Alan Fitzpatrick (left), CEO of Open Broadband, and Kent Winrich (right), CTO, are creating an internet service provider that offers last-mile broadband service to communities that currently lack broadband options.
Broadband – as the FCC defines it – is an internet connection with minimum download and upload speeds of 25 megabytes and 3 megabytes per second, respectively. And according to an FCC report, 30% of the census tract does not have access to broadband internet. Almost, more surprisingly 48% only has access to one broadband provider.
Simply, this translates to a significant portion of our nation’s counties and cities – especially those in rural areas – live without access to or options for broadband internet services. In the latter case, some areas have nowhere to turn for internet access if their current provider offers poor and frustrating customer service. They’re stuck.
In fact, there are urban areas around Charlotte that technically don’t get broadband quality internet – only DSL which is much slower.
Alan Fitzpatrick, CEO of Open Broadband, and Kent Winrich – the company’s CTO – plan to change this problem with Open Broadband’s fixed wireless solution.
“I decided to put together this company to go into markets [lacking broadband options] to offer a choice with a really fast internet service that people like”, Fitzpatrick says.
He explains – “we are actually building a network, [and] we start at a data center.” The data center becomes the central hub that connects to the internet.
“In Charlotte, our data center has twelve carriers. So we have multiple choices for internet routing”, he adds. From there, Open Broadband leases fiber out to a market in need which is then distributed wirelessly via antennas affixed to elevated infrastructure – water towers, tall buildings, etc.
This makes Open Broadband a hybrid fiber and wireless internet service provider. Which is unique in comparison to smaller wireless internet service providers (WISPs) today. Because of this hybrid approach, their product is relatively quick to deploy as it doesn’t require massive construction in cities and town to lay new high-speed internet infrastructure.
Their go-to-market strategy is to partner with a city, county, or an anchor institution – like a university – in these underserved communities. And as of now, Open Broadband has projects live in four markets – Gaston, Stanly and Wayne County in North Carolina as well as a county in Michigan.
Part of what drives Fitzpatrick to solve this problem is benefiting communities through digital inclusion. So as discussions with a town or a county mature beyond infrastructure into how to best leverage the new broadband offering – Fitzpatrick is motivated to provide support. In these cases, Open Broadband offers a customized package of support programs, such as a digital learning series, to help the many people in these areas who aren’t internet savvy.
This support gives the local residents the education required to search for jobs, doctors, and continuing education.
By all accounts, Fitzpatrick is a successful entrepreneur. He co-founded MailVu, an online video platform for businesses’ sales and marketing campaigns, and has successfully navigated the North Carolina technology scene by winning an NC Idea grant and the Charlotte Venture Challenge. Most recently he was the COO of DC74 Data Centers which successfully exited early this year through an acquisition by Lumos Networks.
He’s also been in the internet industry for twenty years, so he has a deep understanding of the nuances of the industry and where the opportunities exist.
He also cares about the Charlotte community and wants to see it advance into a smart city. He co-founded Charlotte Hearts Gigabit in support of this to educate the local community about ultra-high speed internet, and to help progress the area’s digital transformation. Through Gigabit, Charlotte can attract technical and creative talent, access higher quality internet apps and solutions, and grow economically through entrepreneurship.
Fitzpatrick mentions – “the Charlotte area – it’s very conducive to startups and it’s a very supportive community.”
For professionals interested in entering the startup world, the compensation expectations need to be established. “If someone has a nice industry job and they’re thinking about becoming a startup founder or joining a startup they really need to make sure they understand that the first year, you really don’t pay yourself.” You’re building something from scratch.
Fitzpatrick’s advice is simple – “before you leave your day job, have a customer for your new company.” It’s very difficult to develop a product from scratch without customers.
You can explore Open Broadband more athttp://openbb.net/about.