Blackfoot acquisition delays network

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SANDPOINT — Local governments will need to wait a little longer before they can make decisions on a proposed public-private fiber optic network.

A recent business acquisition by Missoula-based Blackfoot Communications is good news for the company, but it requires officials to work with its bank to reassess their financial situation. The business move was the primary reason for the cancellation of the joint session between the Sandpoint and Ponderay Wednesday evening. However, the Blackfoot decision will likely only mean delays for the project and nothing more serious, according to Bonner County Economic Development Corporation director Karl Dye.

“Everything is still on track and everyone is still feeling positive,” he said.

Blackfoot Communications completed the deal with Charlotte, N.C.-based FairPoint Communications on Nov. 29 to take over its established Idaho networks, further expanding the Montana company’s reach into neighboring Idaho. The FairPoint networks, which provide phone and data service to Idaho Falls, Rexburg, St. Anthony, Teton, Ashton and Island Park, will cost Blackfoot Communications $30 million pending approval from the Federal Communications Commission in early 2013. Once the deal goes through, it will increase the company’s service area from 6,500 to 8,500 square miles.

The major financial transaction will require the company to reassess its fiscal standing. According to Sandpoint city attorney Scot Campbell, one of the issues under review is how payments in the planned public-private regional fiber optics network will be guaranteed.

While the transaction will likely strengthen the company’s financial standing, Blackfoot is adjusting its plans to reflect the most up-to-date information. The timetable for planning to resume is still unclear, but Campbell said project associates and city staff and officials are keeping the deal on their radar.  

“We expect this to pick up again once we get all the OKs,” he said. 

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