Category Archives: Bizness Projects

a collection of archival materials and content for the record from a string of internet-centric companies: Zhonka, OlyWa.net, Internet Adventures, Raincity Studios, Happyfrog, Hootsuite etc.

South Sound Internet Mogul in it for the Glory: Zhonka, Jay Stewart

South Sound Internet Mogul in it for the Glory – Business Examiner newspaper’s “Fishbowl” – 6/28/04

Zhonka Broadband Secretary General Jacob Stewart says he runs an Olympia-based Internet Service Provider for the glory.  “I started my current business with an eye toward making a living,” Stewart says, “not striking it rich.”

Stewart is no novice to the Internet game. He started OlyWa.Net in 1995. That first company grew quickly and was netting some $1 million a year before merging with Advanced Telecom Group in 2000.

After the OlyWa.Net merger, Stewart says he took a much needed break from the hectic day-to-day stress of building and running a tech company.  “I needed time to decompress,” he says.

That break didn’t last long. In the wake of the Internet boom, Stewart decided to build a leaner, more efficient business. With the help of a small team of investors, Stewart created Zhonka in 2003.

The life of an entrepreneur can be tough, Stewart says. Entrepreneurs should be prepared for long hours, hard work, planning and perseverance. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love his job.  “To any would-be entrepreneur I’d say go for it,” Stewart says, “And don’t let anybody tell you it can’t be done.”

New Bill Keeps Internet Tax-Free – WA ISP Press Release (2004)

NEW BILL KEEPS THE INTERNET TAX-FREE  PRESS RELEASE – April 28, 2004

Washington Association of Internet Service Providers

Gov. Gary Locke signs SB 6259. 20040326-2371 WASENATE db

Ron Main of Cable Communications Assoc., Dave Olson of Zhonka Broadband, and Jacob Stewart & Gary Gardner of WAISP join Gov. Locke for SB 6259 bill signing on March 26 2004.

OLYMPIA – During the recent Legislative session, local Internet businesses and industry groups supported a bill to keep Internet services tax-free, in Washington at least. SB 6259 extends the moratorium on cities and towns imposing new taxes on Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Jacob Stewart, Vice-President of the Washington Association of Internet Service Providers (WAISP) suggests, “This tax moratorium extension is important to encourage the use of new Internet technologies by not encumbering users with confusing and redundant taxes.”

Gary Gardner, Executive Director of WAISP, hopes for a fair chance for ISPs who continue to pay the Business and Occupancy (B&O) taxes assessed to general service businesses. “We don’t feel ISPs should pay a separate rate of B&O tax than other businesses, and we continue to oppose any sort of tax on either ISPs or their customers simply for the privilege of accessing the Internet.”

Dave Olson, of Zhonka Broadband, an Olympia-based ISP, sees some comfort from the extension. “This bill enables ISPs to confidently expand broadband service to under-served markets across the digital divide, resulting in increased marketplace choice in areas like Grays Harbor and the Olympic Peninsula.”

A similar Federal bill (HB 49) passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last year. However the companion Senate bill (SB 150) failed, opening the door for municipalities to levy additional taxes on ISPs and their customers.

As the U.S. Senate again debates the Internet Tax Nondiscrimination Act, President Bush offered his encouragement, saying, “If you want broadband access throughout the society, Congress must ban taxes on access.”

In Washington, we already have.

Contact: Dave Olson, Zhonka – Gary Gardner, WAISP

“President Unveils Tech Initiatives” April 26 2004http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/04/20040426-6.html

Free Wi-Fi Surfbreak – Press Release for Zhonka

PRESS RELEASE – April 6, 2004

FREE WI-FI IS THE “SOUP DU JOUR” FOR LOCAL BUSINESSES

OLYMPIA – As part of Zhonka Broadband’s unique “Surfbreak” program, innovative businesses around the Puget Sound are serving up free wireless Internet access for customers.

While other companies offer “wi-fi” (short for wireless fidelity) for a charge, Zhonka’s Surfbreaks are no-cost and hassle free with no login, password, or membership required. With diverse locations from grassy parks to late-night diners, there is a Surfbreak location to suit most anyone’s preference.

As Zhonka’s Secretary General Jacob Stewart notes, “It’s great to see business people and students escape the office or classroom to meet or study in cafes or parks instead.”

Zhonka, an Olympia-based Internet service provider, introduced this unique program in early 2003 and interest quickly spurred expansion to numerous cafes, espresso shops, computer stores, taverns, and public markets throughout Western Washington.

