Ting, Keep BT Local become finalists in battle for Vermont’s Burlington Telecom

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The ongoing battle for control of Burlington Telecom came to a head this week as the Burlington, Vermont, city council voted on Monday night to whittle down the bidders to the Keep BT Local cooperative and Ting.

Votes for the two finalists were mixed.

During the meeting, six of the councilors voted for Keep BT Local, the local cooperative that wants to purchase Burlington Telecom, and five voted for Tucows/Ting. Schurz, a third finalist, was eliminated from the sale process after only getting one vote, according to a Vermont Public Radio report.

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Supporters of Keep BT Local’s bid to buy Burlington Telecom told councilors that there are benefits to having Burlington Telecom run by a local company. These supporters criticized Mayor Miro Weinberger and some city councilors for not supporting the co-op’s bid.

“When [Weinberger] said that the offer of Keep BT Local was not viable I felt really sad,” said Diane Pearson, according to VPR. “I came tonight to ask each of you one question before you vote tonight: how can our community not be viable and what can be more viable than our community?

However, others like John Cowell said that the prior mismanagement of Burlington Telecom needed to be considered and the council should consider the proposals made by Ting and Schurz.

“They both offer a tremendous amount of professional experience and have demonstrated they can compete in a marketplace around the country,” Cowell said. “Contrast that with the local option which is somewhat undervalued.”

Michael Goldstein, a spokesman for Ting, told FierceTelecom in an e-mail that while his company understands the city residents' fear of having an outsider run their network, the company would be a good steward that would be focused on growth and customer service.

“Citizens are enamored with the idea of this co-op (Keep Burlington Telecom Local) and are suspicious that any non-local company will truly be focused on their interests,” Goldstein said. “But in the end, I really believe, and I think most of the council members believe, their local interests would be better served by Ting. We will operate the business well, which means we can keep prices low and grow jobs.”

Goldstein added that “we can invest in network expansion and helping startups there.”

The City Council is planning to pick the finalist in the sale during the next council meeting on Oct. 30.

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