The Pacific NW Rural Broadband Alliance was founded by a team of skilled veterans of the technology and telecommunications industry with a passion for working with cutting edge technology, and a desire to put skills developed over decades to make a positive impact on the communities we live in that all face a similar problem: aging broadband infrastructure operated by corporate incumbent telecom’s with little interest in improving the service they deliver. The COVID epidemic has only exacerbated these issues, making them more apparent, effecting families and businesses more than ever, and proving the internet isn’t a luxury but a vital lifeline service. During this challenging time corporate ISP’s have struggled to keep existing customers on-line, and done little-to-nothing to get new customer’s access to adequate broadband services. This is what colloquially has come to be known as “the digital divide.”
The digital divide is something that effects every part of our country in one way or another. Be it rural areas struggling with this aging (or non-existent) infrastructure, to economically disadvantaged families unable to afford current broadband prices. The Pew Charitable Trust reports that 29% of families that earn less than $30,000 don’t own a smart phone, and only 18% have access to home broadband. In rural parts of the country as much as 23% of American’s in households earning $75,000 or more also struggle for access to broadband services. The recent COVID epidemic has turned our broadband problem into a national crisis, with broadband prices increasing while the quality of service has stagnated.
It’s clear that a solution will not come from a top-down corporate approach.
By putting the ownership and control of the internet back in the community’s hands we’re able to build networks faster, more efficiently, and deliver an unmatched quality of service that will always be capable of scaling to meet growing needs of the future.
Our organization takes a bottom-up, grass-roots, community-based approach to solving this problem we all collectively face. By utilizing affordable wireless ISP equipment and revolutionary, decentralized, Althea mesh networking technology we work directly with the community to create broadband infrastructure owned and operated by the community itself, capable of delivering fast speeds at affordable prices, and reaching areas that traditional incumbent ISP’s can’t. Operating as a non-profit organization focused on building these community owned and operated networks we are not beholden to stock or equity holders, pressured to operate with the thinnest of margins, but instead are capable of focusing exclusively on putting the customer first, and delivering a service that meets the needs and expectations of the people who use our service.
We aim to solve the digital divide by focusing our resources on those in the greatest need.
In looking where to start putting our resources where they will be most effective we have targeted Montana for our first networks, ranked 50th in broadband access, where residents pay the most for the slowest speeds compared to other states in the country. From the launch of pre-registration campaign we immediately attracted incredible demand across the Missoula and Bitterroot valleys, proving that access to fast and affordable broadband to be a challenge all Montanan’s face. Since the launch of our flagship network, The Missoula Valley Internet Co-op, our customers have immediately seen the benefits of the community owned and operated networks our organization seeks to provide with first hand accounts during our community calls.