January 20, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana
by Gary Noland
For the Pathfinder
Earl Owens, general manager of Blackfoot Telephone, confirmed Tuesday that the telephone cooperative will be switching all internet customers over to the company's own servers starting Feb. 1.
The transition will take from 60 to 90 days, Owens said, and he thought the Seeley Lake area would be one of the last to be switched over.
Internet users in this area have been serviced by Internet Connect Service servers in Missoula, commonly known as "montana.com", under a contract with Blackfoot Telephone that runs out this coming August.
When the switchover is complete, everyone in this area will have a "blackfoot.net" identity for email service, rather than the "montana.com" in use since internet service became available here through a local dial-up number.
Owens said everyone will be receiving letters shortly explaining the transition.
"It is a strategic decision to become an internet service provider and because of that we are moving all existing customers to our servers," Owens said.
Anyone wishing to remain with Internet Connect Services, or "montana.com", will have to pay long distance charges to Missoula to connect with their servers, Owens confirmed.
Owens also said an existing rate policy of unlimited calls to Missoula for around $20 a month will be changed effective Feb. 16 with a new program that allows a purchase of 1000 block minutes for about the same rate rather than unlimited calls.
In an email response from Mark Mesenko, a management executive with Internet Connect Services in Missoula, he confirmed that customers "...will be forced to change your email address from montana.com to blackfoot.net, however you will have the option to forward email from your original montana.com address to your new address for a $2 per month charge, billed 6 months at a time. ICS will give you the first 2 months free."
Mesenko also added that "We have explained to Blackfoot, and they agreed, that business websites were accounts created outside the scope of our original agreement with them. You (business accounts) will have the option of keeping your arrangement for hosting with us, or moving to their servers."
Currently Blackfoot provides unlimited internet access to Seeley Lake area customers at $19.95 a month at the cost of a local telephone call. That rate is likely to remain the same after the transition, Owens said. The only other option is for internet users to pay long distance charges to connect to servers in Missoula or elsewhere.