Ohio Town Set To Approve Muni Network

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A $4.7 million municipal telecommunications network in
Lebanon, Ohio, which had been stalled because of political squabbling, could get the green
light as early as this week.

The proposed network moved closer to becoming a reality
last week, after Lebanon residents voted 1,204-857 to recall City Councilwoman Mary Ann

It was Cole's opposition to the project that prompted
the first recall vote in the city's history, as local voters turned out to support
building a network capable of competing with Time Warner Cable, the city's incumbent

The balloters also voted to replace Cole with John McComb,
a local businessman who has promised to support the project. McComb's vote will give
an edge to proponents of the network next week, when city officials hold a second reading
on a proposed ordinance to fund the project, which the council had originally authorized
last year.

Funding of the network will officially put the city on a
collision course with Time Warner, which operates a 3,000-subscriber cable system in

"I'd say that it's time for Time Warner to
pull up their pants and buckle their belts," said Jim Baldwin, executive director of
the Lebanon Telecommunications Office.

Baldwin has said that the city will offer area residents
cable at $20.98 per month, with franchise fees built into the price. Time Warner charges
$36.60, excluding fees.

Time Warner said it was not surprised by the outcome of
last week's election, but it declined to comment on how it will compete, saying that
it has to wait until the city's system is completed.

"We always assumed that the city would build a
municipal telecommunications network, and we're ready to compete," said Time
Warner spokeswoman Jennifer Mooney.

However, Baldwin said, Time Warner is faced with a dilemma:
It can keep its prices high and surrender its hold on the Lebanon market, or it can try to
compete with the city on rates and risk encouraging surrounding communities to build their
own networks.

"I'd be lying to you if I said that I hadn't
been approached by some of those communities," Baldwin said.