Rise Broadband issued a press release yesterday touting the $16.9 million it will receive through the FCC rural broadband experiment program. The company plans to use broadband wireless to bring broadband to areas in price cap territories in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Texas – illustrating how some non-traditional providers could become the new equivalent of carriers of last resort as the FCC refocuses the traditional voice-focused Universal Service program to focus instead on a broadband-focused Connect America Fund.
Until recently, Rise Broadband was known as JAB Broadband, but the company, which has acquired multiple broadband wireless businesses in recent years, recently changed its name and began using the Rise brand to replace the various brand names that it has acquired. The FCC made the rural broadband experiment awards under a previous JAB brand name Skybeam. The commission announced last week that it had released Skybeam funding for parts of Illinois, Kansas and Texas after receiving required paperwork.
Rural Broadband Experiments
The rural broadband experiment program provided a total of $100 million in funding to carriers to cover some of the cost of bringing broadband to portions of price cap carrier territories where broadband is not currently available or is available only at low speeds. The goal was to gain information to help in shaping the competitive bidding process that will occur if incumbent price cap carriers decline to bring broadband to unserved portions of their territories at the level of support they have been offered based on an FCC cost model.
In the rural broadband experiment program, the FCC said it would award funding to the carriers that were able to provide service to the greatest number of people at the lowest cost. The commission also required carriers to bid to provide service for a lower level of support than what the incumbents were offered. Awards went to rate of return carriers from neighboring communities and to non-traditional carriers such as Skybeam and covered a range of landline and wireless technologies.
Both types of carriers are likely to bid in the competitive auctions that will occur for any areas where price cap carriers decline funding. Price cap carriers also will have the opportunity to bid, and will be able to target only a portion of their local service territory within a state.
If an area goes to auction and if the incumbent carrier does not win the auction, the incumbent will essentially be retreating from that area, and the winner will essentially be the new incumbent – although carrier of last resort obligations will likely be somewhat less strict than they traditionally have been for voice service. If, for example, a local resident decides to build a house in an extremely remote location not already included in the cost model, the carrier might not be required to bring broadband to the customer if the cost to deliver service exceeded a certain amount.
If the results from the rural broadband experiments are typical of what ultimately happens with areas that come up for auction and depending on the extent to which price cap carriers decline Connect America funding, the net result could be a substantially different carrier landscape than what exists today.
With this in mind, I’m sure companies like Rise Broadband as well as traditional rural carriers will be eagerly awaiting the price cap carriers’ decisions – due later this month — on whether or not to accept Connect America funding.
8 thoughts on “Is Rise Broadband the New Carrier of Last Resort?”
FCC – be careful what you ask for…you should be trying to replicate the success you had with telephony to broadband. Same standards, same reliability, universal coverage. Will you get that with this approach?
This is inevitable – rural telcos cannot solve the rural broadband problem alone. We need companies like Rise if we truly want universal broadband. The FCC should be encouraging this.
Nebraska doesn't think so – http://journalstar.com/news/state-and-regional/ne…
Rise (AKA Skybeam AKA LP Broadband) is no better than the likes of Comcast when it comes to things like miniscule data caps and other price-gouging techniques.
Not true Sam. 250gb's for 47.00 a month is not price gouging for rural customers even at 5×1 speeds. However, the real issue with these wisps is maintaining backhauls that work through to the wired demark. For example, I have used skybeam and am currently using rise and when the backhaul is working, it is a great low latency option for rural users. Conversely, both of these companies have a difficult time maintaining the backhaul and as a result lose as many customers as they recruit due to non-connectivity. Until rise can correct this issue, their reputation will continue to suffer.
Buyer Beware on Rise Broadband / Jab / formerly Digis! I started with Ready Tech years ago, always had flat fee of $39/month. After it was sold to Digis and then Rise, probably were smart changing the name because of their horrible reputation as Digis, service became so ridiculous and customer service is the absolute worst company I have ever dealt with. I regularly received far less than half of the speed we have been paying for, and made countless calls to Rise over the last 4 ½ years. On 5mb plan we were not even able to watch standard definition on Netflix without constant buffering with actual speed less than 1.5mb and countless calls into Rise with no resolve. We just cancelled service! Our last year was being charged $60+ (including $10 equipment Rental and some other $3.12 “Recovery” fee) PLUS charged $40+ in Data Overage fee, when we could not even watch Netflix without buffering!!! When I signed up for service 12 years ago never had or agree to any “Overage” or “Equipment Rental” fees. Rise just randomly started charging $10 fee, when equipment was already long paid for. Do the math on “Equipment Rental”. 5 Years you will have paid them $600 additional for equipment that will never be paid off. Bad Business Rise!!! We have cancelled and signed up for Connext, have a flat fee $29.95 with no data overage, no equipment rental, and speed test is 4x-5x faster than speed I was paying for, 10x faster than my actual speed. Connext is how internet should be! Shame on Rise Broadband!!! Worst managed company I have ever done business with. I feel Rise Broadband is doing false advertising and deceptive business practices. I would love for Rise to have a class action suit as they should. I believe they had an "F" Better Business Bureau rating and now they somehow moved it to "NR" not rated maybe by changing names from Digis? It is sad and should be illegal for companies to be cheating customers like they have to me and many others in paying for a speed and receiving less than 25% of speed paid for. I absolutely love my new internet service, so glad I don't have to deal with Rise unacceptable and poor customer service ever again. I wish I would have changed years ago!