Wednesday, August 29, 2001

Lebanon closer to phone service

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        LEBANON — City Council took two steps toward entering the telephone business Tuesday, voting 5-0 on measures to borrow up to $1 million and to buy equipment for planned local phone service.

        “We're excited to be able to provide telephone (service),” City Manager James Patrick said.

        City-run phone service has been eagerly anticipated by residents and businesses long forced to pay long-distance rates for calls to Cincinnati, Dayton and even other parts of Warren County.

        Lebanon would be one of only about a dozen cities in the nation to offer phone service, according to industry experts.

        The final aspect of the city plan — a contract with Cincinnati Bell to provide the dial tone on city-owned lines — has not yet come to council. However, it is expected to provide basic toll-free service to areas as far south as Northern Kentucky and southeast Indiana, and north to Dayton, for $28 a month.

        The city is aiming to start service by early 2002, Mr. Patrick said Tuesday.

        Telephone service would be just the latest offering of Lebanon's $13 million telecommunications system. It already provides cable TV and/or high-speed Internet access to more than 3,000 of the city's 7,000 households.

        Despite its success in low ering residents' cable rates by a third, however, the system has been a financial burden on city government. After more than two years of operation, it is close to meeting operating costs, Councilman Mark Flick has said, but it is a long way from making a dent in its startup costs.

        Adding equipment for phone service could cost up to $1 million, but income from it should repay the investment in less than four years, Mr. Patrick said.


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