Internet provider gets reprieve

Lebanon Utilities will continue offering Internet service despite calls from a few utility board members to cancel the service.

At a meeting in early June, the Lebanon Utilities Service Board voted 3-2 to continue providing the iLines service through a restructuring that establishes a telecommunications department within the city’s electric utility.

ILines, which debuted in 2005, features both wireless Internet and broadband over power lines, known as BPL technology. It allows any electrical outlet to provide Internet access, making separate wiring for broadband unnecessary.

A $2.2 million loan funded the infrastructure for BPL. But three years later, amid increased competition, the service only has 46 subscribers and had owed the city $1.5 million before the utility paid off the loan in April.

Mike Martin, general manager of the utility, thinks the service could be profitable within the next year. To accomplish that, the utility will focus more on its wireless Internet business, which has more than 300 customers, instead of growing the BPL customer base.

Two members of the utility services board argued that it’s time the city cut its losses. Subscribers and community leaders, however, helped sway other members by urging the board to stay the course.

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