Ketchikan Public Utilities is a step closer to offering wireless telephone service to local customers.

The Ketchikan City Council on Thursday unanimously approved two motions to move that project forward.

The first approves a partnership with the national service provider Verizon, and allows KPU Telecommunications Division to sell a portion of its 4G network to that company.

The second allows KPU to purchase capacity on its rival GCI’s underwater cable at a lower cost than the current rental agreement.

KPU Telecom Manager Ed Cushing talked to the Council about the new wireless project, and explained the benefits of partnering with Verizon. He said KPU will build and run the local infrastructure, and establish the connections linking the local network to the Lower 48.

“In turn, KPU will receive roaming revenue from Verizon, so if a Verizon customer visits from the Lower 48 or an international area, visits Ketchikan for example of a cruise ship, their traffic will roam on KPU’s network and Verizon will compensate KPU for that activity,” he said. “Just as, on a much smaller scale, KPU will pay Verizon outside of Ketchikan if a customer we’ve signed up is in Manhattan or Seattle or wherever.”

Cushing said the amount KPU would pay to Verizon is negligible compared to what Verizon would end up paying KPU.

“Verizon has roughly 32-33 percent of wireless customers in the United States and essentially the world,” he said.

Taking that percentage and applying it to the number of cruise passengers expected to visit Ketchikan each year, Cushing said the numbers work out in KPU’s favor.

Both motions approved Thursday will need to come back to the Council for a second reading. If everything goes as planned, the project should be ready for implementation in about a year.

Also Thursday, the City Council unanimously approved a request from Willie O’Brien, owner of O’Brien’s Pup, to host a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. He asked to put up a tent in the parking lot next to the pub for entertainment, and to organize a short parade.

O’Brien said he’s willing to keep the parade off the street, so the city won’t have to worry about traffic control.

“I think this year let’s make it simple,” he said. “Let’s just walk down the sidewalk with the bagpipers. Maybe I could have the fire truck parked out in front and they could do some bells and whistles. I want to make this simple and fun and enjoyment for all.”

The celebration will be the weekend of March 16th and 17th. The parade will be on the 17th, which is St. Patrick’s Day.