Work at Home on the Open Range

As out parent company GigaOM reports, the USDA has just approved a $267 million loan to Denver, Colorado-based Open Range Communications. The money, according to the USDA press release, will go to provide broadband service to “518 communities in 17 states.”

At the moment, it’s hard to tell just what Open Range is up to; their own web site has turned into a simple contact page, though snooping around in the Google cache turns up a bit more. An older version of their site says they’re going to be using WiMAX technology, with network equipment on existing towers and buildings. They were projecting the cost of 1.5MBps down and 512kbps up at less than $40 per month, with unlimited national voice service available for less than $30 per month. Whether this is still the game plan is anyone’s guess.

Web workers who have tried to live and survive in rural counties know that the cost of bandwidth in this country can be a real issue. While some areas are well-served by broadband ISPs, in others you can pay hundreds of dollars per month for any connectivity better than dialup (if it can even be installed). Anything that will help alleviate this situation is a good deal for us.

In this case, though, it’s hard to tell how good the deal is. We hope Open Range will step forward with more information and concrete rollout dates soon. Until then, rural web workers in the US are still in the same position they’ve been for years: gazing enviously at their city cousins’ bandwidth and dreaming of the day when it will come to their doorsteps.