On Oct. 11, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) authorized more than $61.8 million for the Connect America Fund Phase 2 (CAF) over the next decade to expand broadband service to rural homes and businesses in 14 states. The program will bring broadband to underserved rural areas across America.
Inventive Wireless doing business as Vistabeam, based in Gering, is among the recipients to receive funding.
Vistabeam has been working for three years to prepare a plan of execution. Last August, the FCC had a reverse auction where companies were able to bid on projects, which Vistabeam did and in turn, were awarded part of the CAF monies.
“It’s pretty exciting for us. It gave us a lot of focus on those specific areas. They were places we wanted to get upgraded to better service anyway. We see it as a big win,” said Matt Larsen, CEO of Vistabeam.
The service areas under the project include Scottsbluff County in Nebraska; Niobrara, Albany, and Platte Counties in Wyoming; and Jackson and Yuma Counties in Colorado.
Vistabeam will receive around $5.3 million to be paid out over 10 years. The funding will allow the company to build the network and begin hitting locations of service. The company will hit 40 percent of service in three years and then incrementally until they have 100 percent service in designated areas.
Larsen says CAF funding will build the network, but Vistabeam will be using other new wireless technologies to solve the problem of line of sight.
“Up to this point, almost all of the locations we have been serving have had to have line of sight,” he said. “So, you have to have a view of our tower to your housetop to get service.”
The new technology they will begin using will be able to go through trees and get into areas, which were not able to be reached before. Larsen said they have been testing it in Lingle and Torrington, Wyo., and it has met their expectations.
Since rural America has vast spaces between towns and cities, Larsen said as they build out the network, it will also benefit others outside of the designated areas.
Vistabeam will offer a 25 Mbps down and three Mbps up package as its base. The company will also have discounts for some, called a Lifeline program.
“So people who qualify will be able to get broadband service,” Larsen said. “It will be a big help for people who don’t have broadband yet because they thought it would be too expensive. We should have some nice alternatives for people. We really want to get as many people on the internet as we can.”
The six broadband providers will service 14 states and will begin receiving funding later in October.