The City of Marietta in Cobb County has lost at least $24 million with its recent sale of a failed telecommunications system to a private provider. After eight years and only a couple hundred customers, the city has given up. It's a significant reminder of the dangers of such a high-tech enterprise where technology rapidly evolves, and it should be on the minds of Valdosta city leaders as they ponder a venture here.

A local decision has been temporarily delayed while Valdosta City Manager Larry Hanson negotiates with MediaCom, the city's cable TV provider, for the level and quality of services the city needs to prosper and stay competitive. We're told there will be no more delay after the Aug. 19 Council meeting when Hanson will tell us what MediaCom will do.

We've supported the idea of Valdosta's investment in such a system but with reservations. While city leaders and their consultant appear to have considered all the potential pitfalls, we again cannot help but be concerned that real success has not been seen anywhere.

Marietta Mayor Bill Dunaway told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution it was impossible for the city to meet upgrades to maintain the company.

"That's why we should not be in this business -- you have to keep reinvesting," Dunaway said. "It's negative cash flow once you consider reinvestment of capital."

Hanson has suggested the city could always sell any system it creates if it no longer wanted to operate it. This happened in Acworth, which sold its network to a private operator when it no longer could grow it, and the city did not lose money, according to a story in the Atlanta paper.

The operative word for City Council is caution.

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