Town Chooses Bertram for Broadband Project

After seven months of research, the Town of Gibraltar’s Broadband Ad Hoc Committee recommended that the town partner with Bertram Communications/Door County Broadband to provide fiber-network access to every developed address in the town. 

Several town board members expressed that they wanted more input from residents before moving forward with Bertram. As a result, the board passed a motion that accepted the broadband committee’s recommendation and instructed town staff to investigate the tax implications of the project, including a worst-case look at taxes if the project were to receive no grant funding. Staff will also organize public informational meetings to get community input on the project and compile data, which the town board will then examine. 

Survey results obtained during the last election showed that about half of town electorates are unhappy with their current internet access, and around 80% would support a tax initiative for a broadband project, according to committee member Bob Grawien.

During a presentation to the board during a July 5 meeting, broadband committee representatives acknowledged the distinctive challenges that the Town of Gibraltar poses to a potential internet service provider (ISP). Those include getting broadband to Chambers Island and the many rural addresses in the town. Once the fiber is installed, the individuals at each address can decide whether they want to sign up for service with Bertram.

The committee considered three other potential ISPs: Frontier, Spectrum and Nsight. Broadband committee representatives said that Bertram stood out from these three competitors for the following reasons: 

• Bertram was the only one of the four companies to provide a complete request-for-proposal response, and it was the easiest of the four with which to communicate.

• Bertram plans to bury its fiber as much as possible, which may be a more resilient option than installing the fiber aerially.

• Bertram presented a solid plan for getting fiber to Chambers Island.

• Bertram provided the committee with a flat rate for all drops instead of charging additional fees for drops in more remote areas. 

“They don’t care if your driveway is 12 feet or 1,200 feet,” Grawien said. “It’ll average out, is the way they think of it.”

According to committee chair Bill Wessels, Bertram was the clear choice because the other companies the committee spoke with were less amenable to addressing the township’s specific needs.

“It became obvious that the other three vendors would be harder to work with, if they could find a workable solution at all” for issues such as Chambers Island and rural drops, Wessels said. “I was hopeful that would change, but if anything, that posture became more hardened, like, ‘Take it or leave it; this is what we’ve got.’ Going forward, we really need someone who wants to be our partner.” 

The Price Tag

Bertram’s total implementation cost is estimated at $6,468,208. Frontier came in with an estimate of $5,556,458 and Spectrum $6,769,376. Nsight was unable to provide an overall project cost until it completed an engineering study.

The project’s cost will be covered through town funding, contributions from the ISP, and grants. According to Grawien, the latter could cover up to 35% of the total project cost.

“Grants aren’t guaranteed, but we have a good case,” he said. “We have a lot of people here who are unserved and underserved, so we can put together a good story. Bertram has the experience, and they’ll lead the town through that process.” 

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