Innovation, like eggs, is cheaper in the country

aa_image_news_prThis post is about an innovative company called aXess America, but first…

Do you assume that broadband web access is nearly universal? It’s not. Millions of rural Americans have no, or quite poor, web access. Our government allocated part of the 2.9 billion in the stimulus package (The American Recovery and Reinvestment act of 2009) to solve this problem. For many, probably most rural Americans — this had no impact at all. This inequality of access has the USA ranking 26th in the world. In Internet access! And we’re slipping.

This does not bode well for USA innovation.

Historically, many breakthrough innovations have originated in the countryside. Philo Farnsworth, the Idaho farm boy, helped invent TV. Edison was a country boy from tiny Milan, Ohio. Cable TV started as a solution for rural and small town America. Country people are good at making things and once upon a time there were small manufacturers all over the countryside. It’s time for that to happen again.

The good news in today’s blog post is that an entrepreneurial and innovative company is stepping up to meet the rural web access need. It’s a private company solving a problem –nothing like a win-win free market solution to beat wasteful government spending eh?  aXess America is innovating rural web access. I’m glad because they’re going to meet a need, create jobs, and create a fair profit for its investors. And I’m glad because they are going to enable other innovators who just happen (or purposefully) live in the country. Ironic that they are starting their roll out in Nappanee, Indiana — Amish country.

Why do I call aXess America innovation enablers? Well, like eggs, innovation is cheaper in the country. Lower cost of living, lower rents for office space, talented people for less money, and many other factors make countryside  innovating a good idea. But in this day and age, you really need broadband access to do almost anything, and that’s a problem aXess is addressing with their unique strategy. aXess has done their homework — they’ve done research that shows that 61% of rural Americans will switch from their current provider to a faster provider. And they’ve got that essential speed. The technology is wireless, and, it’s broadband. They call it a “WISP” or Wireless Internet Service Providers. High quality WISP makes the countryside even more attractive to innovators — now, with the right idea, you can locate a corporate headquarters anywhere you want — and maybe watch a horse and buggy go by your office window.

Moving, or creating, skunk works for innovation in the countryside is an emerging trend.

I’m not the only one who thinks “innovation enablement” is important — see Eric Doden’s comments in this aXess press release. Eric is the President of the Indiana Development Corporation.

WISP’s are not that new, but up until now most of them are mom and pop operations. aXess plans to go nationwide, cherry picking the best areas, and providing high quality access. Now, it’s web access, but also phone service and it’s fast enough to stream television programming. The way it’s done is transmitters are put on existing towers (or new ones) that enable the service. Home receivers are much smaller than the dishes you commonly see, we’re talking shoe box sized. The big players in telcom think of this as small potatoes — only 10% of the total market really fits. Only 1o%?! That’s going to be huge! aXess has a strategy to professionalize this niche, create a lot of access, perhaps acquire some smaller operators, and create a real winner. I’m betting they’ll succeed.

Shout out to Stephen Trexler CEO and Thomas Mattern CMO — best of luck with the adventurous start-up. Thanks for sharing your vision (and see my appeal below).

But let’s get back to that enablement bit. I’m a case in point. I live in the countryside. The closest town is Three Oaks, and I’m about 3 miles to the north west. There is a corn field and an apple orchard 100 yards from my front door. There is bad news and good news about living here. The good news: it’s quiet, beautiful, serene, a great place to work and write. The bad news: crap technological infrastructure — no cable TV, outdated telephone lines, and poor cellular coverage. My web access is through a dish with a satellite connection, and for what I receive, it’s quite expensive and not practical for streaming video (AT&T Wild Blue, happy to have it, but wish for better).

So, aXess America, please put high on your list — southwest Berrien County — willya?

    One Response to “Innovation, like eggs, is cheaper in the country”

    1. […] Rural areas have been neglected by both commercial companies and the government. There are a few exceptions, with entrepreneurs trying to close the gap (like aXess America — recently purchased by larger player Mercury Wireless). But […]

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