The City of Venice has settled a lawsuit with an IT firm that threatened to cut off internet access to residents and local government.
A judge issued an emergency order in February requiring the city’s fiberoptic internet and telephone provider, FPL Fibernet and Crown Castle, to leave the city’s communications access up and running.
Fibernet, acquired by Crown Castle in 2017, threatened to cut off city access if the city didn’t pay a bill for $203,280 (the amount was later changed to around $400,000) for the use of 77 fiber strands along a one-mile cable from 2013 to 2017.
City counsel Steven Chase said the city had an agreement with Daystar Communication who engaged Fibernet to install the cable.
“The issue was whether Fibernet continued to own the cable,” Chase said.
In 2007, the city entered into an agreement with Daystar Communication, a subsidiary of the now defunct Sun Coast Media Group, which formerly owned the Gondolier Sun.
Under a settlement approved last week, Fibernet will continue to be allowed to use the cable and the city-owned conduit it runs through for 10 years, with another 10-year extension.
Chase said he believed Fibernet’s only client at this time is Venice High School or an affiliate of the school.
Mayor John Holic took umbrage with the agreement stating the company is getting away with free rent for use of the conduit for an extended period.
Chase pointed out the settlement liquidates the original amount sought in litigation to $40,000. He also pointed out the settlement gives the city time to eliminate its use of the fiberoptics in question and move to other technology.
Council member Charles Newsom said 5G technology will make the fiberoptic technology a moot point in the not too distant future.
The settlement and a restated agreement with Fibernet were approved 6-1 by City Council on Nov. 27. Holic voted against both.
“It’s more of a protest vote than anything else,” Holic said.
“We have city property we are not receiving any rent for. We’re giving it away. That’s not the way a city should run, but it’s the way someone is holding us over a barrel. And it’s a company I would just as soon not see operate in the city.”