Brian Haynes, CEO of Rainier Connect, has made an offer to lease Click! Network.
The offer, which was presented in a letter of intent delivered to Tacoma Public Utilities Director Bill Gaines Wednesday afternoon, would be for a lease between 20 and 40 years, pending further negotiation based on “what is best for Tacoma Public Utilities and its ratepayers.” Upon expiration, Rainier Connect would have an option to renew the lease for an additional period of 10 years.
Rainier Connect would match Wave Broadband's offer, paying approximately $2 million annually and $1.5 million in capital expenditures each year, as well as an additional annual $500,000 contribution to fund Family Connect, a new partnership with Tacoma Public Schools that would provide free Internet access for students on free and reduced-price lunch.
Click! announced last month that it was exploring a public-private partnership with Kirkland-based Wave Broadband. Wave's proposal is to lease Click! for 40 years with an optional 10 years, at the rate of $2 million per year and an additional $1.5 million per year in capital investments. If the deal goes through, the company expects to hire 81 employees.
It's a move that Gaines believes could save Click!, which has been facing year-after-year deficits of about $9 million. Since 2010, the network has seen a sharp decline in number of cable television subscribers, from 24,000 to 18,500.
“We were given the same notice as most everybody else about the Wave deal, the way we look at it is why not us?” Haynes said. “… Our pricing is better than what Click! is offering currently, our cable packages are comparable. And the fact that we're local and ready to have those discussions with the community on how to utilize this network and take it to a better place, I don't know why you don't want to keep that local.”
Haynes said that Rainier Connect would commit to adding at least 60 new jobs, which would include interviewing current Click! employees. It would also commit to retaining ownership for at least 10 years and maintaining Click!'s infrastructure.