Douglas County commissioners expressed concern Wednesday for signing a loan guarantee for a proposal to expand wireless Internet service in southwestern Douglas County.
Nonprofit Lawrence Freenet had asked commissioners to sign on to give the organization a better chance to obtain a $150,000 loan for a pilot project.
Commissioners said they worried both about taxpayer money being lost and showing support for Freenet when other private companies provide broadband service in the area.
“I just don’t believe it’s appropriate for county government to use tax dollars — by use I mean put at risk by way of a guarantee — to benefit a private enterprise,” Commissioner Jim Flory said.
Representatives of three private service providers in the county — AT&T, Topeka-based Mercury Wireless and Sunflower Broadband, which is owned by The World Company, parent company of the Journal-World — also asked commissioners to trust the broadband market while new technology develops.
Freenet leaders had said the service would cost each household $44.98 per month plus an installation fee. The organization does provide charitable service to some of its subscribers in the Lawrence area. Despite concerns, Commissioners Charles Jones and Nancy Thellman, who is a Freenet subscriber, said they would be willing to listen to more information later from Freenet leaders, including an independent review of the company’s business plan and ability to repay the loan.