ECB Publishing, Inc.
Another technology company presented a sales pitch to the Jefferson County Commission, this one being a company specializing in innovative devices to bring connectivity to remote rural areas.
Commissioner Betsy Barfield invited Tekniam representatives to make a presentation at the Jefferson County Commission meeting on Thursday evening, September 15, offering the company’s technology as a possible way to bring connectivity to District 5. Barfield said she came on the business while researching ways to address the lack of connectivity in some areas of the county.
“The commission has been struggling to find a way to have connectivity in District 5, and this company has an interesting concept,” Barfield said, adding that she asked him to focus on communities in Waukeenah, Wacissa and Lamont.
Tekniam COO Timothy Stranahan and CEO Andrew Heaton gave the presentation, with Stranahan appearing in person and Heaton making a brief appearance via Zoom from Colorado.
As the two explained, it was a new company founded specifically to provide connectivity to the most remote places in the world, starting with an Indian tribe in Venezuela. By then, the company had quickly expanded its scope to children’s education, telemedicine and rural communities.
“To be very clear, we are not an Internet Service Provider (ISP),” Stranahan said. “We’re not going to flip a switch and magically bring you broadband. What we have is a device that can take a satellite or cellular signal and send it 1,000 feet in each direction. Additionally, we can take that signal and move it from point A to B to C to D. And everyone within 1,000 feet of each of our antennas can access it, up to 250 people per antenna .
Their system, Stranahan said, consisted of three main components. He called the first a Universal Remote Communication System (RUCS), which he described as the overall product.
The core component, he said, was the portable communications link (PCL), which picked up signals from existing satellite, Ethernet, broadband or cellular networks and extended the signals through distribution modules, that is. ie antennas, to push them far into other areas. .
Stranahan, in fact, had installed a PCL in the hallway outside the commission chamber to demonstrate the ease of installation and capability of the system.
“What we can do is we can connect to a satellite, cellular, or fiber signal,” Stranahan said. “Here in this community, we can connect that signal to fiber and extend that signal as far as fiber will carry us.”
He recounted an experiment he had conducted in Waukeenah earlier to test the capability of the system there.
“I hooked up to a Verizon signal and was only able to pull 10 megabits per second,” Stranahan said. “But for this community, we can connect to a Starlink or HughesNet (satellite providers) and we can take those satellite signals and Verizon’s 10 megabits, link the two and send them out to the community. This is how we provide Wi-Fi to the community for internet.
He talked about creating a mesh network by placing multiple antennas in an area that could then “talk” to each other. The cellular or satellite signal, he said, could then be pushed through the various antennas and distributed further and further.
“So everyone gets a piece,” he said.
Stranahan said the capacity of the system was limitless, in terms of what it could produce.
“We can connect 250 people on each of our distribution modules,” he said. “So if we have four, we can connect 1,000 people. We’re not limited by our system. Anything we put in there, we can distribute. If there’s 5G in the area, we can We will have to find the technology to get it here, send it to Waukeenah, get it there and distribute it. But those technologies exist. The more backhaul we can push into the system, the more we can provide to the community . »
For a community the size of Wacissa, the cost to install the system would be between $700,000 and $900,000, he said. But it was a one-of-a-kind technology for communities like Waukeenah that lacked connectivity, he said. Plus, he said, the cost pales in comparison to installing fiber, the cost of which would be “out of the blue”.
The system did not require digging or trenching for installation, Stranahan said. It could be set up relatively easy and quick. His company would then run the network for the first three years and the county would own it thereafter. The county would also decide whether to monetize the service or offer it for free.
He also stressed that theirs was no substitute for broadband. If the county could get broadband, it definitely should get it, he said. Theirs was for areas where it was not possible to install broadband, he said.
The thing to keep in mind, Stranahan said, was that the more backhaul that was put into the system, in terms of cellular or satellite signals, the higher the cost, because those signals would have to be purchased from Verizon, Starlink or regardless of the provider. .
If the county decides to go ahead with the system, he said the next step would be to have Tekniam engineers do a formal site survey of the targeted communities to get more detailed information. Money for the project, he said, could come from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), from which the county is expected to get more than $2 million.
The way it was left, Commissioner Stephen Walker, who represents District 5, was to meet with Stranahan one-on-one and discuss the potential of the project in more detail.
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