Judge to City: Poplar Bluff Internet Owes You $0

Dec 12, 2014

Poplar Bluff Internet, Inc. owned and operated SEMO.net from 1995 until 2012. Brian Becker is founder and majority shareholder of Poplar Bluff Internet, Inc.

semonet vs cityAs I’ve hinted and casually stated over the course of the last eight months…in their haste, Doug Bagby and Wallace Duncan forgot to exclude their judgment against Poplar Bluff Internet, Inc. when they sold City Cable back on April 1st.

The DAR reported, on at least two occasions, that the debt was not a part of the deal citing an email and some quotes by a NewWave representative. But anyone who read the purchase agreement knew the DAR was wrong (which, by the way, appears to be the norm these days).

The hearing was held on Thursday in the Butler County Courthouse. Doug Bagby had been subpoenaed by the City to testify regarding the negotiation process. Judge Ligons would not allow him to testify. Derrick Kirby, Poplar Bluff Internet’s legal counsel said, “I don’t believe there is any ambiguity. And without ambiguity, I believe the court is confined to the four corners of the contract.” Ligons agreed.

Later that day, the judge signed an order effectively stating that the city transferred that debt with the sale of City Cable to NewWave.

The four-year-saga between Poplar Bluff Internet and the City of Poplar Bluff is officially over.


  1. Angie West

    I guess it would have been really great if the all of the contract had been available to the council and the constituents the night of the sale, oh, like it’s supposed to be. (I just happened to be there on another matter that night) You know, maybe read it before you agree to it. I find it beyond belief that an attorney who specialized in cable only law was not consulted before the sale. Frankly, the “keep it local” mantra can only go so far when such matters of these are in play. It goes without saying, that PB has a lot of smart people, however, it’s wise to see outside counsel to make sure all the “i’s” are dotted and “t’s” are crossed. I find it fascinating that such a commotion is made about outside consultants when probably 95% would seek medical care from Cape or St. Louis should we want an expert opinion. Does that mean our local medical professionals are incompetent (maybe a few are) but if I need spine surgery I want to consult to someone who does it all day long. Not a person who does 2 a month. So, now, maybe Poplar Bluff can get on with improving “our” town. And Brian and NuWave and do whatever they find prudent.

  2. Romona Larson

    Happy for Semo.net
    Just wish we had better options for Internet that also surrounded more areas . I have Hughesnet and it’s not the best either ..😔

  3. Thomas Stucker

    Just know I didn’t and would ever vote for the people on city council. I use to like Jack but that went to hell. I would never use his services again. Cause at the end of the day we got another good ol boy system to replace the new one.

  4. Thomas Stucker

    Seriously u think I read the DAR. Lmao that paper is a joke. As for the city not going to shambles. How is it not. please explain that. Our city counsel is a joke whom care nothing for the citizens. Our mayor is a joke. Kaplan for example. I mean it’s really going to grow the economy spending our money else were. How did Kaplan last jobs end up? Now on to these complaints. U still used the services correct knowing what the charges were. I mean a smart business man wouldn’t continue to rack up charges. U should of discontinued use until they fixed it. Instead u continued to use it. Help me understand why I should believe the city is going in right direction coming from you. Remember u didn’t pay a bill because u didn’t agree but keep using it. Makes perfect since.

  5. Brian Becker

    The city isn’t going to shambles, it is actually being turned and going in the right direction. Don’t believe the DAR, the decisions made so far have been very good ones.

  6. Brian Becker

    No, Thomas. The first bill with the new rate, we paid what we’d paid the month before (about $24k) and disputed the extra $10k. They asked us to suspend the dispute policy for them to discuss it, we said yes. The second month’s bill came and we paid $24k and disputed $10k. They ignored the dispute. That happened every month until we sued them.

  7. Thomas Stucker

    Denise Wyatt Magruder so in your thinking say a electric rate increase happens. Everyone should just pay the old one since they don’t agree with old one. Then when they send u a bill waste more city money to challenge a bill u know u owe. Makes perfect since to me.

  8. Thomas Stucker

    Your rights Brian Becker really. Didn’t realize u had the right to run up big bills then act like it ain’t owed. Where do I find that right at. Now say u challenged it from when it first happened (rate increase) I could see u well within your rights. But to run up a big bill then challenge it to act as if u are in your rights is absurd. I bet if everyone that subscribe to your services used the same rights u asserted then we’re would u be

  9. Brian Becker

    Thomas, I took the proper action. I disputed the bill according to city policy, the city refused to follow their policy so I sued them. Once the case was over (May 2014), the city no longer owned the asset we were arguing about (sold April 2014). I’m not sure why you fault me for doing my rights.

  10. Thomas Stucker

    Brian Becker I have never stated u are totally wrong. U do hold responsibility in also. If u didn’t agree u shouldn’t of continued use until it was resolved. How come u didn’t challenge it in court at the beginning. Instead wait and rake up the charges.

