company has worked with private companies in Ohio, and he hopes to partner with Indiana companies as they implement the deal.
If the deal is approved, the money will fund bicentennial projects around the state including a $24 million Inn at Potato Creek State Park.