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WATERLOO — The city is close to hiring a consultant to help develop plans for a city-owned telecommunications utility.

Members of the Waterloo Telecommunications Utility board of trustees voted 4-0 Tuesday to hire Magellan Advisors, of Denver, Colo., to complete an action plan for a citywide broadband communications system.

The City Council will be asked Oct. 7 to reallocate $84,500 in general obligation bonds to pay for the study.

Mayor Quentin Hart said too long has passed without action since voters in 2005 authorized the creation of a municipal telecommunications utility.

“At some point we’re going to have to get some experts in here to start helping us move the process forward,” Hart said. “This is a huge piece in moving forward.”

Roughly 30 cities in Iowa, including Cedar Falls, have municipal telecommunications utilities that provide high-speed internet, cable television and phone services to residents and businesses in competition with private companies like Mediacom.

“We’re a little bit different than most communities that do this because most communities have a telecom utility paired up with an electric utility,” said Chris Wendland, of the city’s legal department.

“We’re in somewhat uncharted territory as far as our experts down in Des Moines were able to tell us,” he said.

The Waterloo Industrial Development Association earlier this year funded a study detailing the current broadband landscape in the city. Amperage conducted a second survey asking residential users about their needs.

A task force then recommended the city hire Magellan Advisors. In Iowa, the firm has helped Waverly, Indianola and Davenport develop broadband plans.

“These folks are very capable,” Hart said.

Pending City Council approval, Magellan is expected to complete its report within five or six months.

Despite approving the creation of a telecommunications utility in 2005, voters have not approved any funding for the utility to construct a broadband system.

City officials have said it likely would require voter approval for the amount of money required to develop the necessary infrastructure.

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