WHAT WE DO
Keep BT Local Cooperative was created in response to the City of Burlington’s decision to sell Burlington Telecom more than five years ago. The Cooperative has since worked with community members to develop a business plan and a bid to purchase BT, as well as lay out a vision for what a community-owned telecom cooperative means for taxpayers and subscribers. We have hundreds of members within Burlington, many of whom have been active in participating in shaping KBTL’s vision and mission. Our bid includes financing from the community (both in Burlington and the rest of Vermont). We have pledged loans from members. We are seeking additional capital from the community via Milk Money (which allows us to reach additional investors to help keep BT under community ownership, and shape its expansion of Gigabit services into other parts of the state in the coming years).
WHO WE ARE
Our Board is comprised of Chair Alan Matson, a founder of eSecLending, and a current financial analyst; Vice Chair David Mount, founder of Mount Family Group, which operates Westaff in Burlington in 10 other cities, as well as Remedy Staffing in Massachusetts; Treasurer Andy Montroll, a former Burlington City Councilor who was an advocate for the creation of BT, and is a founding partner in the law firm Montroll & Backus as well as chairman of the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission; David Lansky, Ph.D., founder and owner of Precision Bioassay, a statistical consulting service; Megan Epler Wood, Director of the International Sustainable Tourism Initiative at Harvard University and Principal of EplerWood International, a Burlington-based international sustainable development consulting firm; and, Alan Wagener, a technology consultant, is a longtime advocate for the cooperative model of ownership, and was a founding member of the group that led to the creation of KeepBTLocal Coop.
WHY WE DO IT
Local ownership is the number one criteria for the sale of Burlington Telecom according to surveys of Burlington residents. The Burlington Telecom Advisory Board final criteria of sale only specify that the new owner must have a local presence. But Keep BT Local is committed to much more.
The BT Coop is guided by a set of key, community-based principles. It will:
- Uphold the rights of Free Speech, especially as it pertains to maintaining a content and carriage-neutral Internet;
- Provide programs with social and economic goals that involve, engage and partner with our entire community;
- Provide fair and reasonable pricing to all, but particularly so as to provide low income and disabled individuals;
- Support hyper-local television, radio and print Community Media with funding and/or in-kind services, and expand its service territory to surrounding towns and beyond; and,
- Will adopt carbon-neutral energy policies and practices in transportation, construction, electronics and human resources.
The BT Coop is committed to community equity. The community views itself as the original investors in this project with a very real claim on the returns.
A resident, subscriber-owned cooperative will ensure that the new Burlington Telecom is governed by a board elected by and reflecting the wishes of local subscribers and providing a return to local subscribers will be its mission. A private owner with a local presence will in all likelihood have governance that seeks to maximize profits for shareholders not the community at large.
COOPS DELIVER LONG-TERM ECONOMIC BENEFITS
There are more than 250 telecom cooperatives in the US. Together these are conservatively estimated to have $3.9B in revenue, provide 23,000 jobs, pay $1.3B in wages, and produce $1.8B in value-added income. As with food co-ops and electric co-ops (which also have good alignment of owner and customer interests) telecom co-ops are competitive and have high customer satisfaction. Importantly, the profits remain local; they are returned to the owners. Co-ops are a proven business model. Some telecom co-ops have been going strong since the 1920’s. Many have grown and acquired neighboring, private telecoms.
Here in Burlington, we know the cooperative model can work for groceries as evidenced by City Market with roughly 12,000 members and annual revenue of over $41M (2016). In 2016, City Market returned more than $650,000 in patronage refunds to members. In Vermont, we know coops work for electric utilities, as evidenced by Vermont Electric Cooperative, with 32,000 members and annual revenue of $77M (2015).
HELP MAKE IT HAPPEN
We have set a goal of raising $500,000 - $1 million as part of our financing package to not just buy Burlington Telecom, but to set it on a path of being a true engine of ingenuity, innovation, and accessibility as a cooperatively owned telecom. Our funding plan is designed to complete our buildout within the city of Burlington. We also plan to expand our world-class telecom service to neighboring communities and beyond.
Vermonters! Make a Pledge to Invest. Register as an investor with Milk Money today and learn more about Keep BT Local and how you can invest in us.
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