Recent additions include coffee roasters Batdorf & Bronsons’ Dancing Goats cafe, CafŽ Allegro’s two locations near the University of Washington, and the Olympia Farmer’s Market plus a few micro-brew taverns. A complete list – including contact information – is located online athttp://www.zhonka.net/surfbreak/. Locations are also identified with distinctive “Free Wi-fi for the People” posters and window stickers.

The Surfbreak locations use high speed Zhonka DSL connections to power the wi-fi hot-spots. A customer simply brings a wireless ready laptop or PDA to a Surfbreak locations and “Voila!” they are online.

Dave Olson, Zhonka’s Minister of Marketing Affairs puts forth that everyone involved stands to gain from this arrangement, “The Surfbreak program offers participating businesses a strategic advantage over competitors who charge for use. While we certainly enjoy the goodwill and publicity, the biggest winners in this scenario are folks using this exciting new technology.”

##

Contact:
Dave Olson Minister of Marketing Affairs
Zhonka Broadband

Zhonka’s Dave Olson and Jay Stewart on Business Examiner 40 Under 40 List (2003)

40 Under 40 selected by (Tacoma, WA) Business Examiner – 6/23/03

Article by Paul Schrag

When more than three dozen “movers and shakers” gather in one place, you can expect the kind of energy that lights up a room, especially when the group consists of ambitious, younger standouts in the world of local business.

That was the case last week, when The Tacoma Club Young Executives and Business Examiner Newspaper Group hosted an event recognizing this inaugural class of 40 Under 40. The energizing power was awe-inspiring, even to older guests at the gathering, who came away with assured that the future of the South Sound is in quality hands.

On the pages that follow, you will have the opportunity to meet this stellar crowd — presented here in alphabetical order — and get to know a little more about what is important to them. Remember that there is far more talent here than can be adequately described in words. When you see them at work, at service or at play in the community, take the initiative to meet them — you will be as impressed. And plan right now to make your own nominations for the 2004 40-Under-40 List when it comes round next spring.


Dave Olson
Minister of Marketing Affairs, Zhonka Broadband
Year of birth: 1970

As a managing partner and marketing director of an Internet service provider, Dave Olson does a lot of document writing, including business plans, proposals, agreements, contracts, press releases, marketing collateral, letters, technical FAQs and media articles. He also oversees corporate governance and company financing issues under his title as Minister of Marketing Affairs.

“Additionally, I organize and implement advertising campaigns, special events and promotions including the free community wireless access surfbreaks,’ customer appreciation parties and donated access,” he explains.

“I aim to help grow Zhonka Broadband into an innovative and profitable ISP serving communities throughout the Northwest region,” Olson says.

“I would also like to finish my elusive Evergreen degree and perhaps attend law school at UBC specializing in intellectual property, international trade and arbitration. One way or another, I hope to continue to travel internationally and perhaps make another documentary film or two,” he adds.

Olson’s role models and heroes have always been writers, artists, activists and adventurers such as H.D. Thoreau, Edward Abbey, Gary Snyder, Walt Whitman, Edmund Hilary, Thor Heyerdahl, Leo Tolstoy, Vaclav Havel, Leo da Vinci, etc.


Jay Stewart
Co-founder/Technology guru, Zhonka Broadband
Year of birth: 1966

As an entrepreneur in a high-tech small business, Zhonka Broadband co-founder and Technology Guru Jacob Stewart finds that he wears many different hats at different times as necessitated by circumstance.

“As a managing partner of the LLC, I am Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Technical Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief (insert any adjective) Officer, salesman, network architect, government relations, customer support representative,” he continues. “I am also office supply clerk and, sometimes, janitor.”

He feels the real gratification comes when the business starts to flourish after putting in so much time generating business plans and standards of practice, finding investors for funding, networking with the local business community and marketing our business directly to the community.

“That is the most fulfilling part of my job,” Stewart says.

Stewart was also co-founder and Vice-president of Information Technology and chairman of the board for ISP, Oly.Wa.net and currently serves as vice-president of Washington Association of Internet Service Providers, which helped push through the state’s anti-SPAM bill. He also serves as chairman of the board of the Washington State Internet Lobby.

“In the next 10 years, I would like to see Zhonka Broadband grow to be a major player and shaper of the high speed Internet access market throughout Washington State and the Northwest,” he says. “Our business plan includes conservative, yet steady, growth of our geographic service area to 10 states in the Northwest and Midwest region.”

