Tahoe Network Infrastructure aims to jumpstart broadband deployment into unserved rural areas by tapping E-rate schools and libraries funding. It’s a strategy that worked before for Tahoe Chairman and CEO Greg Green at Fatbeam, a company that Green founded over a decade ago.
We talked with Green about Tahoe’s launch last week and about plans for the new company. Tahoe came about, in large part, because “I’m bad at retirement,” said Green.
SDC Capital Partners became the majority owner of Fatbeam two years ago. But it wasn’t long before Green was back in the game.
“I have a passion for this industry,” he told us.
It was also difficult to ignore the unprecedented levels of funding that the government has made available for broadband since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a big budget increase for the e-rate program.
That program covers some of the costs of broadband service for schools and libraries and can be used toward the deployment of new service where adequate service isn’t already available. Tahoe’s strategy will be to use e-rate funding to help fund the construction of fiber connectivity into a community and to build a business case based on finding additional customers that can also benefit from the fiber.
That strategy worked well for Fatbeam, which focused on the northwestern U.S. Tahoe’s focus will be “the Midwest and beyond,” according to a press release about the company’s launch.
Like Fatbeam, Tahoe will focus on communities with populations below 100,000.
Rural Electric Cooperatives
Green anticipates working with rural electric cooperatives on upcoming deployments.
“We think there’s a real opportunity in partnering with rural electric cooperatives,” he said. “There are thousands of these in the U.S. and if they haven’t put their toe in the water yet, maybe they just need a partner.”
In some cases, Tahoe may own the network, while in other cases, Tahoe and the electric company may be equal owners.
Before going into a market, Tahoe will investigate what type of connectivity is already available to an internet point of presence. If so, the company is likely to lease connectivity from that provider.
Green adds, though, that “typically it’s not good enough.”
“We like diverse connections,” he said. “If there are two available, we may lease them. If there is only one, we’ll likely build another route in and out of the community.”
Those deployments are attractive to wireless companies, who also are looking for diverse routes and can be among Tahoe’s anchor tenants.
Thanks to the connections that Green and co-investor Ted Mocarski have made in the past, communities already have been coming to Tahoe in pursuit of obtaining better broadband.
Green noted, for example, that one county had already done a feasibility study and Tahoe is looking at partnering with the county on a build.
“We’ll either help fund it or look for government funding,” Green said.
He also noted that “Banks want to lend us money because of the success we have had in the past.”