Opelika's fiber-optic network OPS One in financial bind

Opelika concerned over broadband expansion issues

OPELIKA, AL (WSFA) - A recent audit shows that Alabama's first Gig City is facing some financial trouble.

Opelika originally only had cable provider Spectrum and in 2011, after hearing a lot of complaints from residents, the city decided to introduce OPS One, the city's community-owned, fiber-optic network.

According to the city's 2017 audit, Opelika's general fund had a positive balance of $59.4 million in Fiscal Year 2017. OPS One had a negative balance of $13.4 million.

City leaders say OPS One's total negative balance is now $20.9 million, counting the loan from utilities. And the interest payments total nearly $500,000 a year.

"OPS is doing fine. OPS One is cash flowing but not enough cash to take care of the depreciation," said Mayor Gary Fuller. "We had thought, I had thought, I was very optimistic that we would be breaking even in year five. This is our fifth year. We're not going to break even and I announced this back in January. We think it may take seven years to break even, but it's been a great, great investment for our community and especially for our citizens."

OPS One is projected to bring in $6.1 million in revenue for Fiscal Year 2018.

It has more than 3,700 customers and Fuller says the amount of subscribers increases every month. He also says that they are counting on those new subscribers to help reduce the debt.

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