Stewart would also like to formalize his college degree by getting his credits transferred to one institution, so that he may graduate and continue graduate studies in management and the global economy.

He admits that he can’t point to any one person in his life who he tries to emulate or from whom he learned his business skills.

“I guess I feel my generation didn’t have a lot of heroes’ to emulate,” he explains. “We had to find inspiration on our own.

“I’d say that, if I wanted to point to someone as an inspiration to me today, it would be George Soros,” Stewart adds. “This international billionaire, financier, philanthropist, who grew up in Hungary during the harsh oppressive regimes of both the Nazis and the Soviet Union, has my respect.”

Stewart says his admiration of Soros stems from both his financial success and his advocacy of a civil “Open Society.”

“He had a philosophy that espoused openness,” says Stewart, “and condemns totalitarianism and tyranny in all its forms, in both the social and financial spheres of politics.”

Zhonka: Entrepreneurs create local ISP in The Olympian

Entrepreneurs create local ISP in The Olympian (PDF)  3/21/03 – The Olympian

Article by Alex Goff for the Olympian about Zhonka’s plans. Features picture of Zhonka co-founders, Jay Stewart and Dave Olson, enjoying wireless Internet access at the Clubside Cafe with proprietor Kenny Trobman.

Keny pours coffee for Dave Olson and Jay Stewart
Steve Bloom/The Olympian

ALEX GOFF FOR THE OLYMPIAN
A second chance can be a golden opportunity, or so Jay Stewart and Dave Olson hope.

Former managing partners of South Sound Internet service provider OlyWa.net, Stewart and Olson sold that business to California-based Advanced TelCom Group, or ATG, in 2000.

Stewart and Olson stepped away from the business altogether. And ATG has since filed for bankruptcy, and most of its assets have been purchased by General Electric.

Now, Olson and Stewart are back and have moved into the old OlyWa.net offices and set up Zhonka Broadband — an Internet service provider offering digital subscriber line (DSL) services to subscribers in Western Washington.

## SIDEBAR ##

Zhonka Broadband

Internet service provider with monthly rates from $15 to $40.

– Owners: Jay Stewart and Dave Olson – Location: 1430 Evergreen Park Lane,

Olympia
– Telephone: 360-701-6958 – Web site: www.zhonka.com

##

“We’ve sort of come full circle,” Stewart said. “But we’ve learned a great deal in the meantime. We spent the better part of the last six months working on our business plan and looking for investors. The lessons we’ve learned have allowed us to cut our costs considerably.”

Zhonka sees itself as a competitor to providers such as MSN, which has similar monthly rates. Zhonka offers no content, but plenty of bandwidth and service.

“It’s just a big, fast pipe,” Olson said. “We’re the friendly local guys who support the community with all the perks of some of the larger ISPs.”

Zhonka manages its own network, monitors outages and handles questions. Stewart said other ISPs depend on the phone company to do much of that.

By using techniques such as e-billing and concentrating on the type of faster connection most customers seem to want, Stewart said operating costs will be about a tenth of what OlyWa’s were. The pair has about a dozen subscribers since launching two weeks ago, and expects to break even at about 500.

That number is certainly attainable — OlyWa had 1,500 — Olson said, because “there’s a big demand for a local ISP.”

“We see a clear need in the market,” Stewart said. “Consumers are faced with a choice between impersonal, out-of-state providers and well-meaning, but often underpowered, local firms. We’ve designed Zhonka to fill this void by offering cutting-edge services coupled with responsive customer support.”

Which begs the question: Why did Olson and Stewart sell to ATG?

http://www.theolympian.com/home/news/20030321/business/25727.shtml

“It seemed like a good marriage,” Olson said. “And there were some cost savings involved. But ATG’s model turned out not to be our model of doing things.”

A big part of the Zhonka model is being part of the community — whether that is providing services and Web page space for nonprofits or setting up complimentary wireless Internet access points in various downtown locations.

Zhonka’s laptop and palmtop users can access the net at cafes wirelessly. The zones already have been set up at The Other Guys’ Internet cafe and the Clubside Cafe, both on Fourth Avenue in downtown Olympia. Zhonka is in discussions with Olympia Farmers Market for a hookup there also.

“It’s certainly an emerging technology, and it’s also something that gives us a presence in downtown,” Olson said. “I was down at the Clubside Cafe the other day and listening to the Vancouver Canucks game on Web radio.”

“The key part of it is to make sure there are no interruptions,” Stewart said. “When we got everything connected, I would log on to a radio site like National Public Radio and keep it on for 24 hours to ensure it’s a smooth connection. People are willing to pay more for good and fast connections. They don’t want interruptions.”

