TMCnews Featured Article
October 22, 2009
Poplar Bluff: Where Broadband Stimulus Meets Green Technology
By Michael Dinan, TMCnet Editor
The head of a Poplar Bluff, Mo.-based company that brings Internet access and Web-hosting services to southeast Missouri told TMCnet in an interview that his company’s bid for a $1.5 million grant through the federal broadband stimulus program is unique, in part, because it’s an eco-friendly project.
According to Brian Becker, president of CEO of Poplar Bluff Internet, Inc., the company’s proposal to build a 31-tower, 760-square-mile broadband wireless network will do more than bring broadband services to people who only have dial-up now.
“Each of our 31 towers will have a 2.4kw wind-turbine installed and all generated power will be given to the consumer in exchange for the tower on their land,” Becker told TMCnet in an interview, printed in full below. “Our project is good for the environment, good for the consumers, good for growth of our community and good for our company.”
Becker’s company calls its project “200 Percent Green.”
Interestingly, Becker told TMCnet that although he has no basis of comparison to gauge the ease or difficulty of applying under the government’s program, that it was difficult to verify that each target area was without service.
“Neither public nor independent ISPs give out that information,” he said.
Our full exchange follows.
TMCnet: We’ve read the Executive Summary of your application, and clearly the organization feels there’s a strong need for funding. Take us a little bit beyond the numbers. How will U.S. citizens, consumers and businesses benefit if you’re awarded this grant money?
Brian Becker (pictured right): Citizens outside the communities in our county have no access to broadband other than satellite. We’ve got almost 700 pushpins in Google (News - Alert) Earth from people calling and begging for broadband services. This project will provide most of our county with broadband availability. In addition, each of our 31 towers will have a 2.4kw wind-turbine installed and all generated power will be given to the consumer in exchange for the tower on their land. Our project is good for the environment, good for the consumers, good for growth of our community and good for our company.
TMCnet: How did you find the application process? What would you recommend the U.S. government tweak in the process, if anything?
BB: I had never filed a grant application before so I don’t have anything to compare it to. Most of the stress of the application was the looming thought that one thing could be wrong and the entire application is thrown out. The uploading of documentation was difficult because of the sort order was by upload date. I think it would have been much easier to have the uploaded items sorted by the application section they were for, making it easy to determine which items had not yet been uploaded. It was also difficult to verify that each area we were applying for was without service. Neither public nor independent ISPs give out that information.
TMCnet: What would you tell reviewers at NTIA about your organization if you could have one minute to talk to them moments before they looked at your application?
BB: First, the fact that our project uniquely provides broadband using solar and wind power needs to be emphasized. We will actually generate more power than we use, which is why we coined the phrase “200% Green.” Second, the state of Missouri has reviewed our proposal and has budgeted and appropriated 15 percent of the grant’s matching funds should the NTIA fund this project. Our project is unique and our need is great.
TMCnet: Tell us in plain terms how important it is for your organization to receive this grant money. If you do not receive government funding, what will you do to improve services in the way you’re seeking?
BB: Like other businesses in this economy, its hard to keep cash flow covering expenses, debt and payroll, there’s very little cash left for CapEx. The stimulus was made to help companies like mine push through this economy and come out on the other end stronger, with more employees, more broadband available and generating more income for more growth. The most costly on-going expenses for wireless towers is the cost of leasing the land. With this new model of providing wind energy and Internet service in exchange for a 20-year easement from the landowner, we will roll out new wireless services, but at a much slower rate. Rather than the 31 towers of our proposal over the next 18 months, we will probably only be able to put up four or five during that same period.
Michael Dinan is a contributing editor for TMCnet, covering news in the IP communications, call center and customer relationship management industries. To read more of Michael's articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Michael Dinan