Broadband in the Boonies Gets a $267M Boost

Rural Broadband Via SatelliteIf you live somewhere in the United States where dial-up is the only Internet access option, relax: Help is coming, and so is broadband, thanks to Denver-based Open Range Communications. The company got a hefty $267 million loan from the USDA under its Rural Development Broadband Loan and Loan Guarantee Program and will roll out broadband services in 518 rural areas in 17 states that include Illinois, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Wisconsin. Open Range has also buttoned up $100 million in private equity investments. This is one of the largest investments in rural broadband so far.

Ironically, for a company that’s getting such a huge amount of money as a loan, there is little or no information. Open Range’s web site is a placeholder with a link to an email address for its PR person. Given that it secured hundreds of millions of dollars from a government department, one should expect more transparency. Even the details on how the network and service will be rolled out remain sketchy. Open Range will use a combination of technologies, including WiMAX, to bring broadband to these communities.

Frank Ohrtman, president of WMX system, a Denver-based WiMax consulting firm, tells The Denver Post that Open Range will “sublease the spectrum from others” and will deliver “a land-based broadband service using spectrum that was allocated as a satellite spectrum.” Clearly, Open Range isn’t using standards-based technologies.

Open Range cut a deal with Globalstar, a satellite services company, in 2007 and, as part of that deal, will deploy a network that will use Globalstar’s Ancillary Terrestrial Component authority.

Photo courtesy of Gino via Flickr.

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