  11. Thomas Stucker

    Denise Wyatt Magruder I can’t say I disagree with that. I can’t say I uphold alot the city does. Fact still remains Brian was aware and continued to use it. If he felt the rate was to high in the beginning then he should of took proper channels to remedy that. Not continue to use it and profit then act like they don’t owe it

  12. Thomas Stucker

    Brian I never said the didn’t profit now u are trying to change what I said. I said it was a short fall. Which means they didn’t make what should a been made

  13. Brian Becker

    True, Denise. I begged them to bring in a consultant to calculate them…but they didn’t want the truth…they wanted a lie.

  14. Brian Becker

    You said “they lost money” which was their narrative and it wasn’t true. Now you are saying they weren’t profiting enough. That is a different argument and I would have been happy to argue how much profit the city should receive. But the Doug and Bill knew that argument wouldn’t win support so they decided to make it say that they were losing money. It was a lie in order to get people to side with them.

  15. Thomas Stucker

    Brian in your rationale. Say u had 10k subscribers and only 8k paid there bill. U are saying that the 2k would create a short fall.

  16. Thomas Stucker

    Ok but that would be 800k if PBI would of paid there portion. So yes no matter how u figure it. There was still a lose. Just because there was profit doesn’t mean there can’t be a lose to.

  17. Thomas Stucker

    Ok so u feel the city should charge higher rates to u because why. Simple they were losing money. So in your explanation u should of charged those 10 heavy users 180. City has got to pay for updates among other things. So why do feel the city shouldn’t make enough to pay for updates. Let me guess they should of been getting that from higher taxes. Point is, u were aware of the rate increase. U were aware of the charges that would be entailed with new rate. U still used it. So who is to blame really Brian. When u are aware of something and u continue to use those services u are responsible. Same as with anyone. U can’t sign up for services and get a rate increase and decide well I’ll pay the old rate. It doesn’t work like that. If u didn’t want to pay it u should of discontinued use. Not continue on like it never happened. And yes if it’s a outstanding debt it’s a short fall. If u expect x amount and u get y then that equals a short fall. Keep in mind we may still have open access if they didn’t lose money on it

  18. Brian Becker

    It wasn’t a shortfall, Thomas. We paid every month for the services we received, the $200k was the “extra” rate that we were fighting over…

    For example, we had 10 heavy usage customers who were paying us $99/month each (or about $1000). The “A” rate we paid the city was $180 for those customers, the “Z” rate raised it to $12,000 for those 10 heavy users.

    We “forced” those 10 users to move to the city’s network and the city charged them $99 each for a total of $990.

    The city was charging a wholesale price 12x higher than their retail price?

    Though the judge saw the calculation error, the basic answer was that he did not feel he had control over their legislative decisions no matter how bad or incorrect they were.

  19. Thomas Stucker

    that doesn’t mean u didn’t wilfully deprive the citizens of Poplar Bluff out of the money. Facts are u deliberately didn’t pay. Yet u still collected money from your subsribers. U profited from the city. U may have spent it all trying to get out of it but never the less u profited. For the life of me I can’t figure out how anyone supports anything u do. Just shows how naive people can be. Cause it’s the inevitable that the citizens of Poplar Bluff took the hit from u and the sale of city cable. Are u totally to blame no. City officials are also to blame for not cutting your services off as they would anyone else. So I don’t hold u totally accountable. But yes u do hold the majority. Imagine may not of had to sell if the 200000 would of been payed. How many rate increases did we see trying to cover the 200k short fall

  20. Brian Becker

    Thomas, I’m sorry you feel that way. I really am. What you might be missing is that SEMO.net did pay for use of the network every month. For the first 10 years we paid rate A, then when Council decided to end Open Access they also raised the rates to rate Z.

    That “Z” rate had a calculation error in it which was what the entire case was about. We refused to pay that amount and continued to pay rate A until Open Access ended. The entire court case was about whether the city could arbitrarily set a rate with a known calculation error in it. The judge said “yes” so we appealed that.

    City Cable was sold in April and the appellant court said “yes” in May, but we legally couldn’t pay the city

  21. Thomas Stucker

    To funny. So now city counsel owned City Cable. Cause they didn’t get ripped off. Ultimately the city tax payers got ripped off. With the people to blame being Brian Becker old city counsel as well as the new one. Brian received payment every month that he used open access. Which it turn costed tax payers. Which Brian got the money from his subscribers and fail to pay for the use of the city. So why would anyone support this guy. He stole from the same city u support makes since. As before I use to be blinded and think Brian had a good cause until u really look and then it was nothing more than to deprive the city of what u owed. GOOD BUSINESS practice

  22. Lisa Dormady

    Merry Christmas to my sweet friends! You were diligent and God has been faithful to see you through it! Happy it’s over for you!! Let your business thrive!!