May 27 02:29 AM

High-speed Internet plan is kicking into high gear

500 more subscribers needed to implement project

George Pratt displays some of the technology he hopes will soon be installed at the homes of hundreds of subscribers to a plan that will provide high-speed wireless Internet access for Almont and the surrounding area.
October 03, 2007
ALMONT — So near, yet so far.

That is the status of a project to provide high-speed, wireless Internet service for the Almont community and its nearby environs.

George Pratt, who has been spearheading an effort to obtain the necessary 800 subscribers for implementation of such a service, is about to get more aggressive.

Pratt, who was instrumental in setting up an Internet dial-up service at the Almont's Henry Stephens Memorial Library in 1992, has established an ambitious goal for himself and the community to finally take the leap to high-speed wireless service.

"This model is solid. My goal is to acquire $600,000, or get 500 more subscribers by the end of October," says Pratt. "I feel we need to do this with a greater sense of urgency."

Pratt says 300 people have signed on for the project thus far, about 500 short of the number needed to move forward with the purchase of equipment and needed infrastructure.

The key, he says, is to convince another 500 people to shell out $100 apiece to get the proverbial ball rolling.

"The concept of this project is that it will be self-funded," says Pratt. "We need another 500 subscribers to be viable. That includes hiring a full-time network person and the cost ($110,000) for a high-speed connection to the Internet."

The $100 signup fee includes an installation cost and payment for the first month of service, which will average customers about $25 per month.

"The equipment is a one-time cost," says Pratt, "and because we are nonprofit, the money we bring in can be used to expand the network."

The present plan is to establish the service outward to about a 10-mile radius of Almont, reaching out to residents in portions of St. Clair, Macomb and Oakland counties.

Pratt says a Sept. 18 informational meeting at Almont High School attracted fewer people than hoped for, resulting in his more aggressive approach to getting the word out to prospective subscribers.

"There were not a lot of people who showed up, and they were generally people who absolutely want and support the project," says Pratt. "So it was more like preaching to the choir."

In an effort to expedite the process, Pratt hopes to solicit the financial assistance of the community-at-large, including service organizations, schools, clubs and individuals interested in supporting the effort.

"Providing access for this technology would be an opportunity and benefit to the entire community," says Pratt. "To offer ubiquitous access would benefit the area economically across the board. But our conundrum has been how to convince everyone of the need and importance."

One way to convince local residents of the need and opportunity, says Pratt, is to remind them that the arrival of another provider for high-speed wireless service will be a long time coming.

"We've talked to AT&T and others about their ability to bring this service, and it's not coming anytime soon," he says. "I don't see any large provider stepping in because they would lose money coming into a rural area. It could be a long time before they feel they can get any return on their investment."

That simple economic reality is why Pratt believes local high-speed access is the obvious next-best choice.

"This is the only alternative for people seeking wireless high-speed service in the near future—and probably for a long time," says Pratt. "This is an investment in the future. But we have to get another 500 people willing to make that $100 investment."

Anyone wishing to subscribe or make a donation to the project is asked to call George Pratt at the Henry Stephens Memorial Library at 810-798-3100.

Staff Writer
Castle Creek
Milnes Ford
05 - 27 - 19
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