Big Net fishes for area investors

TRAVERSE CITY – Big Net is about to get bigger.

With a customer base of 300,000, calendar revenues for Pontiac-based Big Net Holdings are expected to increase from $19 million to $50 million in 2000. The company recently announced a major partnership with Ford Motor Co. to provide high-speed Internet connectivity to their employees, and it’s in the process of striking a deal with Marvel Comics for the promotional, advertising and marketing rights for Spiderman.

Big Net, along with its corporate partners, recently presented northern Michigan investors with the opportunity to invest in one of the fastest-growing communications companies in the country.

After offering a private placement opportunity to employees, close friends and family a few months back, Big Net decided to offer shares to the general public. At a Oct. 26 dinner presentation at the Waterfront Inn, Big Net’s CEO Duane Rao, General Manager Dave Halleck, and Suzan Moody, director of Big Net North Interactive, outlined Big Net’s growth and investments over the past two years.

“We were very pleased with the response,” Moody said. “There were lots of questions and high interest. There are a limited number of private shares still available if anyone is interested, they can contact us directly.”

Moody originally founded Grand Traverse Internet, which later merged with Traverse Communications. Her development team joined Big Net’s earlier this year.

Big Net’s northern Michigan regional headquarters is now open at 511 E.Eighth St. in Traverse City, offering a full array of communications technologies and services.

Big Net oversees operations in 22 major cities, with network operations and Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) service throughout the country. The market demand for faster and better Internet service continues to grow at breakneck speed.

“Consider that just five years ago, the entire Traverse City community was served by one 56K modem located at Northwestern Michigan College,” Moody noted. “Now, 56K modems are serving individuals in businesses and their homes. The next jump is to provide T-1 service, which can handle 28-56K modems.”

The next generation of technology that is available, but is still very new and expensive for the average business or individual, is 3-D monitors. They are now being used in the field of medicine, but the potential for their use is endless. With monitors as large as a car windshield available, complete training sessions, virtual meetings and conferences could be common place within two years.

As the Internet matures, the demands and expectations will too.

“When the Internet began, it was text only that was primarily being sent, which takes up little space,” Moody explained. “Now the demands are for pictures, movies and sound bites, which all require vast amounts of space. It’s like the flow of a river, the bigger the pipe, the bigger the amount that can flow through it.”

BigNet is not just an Internet provider, its a single source of digital communications.

Internet services include T-1s, frame relay, ISDN and 56K dialup; E-commerce solutions include multi-media design, encryption, credit card processing and hosting; and cellular options encompass phones, service and air time. Big Net offers paging/messaging (numeric, text and two-way), long-distance calling cards; satellite (TV sales, service and programming); and computer hardware sales and service.

BigNet has emerged as one of the top five sellers of DSL access in the country (14,000 to date) and has established partnerships with SBC Ameritech, Covad, Rhythms and Bell South for nationwide market coverage.

The launch of Big Net’s IPO is pending. Wall Street is expected to audit their books after December to continue the process of going public. Big Net anticipates that its stock evaluation will coincide with their sales growth.BN