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CLEVELAND, Tenn – An Internet service provider that started more than a decade ago has found the secret for growth as a stand-alone firm in the ever changing technology world.



Adapted from Chattanooga Times Free Press 12/22/2006

by Jason M. Reynolds  РStaff Writer

CLEVELAND, Tenn – An Internet service provider that started more than a decade ago has found the secret for growth as a stand-alone firm in the everchanging technology world.

WingNET Internet Services, which began as part of a religious printing establishment here, recently bought NWI USA, an ISP in Indiana, for an undisclosed amount.

“It’s an opportunity to expand in a region of the country we haven’t previously operated in,” said WingNet President and CEO Craig Thompson. “it establishes a game plan for continued growth through acquisitions.”

The Cleveland ISP offers dial-up and broadband Internet access, he said. Although large, well-known ISPs consider dial-up service less profitable than broadband, some people still prefer dial-up, especially missionaries in foreign lands, who form a large customer base for WingNet, Mr. Thompson said.

“Dial-up is a valid way to connect to the Internet for millions of people,” he said.

There are several thousand small ISP’s, he said, although the number has shrunk in recent years with the broadband push.

NWI USA is the third acquisition WingNet has made, and Mr. Thompson said he may buy another local technology business next year. One previous acquisition in California provided his company with high-volume e-mail hosting capabilitie and brought many nonprofit clients.

“My heart is into helping pastors and missionaries communicate,” he said.

Cleveland is fortunate to have locally based Internet service providers, said jerry Bohannon, president and CEO of the Cleveland-Bradley Chamber of Commerce and a personal customer of WingNet.

Companies such as WingNet, which provide technical services, are a boon to area businesses in need of tech support, he said.

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Mr. Thompson said that while most brokers will not consider buying an ISP unless it has at least $2 million in annual revenue, a lot of small ISP’s fall below that threshold. WingNET is interested in working with the smaller companies to give them an opportunity to sell.¬† NWI USA had just under 400 dial-up connections. Mr. Thompson declined to say how many clients he has or reveal revenue figures.

WingNet, with three employees, offers tech support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, through a contract with an American-based third party. Mr. Thompson said. The ISP also offers Web and e-mail hosting and spam prevention fo rindividuals and corporations. It’s high-volume e-mail service is especially useful for missionary teachers in the Far East, who need secure e-mail service, he said.

WingNet also offers network service for companies, including wiring, firewalls and routers, and Linux consulting and maintenance, he said.

WingNet was the first local company in 2001 to offer flat-rate long-distance telephone connection, but dropped the program in 2005 when national telephone companies offered the same option bundled with local service.

WingNet was founded in 1995 as part of White Wing Publishing co, the former publishing branch of the Church of God of Prophecy, said Mr. Thompson, who headed up the Internet company for White Wing. The publishing company in 2000 decided to divest the Internet firm, so Mr. Thompson bought WingNet.

Mr. Thompson said he majored in intercultural studies at Lee University and received a master’s degree in divinity from the Church of God Seminary. He never planned to own a business, he said, but enjoys helping missionaries communicate with their churches.

E-mail Jason M. Reynolds at jreynolds@timesfreepress.com

Craig Thompson, President and CEO

Craig Thompson, President and CEO, WingNet