The Pacific NW Rural Broadband Alliance, LTD Story
For decades, the United States has been experiencing an ever-worsening crisis of unequal access to quality internet that impacts to a total of 70 million people. Montana is the state struggling the most, ranking dead last in the nation behind states like Alaska and Wyoming. To make matters worse, Montanans also pay the highest prices for the slowest speeds.
The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on this inequity and highlighted how traditional internet service providers struggle to keep people online, raise prices without improving service, and fail to expand their service to those in need when it matters the most.
During this time, Montanans were among the most impacted limiting people’s ability to work from home, children’s access to distance learning, families' ability to access vital telemedicine services, and our small businesses' ability to operate.
The Pew Charitable Trust reports that 29% of American families earning less than $30,000 don’t own a smartphone, and only 18% have home access to the kind of high-speed internet required for jobs, education, telemedicine and other basic needs.
The digital divide most negatively impacts rural areas, like Montana, struggling with aging and inadequate infrastructure. In these areas economically disadvantaged families struggle to afford current prices for broadband internet that is of dubious quality.
However, this isn’t just an issue of affordability, though. In these rural parts of the country up to 23% of American households earning $75,000 or more also don't have access to modern broadband.
We formed the Pacific Northwest Rural Broadband Alliance (PNWRBA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, to provide rural communities the tools and resources they need to solve this problem they collectively face. We offer a low-cost solution to this digital divide by building locally-based high-speed broadband networks that pay customers for hosting wireless relays that grow their network's size, speed, and reliability.
We operate more efficiently than large corporate internet providers by using the proven and cutting-edge Althea technology that forgoes the construction of expensive centralized infrastructure. Althea allows us to create decentralized and distributed networks design with automated billing and customer management services provided via blockchain technology.
As veteran telecommunications and software engineers, we have intimate knowledge of large-scale ISP operations and how their outdated and inefficient operations fail to meet the demands of much of America. We are passionate about applying our skills and experience to ensure rural Montanans gain access to the level of internet service required to participate in 21st-century life.
With our bottom-up, grass roots, community focused model we are capable of quickly and efficiently building fast and affordable broadband networks that can easily scale to meet growing demand. This creates a market of 70 million under-served and unconnected people who are truly accessible for the first time.
In January 2021, local television station KPAX aired a piece featuring the launch of our flagship network, the Missoula Valley Internet Co-op. Since the network launched, our organization has have received overwhelming demand locally, with over 500 pre-registered customers, and more networks planned for launch across the state. Along with a presentation we recently gave at the “Polson Bounces Back!” business event our pending Mission Valley network was recently featured in the Lake County Leader as part of our larger mission to actively deploy this technology to even the smallest communities around Montana.
Since our initial launch in the beginning of 2021, we have completed our soft-launch phase of the Missoula Valley Internet Co-op in the Grant Creek area. We’ve proven out the Althea technology and our network's ability to provide encrypted and secure service at speeds and prices that outperform competing internet providers. Our network reached profitability with as few as 16 customers, is currently serving roughly 50 customers, and our initial service area covering over 400 homes.
We are now beginning the larger scaling up of our network to serve the entirety of the Missoula and Bitterroot valleys, to connect the existing 500+ customer pre-registrations we’ve collected, and to go on to serve the approximately 15,000 households inside Missoula County currently cut off from modern broadband service.
With adequate funding we will be able to meet and exceed the considerable demand we have already generated, launch additional networks across the state, and make a substantial and lasting impact on Montanans’ technology adoption and the ability to access the modern broadband service they urgently need.
You can read more about us and stay up to date on news and media coverage of our organization on our website.
President, Co-Founder, and Head of Montana Network Operations
Elvis was born and raised in Missoula, Montana and is a veteran in the telecom and wireless ISP industry. He has a specialization in network engineering, automation and cloud engineering, and is a senior Developer Operations specialist.
Vice President, Co-Founder, and Head of Business Operations
Kevin was raised in Tacoma, Washington. He has over twenty-five years as a full stack developer and engineer with a wide and varied background inside technology industries, including the telecom and wireless ISP industry.
Co-Founder and Head of Washington Operations
Jacob was born and raised in Gig Harbor, Washington. He has over 13 years of experience working on enterprise, small business and consumer grade networks and infrastructure. He has successfully completed over 15 large-scale and numerous small- and medium-scale network deployments. He has extensive experience with building, supporting and maintaining both wired and wireless networking infrastructure.