Stewart and Olson moved back into their old offices because of the fiber optic line already installed there, but it’s been a strange reunion.

“There’s a little bit of deja vu involved, that’s for sure,” Olson said. “But we’ve seen a lot with the bottom dropping out of the Internet economy and new technologies coming through. We’ve learned a lot about making the Internet efficient.”

“ATG purchased” in The Olympian with comments by Dave Olson

ATG (OlyWa) Purchased from The Olympian – (pdf) 06/06/02

Scott Wyland from The Olympian article again mentions Zhonka entering the market, “Former OlyWa employee Dave Olson, also unavailable for comment, has said he wants to launch an ISP called Zhonka Broadband, which would offer high-speed connections to Web users.”

Long-distance company ATG purchased

Integra officials say OlyWa service will not be disrupted

SCOTT WYLAND THE OLYMPIAN

Advanced TelCom Group Inc., a mid-sized carrier that gave callers an alternative to Baby Bells, has agreed to sell its assets to repay a chunk of its $206 million debt.

Portland company

Portland-based Integra Telecom will take over most of ATG’s assets, which include property, equipment, customer accounts and labor pool.

Based in Santa Rosa, Calif., ATG two years ago bought OlyWa.net, a local Internet service provider.

ATG laid off OlyWa’s 10 employees by the time it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early May but continued to serve some 1,600 subscribers.

No disruptions

No disruption of service is expected under Integra, including to OlyWa customers, said Gary Cuccio, ATG executive chairman.

Cuccio said he took the helm at ATG six months ago in an attempt to turn the company around, but by then it was too late.

“We grew too fast,” Cuccio said. “We simply borrowed money that we were unable to pay back.” Integra representatives couldn’t be reached on Wednesday to discuss their plans for OlyWa.

Former OlyWa employee Dave Olson, also unavailable for comment, has said he wants to launch an ISP called Zhonka Broadband, which would offer high-speed connections to Web users.

Because of the Chapter 11 filing, the sale can’t be completed until all parties sign off on it, including ATG’s creditors, Cuccio said. That could take one day or several months.

Integra will have the option of changing the ATG name, he said. “Not much will be left of ATG.”

All told, ATG will receive about $20 million for its customer accounts and other assets, about one-tenth of what it owes 13 banks, Cuccio said. Creditors will have to eat the remaining debt, he said.

Other buyers

Three other buyers purchased a small portion of the assets: Cavalier Communications, of Richmond, Va.; Step 7, of Santa Rosa; and TelePacific Communications of Los Angeles.

ATG spiraled into the red when the slumping economy caused small to mid-size businesses — ATG’s main client base — to fold or pull back on spending, Cuccio said.

The mounting debt prevented the company from doing an initial public stock offering needed to boost capital, he said.

ATG had some success competing against big carriers such as 1/2 est, but it lacked the resources these large companies had for weathering an industry slide, Cuccio said. “I think when the downturn hits, they have deeper pockets.”

Dave Olson in “OlyWa office empty” article in The Olympian (2002)

OlyWa office empty – (pdf) 05/28/02 – The Olympian

Article by Scott Wyland from The Olympian foreshadows start-up of Zhonka, “Olson and other OlyWa team members plan to launch a company called Zhonka Broadband, which will offer DSL to customers throughout Western Washington, with the focus being on South Sound.”

Dave OlyWa office
Steve Bloom/The Olympian

OlyWa offices empty

Staff laid off, service could be cut as parent company files Chapter 11

Although OlyWa.net’s work force was laid off due to ATG’s ailing finances, Dave Olson hopes he and some other former OlyWa employees can launch a new Internet service provider.

SCOTT WYLAND THE OLYMPIAN
OLYMPIA —

Advanced TelCom Group Inc., which owns OlyWa.net, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, a move that eventually could leave 1,550 local Internet subscribers without service.

Santa Rosa, Calif.-based ATG has laid off all 10 of OlyWa’s employees, plus a dozen ATG workers in its Olympia office.

Internet users who need technical support must call an 800 number.

Although ATG can solve most users’ problems over the phone, it has no one to maintain or repair the on-site equipment in Olympia, said Dave Olson, former OlyWa co-owner.

“Any hardware failures can’t be handled from afar,” Olson said. “Sooner or later something will happen.”
For instance, Monday he observed a server that handles e-commerce for a group of clients was down, he said.

