Roundup of super exciting local utilities news

Utilities aren’t the sexiest of subjects to write about. But they do keep the lights on, the heat running, text messages coming, etc…And there’s a lot of big money at stake for those who run them. So, though the subject makes me nearly soporific, the past week or two have been busy times for many of our local utilities. And some of it’s actually interesting enough to wake me up. Here’s a rundown of the highlights:

    • The FCC approved the ACS/GCI wireless deal, forestalling what some predict as the imminent death of ACS, the one that’s been coming since Liane Pelletier took the reins, over-inflated the value of the stock by guaranteeing high dividends, and then left the company with an unsustainable business model. She was either a hero or villain, depending on when you bought or sold your stock in the company. One thing’s for sure: private equity puts her in the former category. In any case, both of the companies have done well with the announcement, and will need to continue to do well if they want to compete against Verizon and AT&T. GCI’s stock closed on Tuesday at $9.43, up from $7.69 on June 26, a week before the FCC approved the merger. ACS’s stock was as low as $1.55 this year. Tuesday it closed at $3.40.
    • Speaking of AT&T: the company announced yesterday that it has invested $45 million in its wireless and wired network in Alaska during the first half of 2013. Among other things, the investment now provides mobile AT&T broadband to Healy, Whittier, Hope, Gustavus, Angoon, Hydaburg and other sites along Sterling, Glenn and Richardson Highway
    • ML&P requested that the RCA consider and approve a 22 percent rate increase and it’s rumored that Chugach Electric maybe also looking at a rate increase. I’ve overheard people saying that the ML&P rate increase could provide an avenue of attack if for whatever reason at ambitious politician wanted to go after Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan. But then again, ambitious is the operative word here.
    • FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai toured the state meeting with regulated industry types and policymakers. I don’t know if he learned anything about, say, how important the Universal Services Fund is to Alaskans and a certain high profile, politically connected telecom business in Alaska. But I’m told he did learn quite a bit about how silver salmon run.
    • ENSTAR had a ribbon cutting ceremony in Homer commemorating the first delivery of gas to the community. Dozens of business leaders were there. Gov. Sean Parnell showed, as did a handful of local elected officials. After the speeches the ENSTAR meter was turned on and the crowd cheered for the community’s first delivery of natural gas. Unfortunately, the contractor was behind schedule, the invited guests we’re already committed and the decision was made to move forward with a commemorative event knowing that gas was just days away.

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