At the Loveland Communication Advisory Board (LCAB) meeting on May 11, 2022, staff presented a progress report on Pulse network construction and made a recommendation to secure a $15M loan to cover the costs to complete network buildout.
The progress report showed that the pace of network construction and the take rate of subscribers are on track to meet Pulse’s operating plan and budget set in 2019. The pace of network construction is meeting or exceeding the originally forecasted timeline of 4-5 years for citywide buildout. While the pace is on track, construction started 12 months later than planned because of a delay of municipal bonds issuance and a mutual parting of ways with the original construction contractor over an inability to meet acceptable contract terms. Take rate – the percent of subscribers in a neighborhood (measured in intervals starting after 90 days of service availability) – is on a healthy trajectory to meet Pulse’s required target of 32% – 42% by the end of the buildout.
Pulse cited how unforeseeable events of the last several years – including the global pandemic, unprecedented new development in Northern Colorado, and inflation not seen in over a generation – have greatly impacted financials.
Examples of these impacts:
- Because interest rates on investments dropped to nearly zero percent since the beginning of the pandemic, investment revenue from bonds was nearly 40% less than what was conservatively budgeted.
- Prices and lead times for materials have been getting higher and longer. Overall inflation for material is averaging between 25% and 30% from the beginning of the project, meaning less construction can be completed at the prices the budget was created for.
- Northern Colorado is in the midst of explosive new development, causing additional network construction at these higher prices. While it is more economical to install fiber conduit for new development as compared to existing, the amount of new development has been beyond what anyone forecast.
- Ongoing global events and continued uncertainty of the market are causing fluctuations in material pricing, especially for petroleum-based products – such as conduit and polycrete vaults and handholes.
These factors combined have ultimately resulted in a funding gap between $10.23M and $15M.
After evaluating several financing options to address this funding gap, Pulse has recommended utilizing an Internal Line of Credit Loan from the Power Unrestricted Fund with a not-to-exceed value of $15M. The loan term would be 18 years, paying interest-only in years 1-8, and paying interest and principal starting in year 9. The interest rate will be set at the investment rate for the City, as is customary for interfund loans within Water & Power, and Pulse would only be able to withdraw funding as needed.
The interfund loan will not impact rates for either Loveland Water and Power or Pulse customers. Pulse is an Enterprise Fund – it is funded by rates and fees collected from Pulse subscribers, NOT by residents’ taxes or electric rates.
Loveland City Council established Pulse to bring reliable, fast, and affordable broadband service to everyone in Loveland. Higher-than-expected construction costs and lower-than-expected interest revenue have put an unexpected financial burden on Pulse’s ability to meet City Council’s directive.
Pulse will be making a presentation on May 24, 2022 to Loveland City Council, requesting that they approve an Ordinance Enacting a Supplemental Budget and Appropriation to the 2022 City of Loveland Budget to Establish an Interfund Loan between the Power Utility and the Municipal Fiber Utility. View Loveland City Council’s webpage for meeting details.