To override the glitch, someone simply needed to reboot the computer — but there was no one there to do that, he said.

OlyWa is a lower priority for ATG, whose main thrust is offering callers an alternative to buying phone service from utilities such as Qwest, Olson said.

ATG will shut down OlyWa if it can’t find someone to buy the customer accounts, he said.

Two years ago, ATG bought then-5-year-old OlyWa for an undisclosed sum. One of the co-founders, Olson stayed on as a marketing manager.

Of the 25 workers who were employed locally after the merger, one or two salespeople and a phone installer remain, Olson said.

Jeannette Meyer, ATG finance director, said last week’s Chapter 11 filing would have no effect on telephone customers. That includes ATG’s subsidiary, FairPoint Solutions.

However, Meyer wouldn’t say how OlyWa subscribers would be affected.

She acknowledged that the filing compelled the company to reduce costs, including trimming staff. ATG closed offices in New York, Connecticut, Maryland and Virginia.

Under Chapter 11, ATG must reorganize in such a way that it can pay off at least a portion of the debt owed creditors.

Buyer wanted

ATG now is on the hunt for a buyer and will hold off on cutting any more jobs, Meyer said, adding that a new owner could opt to lay off more workers after the sale.

Olson and other OlyWa team members plan to launch a company called Zhonka Broadband, which will offer DSL to customers throughout Western Washington, with the focus being on South Sound.

Olson said he had been waiting for a non-compete clause, which he signed when ATG bought OlyWa, to expire June 15.

But ATG’s Chapter 11 filing has nullified that agreement, at least in spirit, he said. So he plans to rev up the Zhonka venture immediately.

Zhonka, he said, will lure OlyWa users who either will grow dissatisfied with the diminishing service or find themselves with no Internet access if ATG pulls the plug.

Olson said he decided to base the venture on high-speed connections because dial-up modems, aside from being slower and less appealing, demand more workers.

ATG’s financial ills are a symptom of the malaise gripping the entire telecommunications industry, said Dennis Matson, executive director of the Economic Development Council of Thurston County.

Given the sluggish economy, telecom carriers are having difficulty drumming up capital to expand, Matson said. If a company doesn’t show vibrant growth, it can’t attract enough investors to do an initial public stock offering.

Matson bemoaned ATG’s ebbing fortunes, saying he encouraged the company to build a network in South Sound, so residents could have more telecom choices.

“For people in Thurston County, the more options, the better,” Matson said.

Concerns

OlyWa.net subscribers with problems or concerns about their service can call Advanced TelCom Group at 800- 285-6100 or e-mail atgservice@callatg.com.

Candid Conversation with Dave Olson in The Business Examiner (2002)

Candid Conversation with Dave Olson in Business Examiner 03/04/02 – Business Examiner (Tacoma, WA)

Q & A with Kamila McClelland of the Business Examiner and Zhonka co-founder Dave Olson discussing mergers, Internet marketing, and new business plans.

##

Dave Olson was marketing director and partner in Olympia-based Internet service provider OlyWa, which was acquired by ATG, a telecommunications company that has Olympia and Tacoma locations. In the following question-and-answer, the Canada native shares the trials, tribulations and rewards of selling a business in which you’ve invested blood, sweat and tears.

Q: How did you first get involved with the founders of OlyWa?

A: I met the three founders of OlyWa at Evergreen’s Super Saturday shortly after I arrived in Olympia. They were selling tie-dyes and I was selling hemp backpacks.

They invited me down to the office to check out this Internet business they had started about six months before. They had already laid a solid technical foundation and gone through the initial ramp-up growth spurt. To complete the stew, OlyWa needed someone who could focus on customer service and marketing tasks.

Q: How much did OlyWa grow after you joined it in 1996?

A: When I joined, the foundation had been laid for fast growth. We went from 500 customers to 1,500 overnight, it seemed. We ran into some growth slowdown while we waited – and waited – for the phone company to install fiber into the building.

During that time, rather than sign up new customers, we kept a waiting list that grew to over 400 prospects. We didn’t sign up new customers until new lines were turned up in order to maintain our current customer’s high-level quality of service.

While we did miss out on some customers, it turned out to be great PR as customers truly appreciated it and carried their @olywa.net e-mail address like a badge of honor.

Q: What was your market niche?

A: OlyWa’s focus was on home power-users and community organizations. By freely extending support to community groups from KAOS Radio to the Food Bank to AIDS and Cancer organizations, I think the general public could see that we were both technically high-performance and genuinely community-focused.

