County commissioners question wireless proposal

March 12, 2009


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.


John Kyle 9 years, 2 months ago

Freenet promises to help low income families get internet service yet they have no coverage in East Lawrence. They have antennas next to the vacant field on Clinton Parkway by Inverness yet none in East Lawrence. If they really meant to provide service to low income families they should provide coverage to low income areas.

hipper_than_hip 9 years, 2 months ago

AT&T doesn't offer DSL or U-Verse in the rural areas. It sounds to me like AT&T is trying to keep out potential rivals so they don't have to spend money to compete.

SettingTheRecordStraight 9 years, 2 months ago

Isn't Freenet the organization affiliated with Douglas County IMpact? IMpact is the resurrected (think Jason from Friday the 13th) version of the Progressive Lawrence Campaign.

Do we need any other reason to reject Freenet's requests for taxpayer handouts?

Keith 9 years, 2 months ago

Freenet isn't free, no there's a hefty ** fee, And if you don't throw in your $44.98, who will.

With apologies to the South Park creators.

Chris Golledge 9 years, 2 months ago

I have no idea if Freenet is on the up-and-up or not, but I know people who live in that area who can not get high speed internet from any of the three AT&T, Sunflower, or Mercury Wireless. They would gladly pay for it if they could. So, it sounds to me that these companies are in part trying to preemptively keep competition out of their future market space.

Maybe a solution is to make the loan available to the first of the four to commit time and money to providing service out there. Put in stiff penalties in the terms if the service is not provided by a certain date, at comparative prices, and then see who really wants the loan. Heck, make it a competition for who gets the loan. My guess is that they aren't going to a bank for the loan because they can't make money with it; so, if you consider internet access part of infrastructure, then some public funding does make some sense.

Matthew Del Vecchio 9 years, 2 months ago

Maybe an ambitious LJworld reporter should look into whether or not IMPAC contributed to Nancy Thelman's campaign. Perhaps Freenet customers were repeatedly spammed with Thelman propaganda? Maybe even given a discount on their Freenet bill if they volunteered for her campaign? hmmmm....

cthulhu_4_president 9 years, 2 months ago

"Office equipment and furniture belonging to Lawrence Freenet was recently sold via a local swapmeet website."

Maybe I'm missing something, but what does this imply, other than they were selling old furniture and equipment (perhaps to buy new furniture and equipment)?

lotsofgunsforaliberal 9 years, 2 months ago

Marion (Marion Lynn) says…

cthulhu_4_president (Anonymous) says…

“Office equipment and furniture belonging to Lawrence Freenet was recently sold via a local swapmeet website.” –––- Maybe I'm missing something, but what does this imply, other than they were selling old furniture and equipment (perhaps to buy new furniture and equipment)?”

Marion writes:

Sorry, it was the new stuff.

I'm certain the ads are cached on the server of the swapmeet site if the right people want to take a look or if oojoshua wants to come clean on the deals.

Freenet furniture for sale:

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