A Digital Divide
With the acquisition of Broadbreeze Communications, Clearwire Inc. should have all the bandwidth it will need for its deployment of the
Pending ongoing negotiations, the company could opt to fulfill Broadbreeze Communication’s commitment to launch a county-wide wireless Internet network in
“A large percentage of our rural population still does not have any Internet options other than dial-up,” said Mark Knudsen, director of the Ottawa County Planning and Grants Department. “Hopefully, at some point we will have a solution.”
Frustrated by the failure of incumbent telecommunications companies to provide broadband Internet service to its rural residents,
With its cellular-based 3G technology, Grand Rapids-based Broadbreeze Communications seemed the perfect solution for
While Ottawa County was addressing its rural digital divide, Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell was forwarding a plan to blanket the city with wireless broadband Internet in order to promote mobile computing, improve city services and provide access to low-income residents.
In November, the city chose Clearwire as the vendor for its network, striking a lucrative deal that paid all of the city’s costs and established a discount program for low-income residents. The recent subject of an initial public offering on the NASDAQ stock exchange and a nearly billion-dollar equity stake from chip maker Intel Corp. and communications hardware firm Motorola, the Washington-based Clearwire is the leading provider of WiMAX Internet service in the country.
A competing technology to 3G (third-generation) Internet, WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is also a cellular-like technology capable of broadcasting relatively large bandwidth over a considerable distance without the need of line-of-sight connections. It is the technology currently being used by
Both standards operate on frequencies licensed by the Federal Communications Commission, a rare commodity.
Broadbreeze Communications, incorporated as West Michigan Wireless LLC, had leased its channel from Plainwell Community Schools in
“How much spectrum they have is their intellectual property,” said Karl Edwards of Excelsio Communications, the Atlanta-based firm contracted to evaluate the
With public bidding wars between Clearwire, Broadbreeze and other telecommunications firms at school districts across the state — including a multimillion-dollar, five-school auction in Berrien County — it was no secret that potential wireless Internet providers were shopping for spectrum. That Broadbreeze Communications was on the market was a surprise, especially to officials in
“We’re extremely disappointed they sold their licensed spectrum without making an effort to meet their obligations here,” said Jim Miedema,
Following a Sprint Nextel announcement that it had abandoned 3G in favor of WiMAX, and that it would also launch WiMAX service in
“We needed to convert to WiMAX, and we knew we were going to have a problem doing that,” said Dan Carter, a shareholder in the accounting firm. “We didn’t have enough channels to do what we needed to do, and our understanding was that Clearwire was having the same problem in
The spectrum licenses were actually the majority of the company’s assets. The employees of Broadbreeze Communications, the operating name of West Michigan Wireless LLC, will be absorbed into sister company SourcIT, an information technology consulting firm. The sale provided a substantial return for the company’s investors, Carter said, which included Rusche Trucking Co., William Charles Executive Search, Exhibit Design Consultants,
Carter said SourcIT will continue to pursue spectrum licenses in other parts of the state where attaining leases is less competitive, and may eventually launch a new wireless Internet provider. It has sold much of its equipment to Northrup Grumman for use in testing that company’s
“We’re trying to get Clearwire and
Knudsen was disappointed in the setback, but said that the three-year initiative was not a complete loss.
“One thing we do have today that we didn’t have two years ago is the memorandum of understanding that all the local units have signed,” he said, referring to the agreement struck by all 24 Ottawa County municipalities to provide use of public assets and express permits to the project vendor. “Hopefully, the types of in-kind services that we were providing to Broadbreeze will convince a company like Clearwire to pick up where it left off.”
The 2003 LinkMichigan study identified
Clearwire should begin the