Tacoma City Council members aren’t ready to let Click Cable TV go dark. Instead they are considering throwing it a lifeline.
But first, they need more information.
Tacoma Public Utilities leaders have told the City Council and public utility board that Click is losing money as its cable operation sheds subscribers and costs soar.
One solution, preferred by TPU’s top brass: to lease Click to a private company such as Wave of Kirkland or Rainier Connect of Tacoma. They say a lease is the best way to avoid future risk and make money at the same time.
But City Council members asked utility officials Tuesday to bring them suggestions for how to save Click, not more reasons why leasing is the best option.
“The answer that you’ve been giving us is not to the question that we had originally, which is how can we keep it?” Councilwoman Lauren Walker said. “… There’s so much value in keeping the damn thing. How can we do it and what would it look like?”
Utility officials say Click is losing $7.6 million per year, and that Tacoma Power’s 170,000 customers cover the losses. The subsidy represents about 2.5 percent to 3 percent of a power customer’s monthly bill, or about $3.20 to $3.84 on the $128 monthly bill of a typical residential customer with electric heat, TPU director Bill Gaines has said.
Some utility board members also appear to be interested in exploring ways to keep Click going.
Board member Bryan Flint said he would like to see Click either compete with or buy out the three companies that provide Internet service to homes in the service area. A Florida consultant has said if TPU does not lease Click to a private company, competing with or buying out the ISPs is the next-best option.
“We’ve had a business model for the last 15 years on an industry that changes every 18 months,” Flint told the group. “We need to fix that.”
Mark Patterson, another utility board member, said it will all come down to who has to pay for Click.
“It’s either the customers, the (Tacoma Power) ratepayers or the taxpayers,” Patterson said. “It does have to operate as a business.”
Click serves 19,196 cable customers and 27,769 Internet customers, according to recent figures.