DFW-area Company Bringing Broadband to Underserved Parts of West Texas

The following was publishing on MRT.com/Midland Reporter-Telegram on October 29, 2019 

Nextlink Internet workers focus on installing rural broadband on existing infrastructure and can work alongside wind turbines.

Midland County, Texas – Rural portions of Midland County and its neighboring counties – Andrews, Ector, Glasscock, Howard, Martin and Upton – will be receiving broadband access, thanks to a government program.

Nextlink Internet recently won $2.7 million funding from the Federal Communications Commission’s Connect America Fund auction to provide broadband to 503 homes and businesses in those counties.

Bill Baker, Nextlink chief executive officer, said that while those funds were for certain census blocks, “Nextlink Internet can cover the vast majority, of not the entirety, of the area.”

The company currently is doing engineering design for service in Ector and Midland counties and looks to open an office in the market this winter and hire local staff. The company is familiar with the area, having arrived in San Angelo this spring.

“We’re talking rural areas where their options are either limited or the options they have are older networks with limited speed capabilities,” Baker said in a phone interview. “An overwhelming percentage (of homes and businesses) have DSL lines. When those were originally installed by the telephone companies, they were never intended to be used for the internet. There are inherent limitations to DSL.”

Access to broadband and its download/upload speeds benefits more than those homes who want to stream Netflix, Hulu or YouTube TV, he said.

“We are the largest provider to schools,” he said. “There are over 100 school districts we serve. We also serve governments and hospitals.”

Access to the internet “is a tremendous component, really, of society today. A child stands a better chance with internet access. School curriculum involves the internet for learning, for research, for doing papers, taking tests. Those who have horrible internet service are at a disadvantage,” he said.

Netlink’s build-out plans include offering fixed wireless service to a home or business connected to towers the company has in the area, whether it’s a nearby water tower, existing towers or new towers that will be built.

“Our prices are comparable to other rural providers,” Baker said.

He said downloads of 25 megabytes could cost $89 a month; 20 megabytes for $79 a month would accommodate “a couple of simultaneous streams of Netflix.”

In the early stages of the company’s service rollout, he said promotional pricing would be offered for speeds up to 50 megabytes or, for higher prices, 100 megabytes.

“Unless you’re doing something substantial with broadband, 20 o 25 megabytes is sufficient,” he said.

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