US Broadband Stimulus Funds Bring WiMAX(TM) to Rural Communities

“The allocations of these funds are a significant win for the awardees, and for the greater broadband wireless industry. But more than that, the real big winners here are the consumers in rural communities who will benefit from affordable broadband services via WiMAX,” said Ron Resnick, president and chairman of the WiMAX Forum. “WiMAX is the ideal technology to help bring broadband to those who currently can’t get access while keeping service and device costs low – from small towns across the U.S. to rural villages in India.”

Broadband service in these areas can enable vital services such as eGovernment, distance learning and remote healthcare. Rural broadband also brings new economic opportunities to these remote areas. According to a recent report by the Brookings Institution, for every 10 percent increase in broadband penetration of a rural area, the number of non-farming jobs grows by 0.2 – 0.3%.

“This most recent award is great news for the 18,000 Mississippi residents and 1,300 businesses who will experience the benefits of 4G mobile broadband when we deploy over the next six to nine months,” said Kelley Dunne, CEO and co-founder of Digital Bridge Communications, a WIMAX Forum member company. “This award comes after DBC received one other RUS Round Two award in Indiana and three NTIA round one awards in Idaho–reflecting support by both agencies for WiMAX, a proven 4G technology that is deployed rapidly and maximizes the number of households receiving broadband per network dollar. We will apply for additional funding near our existing markets through RUS Farm Bill and other economic development programs.”

The WiMAX Forum estimates that for every dollar spent on a new network, a WiMAX operator can cover 10 to 20 times the number of homes and businesses with WiMAX service than can be covered with wireline options. These savings are passed along to the customer, who spends only $25-$35 a month on a WiMAX connection with comparable speed to $50-60 cable or wireline service.

“The RUS stimulus funds will enable small companies to bring broadband to homes that have been out of reach of wireline technologies,” said Jeff Tamietti, CEO of EcliptixNet Broadband, Inc., a recipient of a $20.4M RUS loan/grant combination. “Over the next three years, we plan to build a 3.65GHz mobile WiMAX network spanning over 1,500 sq. mi., covering 46,000 rural homes and businesses in Washington State that will help bring new economic opportunities to the area.”

According to the USDA, by leveraging $2.5 billion in Recovery Act funding authorized by Congress, it has been able to provide loans and grants of $3.6 billion to construct 307 broadband infrastructure and satellite projects in 46 states and one territory. RUS’s Notices of Funds Availability (NOFAs) allocated approximately $2.2 billion in round two awards for broadband infrastructure projects, with $1.67 billion in grants and $779.1 million in loans going to last mile broadband projects.

Rural America is home to about 17 percent (50 million) of the nation’s people and accounts for 75 percent of the nation’s land, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. About 12 percent of U.S. households have no access to broadband service, placing the U.S. at 15th in broadband penetration worldwide.

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