BVU OptiNet sale receives Cumberland Plateau Company approval

Electric rates to drop 5 percent


BRISTOL, Va. - The Cumberland Plateau Company has finally given its approval for the sale of BVU's OptiNet internet, cable TV and telephone service to Sunset Digital. BVU is also reducing its electric rate.

As a partner in the expansion of the service outside of Bristol, the Cumberland Plateau Company’s approval paves the way for the sale to now proceed. It's been 16 months since Sunset Digital first agreed to purchase OptiNet.

BVU officials said the $50 million Sunset will pay will be used to eliminate nearly all of the public utility's debt.

"The money that we were investing in paying off debt, now we could invest in the water, the sewer, the electric networks,” BVU Board Chairman Saul Hernandez said.

Sunset will hire on at least 75 of OptiNet's employees, and perhaps all 83 of them. Sunset is meeting with employees Monday to answer questions about the transition.

Sunset will rent part of the BVU building. The company also plans to expand the service to another 10,000 people, something BVU was unable to do.

"We were restricted by the Virginia legislature on the counties we could operate in as well as the type of services we could offer,” CEO Don Bowman said.

BVU's board voted today to reduce its electric rate by about 5 percent and keep its water rate the same. This reduction is not related OptiNet. It stems from efficiency savings.

"We're paying down our debt,” Hernandez said. “We're increasing our cash to the point we could consider a rate decrease. I think it's a testament to the organization."

The only hurdles left to complete the OptiNet sale are legal and financial documents BVU and Sunset Digital must sign.

"We've made a lot of progress,” Bowman said. “But we're still a ways from the finish line, so we just continue to operate on a day to day basis, try to keep our employees focused on doing the task at hand."

BVU hopes to finish the sale by the end of June.

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