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RTFC Finances Alabama's Pine Belt Communications Upgrade

August 17, 2017

James "Buddy" Nettles always believed the tenet that "in business, if you aren't going forward, you are going backward." Today, his son John Nettles, president and CEO of Pine Belt Communications, is making sure rural Alabama residents can keep pace with their metro Dixie counterparts thanks to a recent loan from RTFC to help the company provide 4G-LTE services.

Founded in the 1950s by John Nettles' father—a country doctor who started his own phone company when no one else would serve the area—Pine Belt Communications is a hub for landline phone, wireless, high-speed Internet and cable television services. The business serves 5,600 consumers in six west-central Alabama counties.

Beyond serving a generally economically impoverished area of the South, the company has faced challenges that included access to usable spectrum, acquiring the latest mobile phone technology and tapping affordable investment capital. "Thankfully, there are focused entities such as RTFC that 'back up their talk' and are willing to partner with rural operators such as Pine Belt to help overcome that last hurdle," Nettles commented.

Pine Belt had worked with RTFC for financing in the 1990s—once to venture into the mobile wireless carrier world and later to fund some landline projects and acquire additional wireless operating licenses. Since that time, however, the telco had turned to a local bank several years ago for the capital to rebuild their network and bring it up to then-current 3G standards.

That upgrade set the stage for Pine Belt's current efforts to add 4G-LTE services. However, working with the local bank again proved tough. "They could not seem to grasp what it was we were doing operationally and could never get comfortable with the growth prospects laid out in our business projections.

In short, they did not seem able to get their heads around the fact that the consumers in rural Alabama deserve and demand current-generation telecom services just the same as the businesses and residences of the state's metropolitan areas," Nettles said.

He continued: "After several months of discussions with them, I decided to explore other options and recalled my past experience with RTFC. I made a call, and within 30 days I had a commitment letter, with a timely closing shortly thereafter. The loan experience couldn't have been any more efficient and straightforward."

As Pine Belt continues going forward with the latest technology, Nettles says the company remains true to its roots—focused on "providing the best service possible to all of our consumers at the best price possible" while also being willing to take risks to ensure their rural consumers stay on track with technology—and RTFC is there to help them succeed.