Open Range Communications
Where it's based: Greenwood Village, Colo.
When it was founded: 2004
Why it's Fierce: Before the government's $7 billion in broadband stimulus spending, there was Open Range. The company plans to offer WiMAX broadband wireless services, including high-speed Internet and voice services, to six million people in 546 communities in 17 states beginning in the fourth quarter.
Funding for the buildout will come from both public and private sources. Open Range was awarded a $267 million loan from the Rural Utilities Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and, on Jan. 9, the company scored $100 million in equity from One Equity Partners, the private equity investment unit of JPMorgan Chase.
The company's effort reflects the opportunities for covering the nation's rural communities with wireless broadband--an action that could help bring such areas onto the information superhighway while at the same time potentially generating cash for entrepreneurs willing to take the buildout risk. Further, Open Range is one of a number of startups looking to cover rural areas of the U.S., and such labors recently have come under increased focus due to Congress' passing of the economic stimulus package, which will dole out more than $7 billion for buildout of broadband in rural areas. The existence of Open Range--and the possibility of its success--raises questions about the necessity of federal spending on what may well be addressed by existing measures.
What's next: The company's stated objective is to "launch service successfully in a half dozen northern Colorado communities," a goal as pragmatic and down-to-earth as the stereotype of the citizens the carrier hopes to serve.