Main Street Broadband ceasing operations

Published 2:04 pm Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Main Street Broadband, a communications company that received more than $2.5 million from Decatur County taxpayers, ceased its operations Wednesday. However, local area technician Shane Turner said he believes he can take over the existing network, and operate it as a new company.

The following message was posted on Main Street Broadband’s website (www.mainstreetbb.com) on Wednesday: “Notice to Customers and Vendors: We regret to inform you that as of today, August 1, 2012, Broadband South LLC (d/b/a Main Street Broadband, the “Company”) is forced to cease operations. Despite certain assurances, we have been unable to reach an agreement with our senior lender, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (“RUS”) that would have enabled us to continue operations.

“We encourage you to make immediate arrangements for an alternative broadband supplier, as the network will eventually be shut down. We apologize for the inconvenience caused.”

Messages left at the company’s Alpharetta, Ga., headquarters, seeking additional comment, were not immediately returned.

Main Street Broadband and Decatur County signed a contract Dec. 8, 2009, with the intention of creating a wireless broadband high-speed Internet service that could provide Internet connections to any Decatur County citizen. The project was included on the project list that voters approved in the most recent SPLOST referendum.

Although Main Street Broadband is no more, Turner said he was very optimistic that he could take over the maintenance of the local network. County Administrator Gary Breedlove explained that the county owned “about 90 percent” of the communications infrastructure, and was in full agreement that Turner could operate it as part of a new locally-based communications company.

“The commissioners are very supportive of Shane running this operation,” Breedlove said.

Turner said customers will receive a momentary lapse of service, because certain network-based operations will have to be disconnected from the Alpharetta headquarters, and re-connected through Bainbridge. He also noted that some existing customers may have already lost service due to tower problems — such as lightning strikes — or because of a lapse in paying bills on time. He stated that he is working diligently to get everything back and running smoothly.

“I’m just asking everyone to please be a little patient,” he said. “I’m trying to do everything I can and working as hard as I can to get this thing back and running. I’m fortunate that I have the support of the county, and some of my former employers, who are willing to help me with this.”

Turner said he fielded several calls from customers this week, but they were supportive once he told them he plans to keep the network operating as a stand-alone company.

“Everybody wants to see this succeed,” he said. “It’s a great thing for a lot of people in the county, because they can have the network they need to get their work done, yet they can still live the quiet life of a country man.”

Breedlove said he believes that Turner will do a good job of maintaining the current network, and also adding new customers in the future.

“The critical ingredient is that the current subscribers and local subscribers will have somebody available right here in Bainbridge, making sure that this thing is going to work,” he said. “We believe that it will be a local success story.”

Turner said his new company already has funding separate from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and will have a new name, although he is not sure yet what that name will be.

“I’d like to keep the [federal] government out of it as much as possible,” he said.

Earlier this year, Breedlove had informed the Decatur County Board of Commissioners that the $2.5 million in SPLOST funds set aside for the project had already been spent.

In July, the board adjusted its partnership with Main Street Broadband, to where the county would no longer subsidize the cost of installing a new customer’s equipment (about $200 to $300). Secondly, the county agreed to no longer fund additional tower sales.