Before you start reading this. I want you to know that this is a very long read, compared to most things on the internet. However, if you are tired of being ripped off month after month from your current provider for service that is less than what was promised you need to take the time to read it. This document will show you what is happening and how you can be the reason for fixing the internet problem in your community. Just like we did here in Royston Georgia. Please be sure to email me your thoughts or call me at 706-948-3136. Thank you for your time and I am looking forward to working together with you to solve this.
Steve Fortmann, September 2017
Election season is on us and it seems like the political ruling class is interested in our issues once more. I have read more articles about the rural broadband problem in America over the past few weeks than I have in the past few years. With all the attention this issue gets every election cycle, with all the articles, the editorials, the plans to fix, the meetings, the committees, the reporting, the promised oversight, the tax payer monies spend (multiple billions to date), why then is there still a problem?
How is it that a company like WindStream can get government money (taxpayer money) to fix a problem they themselves created by not updating and upgrading their equipment? Why do they get to take profits made in rural markets and spend in markets where they have competition? Why do people keep waiting and hoping they do the right thing? Then, how in the world do they have the gumption to put their hand out and ask for even more money?
Why does AT&T receive hundreds of millions of dollars a year from the government (again taxpayer money) to fix a problem that they are responsible for creating by oversubscribing their aging DSL network and not doing upgrades to the rural markets? How in the world is it that our government, with almost zero idea of what the problems are, gives these companies more money to fix this after the money they already have been given by their ACTUAL CUSTOMERS?
For all the money that has been thrown around in the CAF and now CAFII as well as the Obama era stimulus money shouldn’t we have actual high-speed internet available in these rural markets? The cycle just repeats ad nauseum and nothing changes. The big companies that created the problem are still the ONLY ones the government (local too) run to when it is time to answer the angry constituents. These big companies hold our representative’s hands while making clucking noises with their tongues and then explain how very complex the issue is. How there isn’t enough profit to be made in these rural markets to justify upgrading them while at the same time bragging to their stock holders about fleecing these rural markets and investing into markets where competition exists. If only we had more money they say, then we could really fix this problem.
Our representatives seem to forget that these are ‘for profit’ companies and they generate obscene amounts of money each quarter. They take money from their customers and spend it where deemed necessary which often times means the rural markets are left on the digital dirt roads. Go ahead and search what AT&T or WindStream made last year. They are not broke. Yet they spin this tale time and time again to our representatives of how they can’t afford to upgrade their infrastructure that is needed to provide high speed last mile connections. This is why we gave them Connect America Funds money in the BILLIONS.
Somehow that money was spent and the problem still exists so now we have CAFII, because the first part worked so well, and we are shelling out BILLIONS more to pay the companies that already make BILLIONS to fix their networks and upgrade their dilapidated systems.
The companies that are receiving this money are the companies that gave us this problem.
Are you aware of the above statement? Are you comfortable with it?
Our elected officials are. They are very comfortable with it. Why is that? How come politicians can run on this particular topic, rattle sabers, and poke the bear and then create sweetheart legislation that pays them, no rewards them, to fix it and they never fix it. It is just more of the same.
I believe this is a safe target, a paper tiger with no teeth. It is something the public is largely invested in because everyone has a story to tell about how bad their internet service is that it allows candidates to connect with a large audience. They listen, set up town halls, write strongly worded letters, send out email updates and robo-calls touting their ferocity and progress with the incumbent providers and then when it doesn’t get better they can point the finger at a many number of places.
Below are my favorites:
1. Too many regulations
2. Not enough profit in the rural markets
3. It takes time
It is not the politicians fault. He/she fought the good fight. We saw the posts on Facebook or read the puff pieces in the newspapers. He/she can sleep well at night knowing they did what they could, the evidence is there right in the news feeds for all to see. The people are contented to wait and give them more time to fix the problem.
What most people do not know is that while they are ‘fighting for the little guy, the downtrodden, those trampled on by the mean ole telephone companies’ they are very quietly giving these same companies millions and millions of taxpayer dollars to perpetuate the problem.
The government has financed AT&T and WindStream (I am sure there are others) to keep us on these digital dirt roads. When you call them out on it they blame Obama era policies or the fact that this was already in the works. To me, all this means is that the fix was in.
The politicians get our votes and then these companies that they so vehemently oppose for what they are doing to their constituency donate money to them and in turn these donors get millions (and millions) of dollars of taxpayer money. At least that is how it looks from where I sit.
So, when will it get fixed? How much money is this going to take? How long do we have to wait? The economic impact rural communities are incurring and have incurred will take many years to overcome.
Is the government the best solution to this problem? Don’t they have other things to be doing instead of ‘fixing’ rural internet? Furthermore, why are we relying on the same players that gave us this mess to come up with a solution that works us?
Think about this:
It took the United States of America less than ten years to send a man to the moon…
There is internet at the Space Station...
But they can’t get internet down a dirt road in rural America.
Can’t, or won’t?
A better solution exists.
The last mile customers are experts in their internet service experience and time after time they find us and make us aware of them. This gets the ball rolling and we begin having conversations with those in the area that are being impacted by poor service, whether at home, at work, or at school. We attend home owner association meetings and listen as people describe their specific grievances towards their service provider. We speak at City Council meetings across the region and show them how by collaborating with us they can leverage their vertical assets to solve this problem.
