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Ashland Home Net acquires AFN customers

ASHLAND — Ashland Home Net announced Friday it has acquired Ashland Fiber Network Internet service customers from Open Door Networks and Project A for an undisclosed amount of money.

AFN is owned by the city of Ashland and provides the infrastructure that allows Ashland Home Net, Open Door Networks and Project A to resell Internet connections and other services to customers. The businesses, known as Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, pay to use the infrastructure.

Project A President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Teece and Project A Chief Financial Officer Dena Matthews, Teece's wife, bought Ashland Home Net in January.

Project A's AFN customers will become Ashland Home Net customers on Nov. 1, along with the customers from Alan Oppenheimer's company, Open Door Networks.

Oppenheimer will continue running his company, but the change will allow him to focus more on developing applications for Apple's iPhone and Macintosh.

Oppenheimer and Teece have partnered to develop and sell applications for the iPhone and have sold more than 100,000 applications worldwide during the last year, Teece said.

Oppenheimer said he will continue his long-standing support of the local Internet and Macintosh communities.

Open Door Networks is known as the AFN retailer that focuses on customers with Macintosh computers.

Ashland Home Net will continue to provide existing Open Door Networks customers with the same levels of service and support by transferring Open Door Network's customer support staff to Ashland Home Net, a press release said.

Project A has been known for retailing AFN Internet service to the business community.

Teece said since Ashland Home Net is adding Open Door Networks Internet customers to its customer base, it makes sense to add Project A's Internet base to Ashland Home Net at the same time.

Most Open Door Networks customers will experience savings of at least $2 a month because of the switch to Ashland Home Net. Customers also will have available to them Ashland Home Net's other services delivered via the AFN infrastructure, including television and Internet services. The services can be billed together with discounts for bundled services, the press release said.

E-mail addresses will remain the same unless customers want to make a change. Customers should not need to make any changes to their computers' Internet settings. Customers will need to make future payments to Ashland Home Net, but automated credit and debit card transactions should continue to work as they previously did, the press release said.

In an interview, Teece said Ashland Home Net has increased its number of Internet customers by 20 percent since he and his wife acquired the company.

Consolidating Internet customers means Ashland Home Net will be better able to compete against out-of-town rivals such Charter Communications, rather than drawing customers away from each other, Teece said.

"It's not just about selling Internet or TV. It's about living in the community," he said.

The success of the AFN retailers is important for AFN's financial health — and the pocketbooks of Ashland taxpayers.

AFN, launched in the late 1990s, sank $15.5 million in debt because of higher-than-expected costs and fierce competition with Charter Communications. Only in the past few years has it been able to contribute anything to its debt payment.

For this fiscal year, AFN will pay $356,000 on a $1.43 million debt payment, said Interim Information Technology Director Michael Ainsworth.

That was the amount the Ashland Citizens' Budget Committee and Ashland City Council tasked AFN with paying. Other city departments, Ashland property taxpayers and cash from an unrelated court settlement in the city's favor are being tapped to make up the rest of the debt payment.

For more information about Ashland Home Net, visit www.ashlandhome.net or call 488-9207.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.