Q: What image do you think OlyWa built for itself by the time it was sold?

A: High performance in every facet – technology, customer service and community support. In particular, we had a reputation for deploying new Internet access solutions first and in a high-quality and reliable manner. Bear in mind that OlyWa wasn’t the first ISP in the area, but certainly we were the most innovative by leading the way with 56K, DSL, Cable, Burstable T1.

Q: How many customers did OlyWa have when it was sold?

A: Depending on how you count them – e-mail accounts, unique billing customer, number of dial-up/DSL lines, etc. – 3,000 is a good round number. Most were residential users, followed by organizations/agencies and businesses third.

Q: What were the conditions in the company and the economy that led you and the other partners to believe the time was right to sell in 2000?

A: It was really more of a condition of our internal growth curve. We hadn’t totally saturated our local market but knew there were other products and markets to pursue, and also that we had the knowledge and experience to expand OlyWa into other markets throughout the Northwest.

We drew up a plan and shopped options, from venture capitalists and private investors to being courted by communications companies who had designs on merging with, or outright purchasing OlyWa.

Q: Was it a smooth transition?

A: Immediately after the merger, not much changed as we worked with our new parent company to devise a plan that ensured that the customer experience was not diluted but rather enhanced.

A problem arose when the parent corporation didn’t immediately incorporate a clear plan or have a defined interest in fully serving home users. Our input and ideas were mostly ignored or unbudgeted.

The business customers were a bit surprised about the pressure to change to an integrated telecommunications package, including a long-term contract, especially since OlyWa had never really used a sales force and certainly not any kind of high-pressure sales that had become the norm.

There were also a number of deployment and billing issues, both internal and external, that certainly left a few disenchanted customers. These service discrepancies were frustrating for us, since we were used to finding ways to satisfy the end-user.

As for the supported community non-profit organizations, most of them were cut or sent invoices. That was perhaps the most painful for me personally, since it is something I took pride in.

Q: What have you done with your share of the proceeds from the OlyWa sale, which was two-thirds stock and one-third cash?

A: The two-thirds stock sits in my safety deposit box, mocking me, and the one-third cash was used to pay bills, a few home improvements and a bit a traveling with my lady friend.

Q: What kind of restrictions did you have to adhere to as part of the sale?

A: I and the other operating partners had to join the parent company as employees and work specifically on migrating customers to the parent company’s network, which turned out to be a tricky proposition.

Q: What caused you to leave your job at ATG last June?

A: It seemed there was internal and cultural confusion on how to handle the OlyWa “tribe,” and what credence to give our ideas, plans and whatnot – kind of a square peg-round hole situation.

Some of our Internet colleagues at corporate HQ were squeezed out. We began to feel we were unwitting  pawns, rather than “bright, innovative Internet minds,” which is how they’d described us when we were negotiating the merger.

Long story short, we negotiated a “divorce” that included a non-compete and mutual non-disparagement agreement.

Q: What are you doing now?

A: The job market is quite lean these days, so I am following my entrepreneurial instincts and brewing up a few new business plans and ideas.

Ideally, I will do something in either public relations or marketing for business and artists. I have also considered completing a law degree, focusing on intellectual property laws, something I became more interested in during the merger.

Q: Is there any room left in Thurston, Pierce, Lewis or Mason counties?

A: Absolutely – in all those markets. I don’t see ISPs being particularly innovative in their service offerings. Additionally, the wait and complications for DSL service are frankly quite absurd.

Further, no ISP is providing Internet access in a wide variety of ways – DSL, Cable, Burstable T1, Frame relay – ensuring all customers can get broadband access. I particularly think that residential customers are underserved, as most ISPs in the marketplace are only after business clients, leaving home users at the mercy of either inconsistent national cable providers or local dial-up providers.

Q: How would you say the local business climate for ISPs has changed over the past three years?

A: The biggest change is the rise – and subsequent decline – of CLECs (Competitive Local Exchange providers). When these providers came in, there was a “shakedown” in which some smaller providers disappeared through assimilation or lack of business. Yet the bigger corporations from out-of-state entering the market haven’t increased the range and quality of service for the end user.

I think there is a desire from the customers for a return to both personalized, local customer service and more streamlined process to high-performance Internet.

Q: What’ve you learned from all this?

A: Before the merger, I felt we were a big fish in a small pond and wouldn’t be as successful in a bigger market. Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned is that our talents and experience were advanced enough to play in the big leagues.

I also learned lawyers make good money no matter how the deal goes down.