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Internet Provider VistaNet seeks Million Dollar Loan from Jackson County

During Monday’s scheduled meeting of the Jackson County Commission it was announced that an internet service provider has made an application for a $1,000,000 loan from the county’s revolving loan fund to aid in the start-up cost in providing rural areas of Jackson County with high-speed wireless internet access. County Manager Chuck Wooten made the announcement to the county commissioners that internet company VistaNet had made the application. Mr. Wooten had the following to say in regard to the details of the loan application; “I’ve reported to the commissioners that I’ve had the application for a revolving loan from VistaNet, and the amount of the loan request is $1,000,000 and I asked the commissioners if they would be willing to sit as a loan committee to take a look at the application before their next work session on August the 19th at 1:30 pm.” Over the past several months county leaders have been look at many options for increasing high-speed internet access throughout the region. Chuck Wooten stated that VistaNet’s proposal to locate several wireless internet providing towers across the county has the potential to meet that need, “They’re looking at trying to establish a wireless internet system that would cover the county and that would require them to construct or co-locate a number of towers across the county. They are interested in serving as many people as they can, they have had a call center up and running and have told me that they have had more calls from people in Jackson County than any other county about wanting to have wireless internet service. Although VistaNet would be providing a service that not only county commissioners but also private citizens have established a need for, a loan of this size would be the largest in the history of the revolving loan fund program and when dealing with a loan of that size Mr. Wooten says that there are a number of obstacles that VistaNet would have to overcome in order to reach an agreement. “The revolving loan fund we have matches loan amount with job creation, in this particular case the application indicates 7 jobs to be created. Even if we had $1,000,000 in our loan fund, we assign a value of $10,000 per job Created so they would not be eligible for $1,000,000 from our revolving loan fund. That’s one of the first hurdles that they would have to come over, the commissioners would have to evaluate this particular request and determine it has enough significance that they were willing to take other county funds to provide enough funds to make this loan. They have another hurdle to come over in the fact that we have already had a negative experience with a loan that was made to the telecommunications company “Metrostat” where both the town and the county had loaned Metrostat monies and they defaulted on that loan in December of 2011. When that loan defaulted there really was no collateral there equal to the value of the outstanding loans, they will have to convince the commissioners that they can fully collateralize this loan.” Another thing the commissioners will have to consider when looking over this loan application is that several other high-speed internet providers are currently looking at options to increase coverage area without requesting loans from public funds. Chuck Wooten had the following to say; “At this point in time AT&T has told us that they are going to be looking to expand both their voice and data wireless service, they have a company looking for tower sites now. When we took back the assets of Metrostat and we knew the town and county would be in the wireless business and we needed to sell those assets, we sold those assets to BalsamWest and BalsamWest committed that they in partnership with Dnet would be looking into expanding internet service to the county. There are several providers out there that have talked about it VistaNet is the first one that’s come with a loan application.” The county commissioners are scheduled August the 19th at 1:30 pm to consider VistaNet’s $1,000,000 loan request.