The amazing part is the stories are almost all the same. Rural customers are getting taken advantage of by their service provider. Either through oversubscribing, delivering less than advertised speeds, or just gross negligence, the incumbent provider is robbing these rural customers of their money and of their time.
Until we begin the conversation in any given town the only solution is for the incumbent provider to fix their network, make upgrades to aging systems, and follow through on promises given.
Until we show up they are stuck in a market with no competition in where they are charged extraordinary amounts for service that is anything but.
We do much more than just talk, we submit real plans that can offer real solutions that are custom tailored for that specific community.
Paladin Wireless exists to bridge the digital divide in these rural markets, that is our calling and it is what we do. We offer the community a chance to have a choice in the matter of internet.
In the past Paladin Wireless has worked with private investors to provide the financial capital required for this expensive endeavor. This has proven to be too long a process to be an effective timely solution to the problem at hand.
What if we worked directly with the actual people who are having a problem with their internet? What if instead of searching out and securing investors we raised the needed money with the network’s future customers?
Crowdfunding can work.
Our model is simple. Meet with the people from the community, establish the need, figure out coverage areas, and spec out network buildout costs. Then customers from that area deposit money into their customer account for that community network. This money is added as a credit to their account to be put towards future billing when the network is live. The deposit would be the total build out cost divided by the number of participants in the area. Paladin Wireless will cover up to 50% of the total cost. The rest to be shared by those whom the network will serve once it goes live. Paladin Wireless will apply the credit to the customer accounts by putting $100 towards the installation charge and then the remaining gets applied $10 per month until the credit runs out. The customer is out nothing in the end and if for some reason we don’t reach our funding goals within our target dates or service happens to be unavailable to a certain person’s location once the network goes live Paladin Wireless will refund the money back to the customer.
The need would determine the network size, it could be as small as a neighborhood, or as large as a county. Paladin Wireless would encourage participants to work together in creating a successful network and be the reason this solution exists. All we need is one person who is tired of paying too much for too little to contact us and that will start the movement. Once an adequate number of participants were interested we will begin to schedule town-hall style meetings in where we explain the way we use LTE/5G radio systems, the same types used by the large mobile carriers, to deliver extremely high speed, reliable, and affordable internet into homes and businesses. After that meeting a timeline would be established, our work on creating network specifications would begin, and we would set up the funding goals and the target date to have funding in place.
If this idea interests you please email me at email@example.com.
Why this matters to me.
I live in a rural area and have suffered poor internet service for years thanks to an incumbent provider who is not interested in upgrading their network. I paid way too much money for far too little service. The level of frustration I felt just trying to browse the internet or send a file was palatable. I used to have to drive to Athens to upload large files at Chic-fil-a (love the wandering cow network).
I moved my office from outside my home into town because the internet speeds were better but as always, the promise the sales person made was as empty as the service, while faster, was still unreliable. I was paying for two accounts trying to make the speeds better but all it did was spread my bandwidth across two links while doubling my bill. I couldn’t use my VOIP phone system and had to get regular phone service and I still could not consistently upload large files having to send employees to nearby towns with decent internet to do so.
The financial impact was huge costing me several hundred more dollars each month all because my internet failed to deliver the stated performance. The only system that worked fail not was the billing system. They never missed billing me for service that barely worked. We had 2 U-verse accounts and we were supposed to be getting 16Mbps but we never got more than 12Mbps and we never got that consistently. It went out when it rained. It went out when the train went by. It went out when trucks went by. It got noticeably slower at 3PM when the kids got out of school.
The worst part of it all was that the upload was never more than 0.6Mbps, meaning the rate that we could upload email attachments, or files to our offsite servers was next to impossible. The phones they set us up with went over the internet side and our call quality was horrible at best. We had copper lines into our business but they don’t do phones like that any longer and use the same internet circuit for both services. When you only have 0.6Mbps upload voice quality really suffers. I had 6 employees at the time at my web services shop and we really counted on having an internet connection.
I spent many hours on the phone complaining to my provider about the poor service. They troubleshot the connection over the phone. I rebooted (and rebooted) the device countless times. We had techs come out and check the wires. The service never got better.
One night at home, where the internet service was even worse, I set up a survey on my Facebook page asking my friends a string of questions about their internet service. I was literally floored by the responses and quickly found out that the situation was the same across the region. When I say thousands of people completed our survey that is not an exaggeration.
The survey, the responses, and the problem gnawed at me for weeks and I asked my wife jokingly if she wanted to start an internet company to provide actual high-speed internet to our neighbors. This began a story that is still being written today.
My wife and I sent out another survey on Facebook in which we asked if we built an internet company that actually provided service that was not only affordable but worked would they be our customers. Everyone answered yes and we began researching how one goes about building an ISP.
We quickly discovered that wireless would be the only way we could afford to build our network and we started learning about all things RF. We built our first tower and set up our first access points and loaded them to capacity during our beta testing. We then lit up another tower, another after that, and so on.
So, we come to today, a few years later, hundreds of happy customers on board, and transmitting internet over an area that covers 350 square miles and 4 counties!
Be the reason.
I believe we can do more and go more places and I believe that by working together we can solve this problem.
Do you agree? Do you want to be the reason the broadband problem in your community was fixed? Please email your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org to get a starter package for your community.
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