Biz Bio: Are you connected? Virginia Broadband wants to serve rural communities

Director of Sales and Marketing at Virginia Broadband, Joe Lenig focuses his efforts on serving rural customers. Photo by Anita L. Sherman
Director of Sales and Marketing at Virginia Broadband, Joe Lenig focuses his efforts on serving rural customers.
Photo by Anita L. Sherman

 

 

Technology has come with consequences. Making connections with your family, friends and business associates can now be done in nanoseconds provided you’ve got the tools to make that happen.

Chances are that if you live near a town, large shopping center or cosmopolitan area your cell phone can tap you instantly into the Internet or quickly make a call or send a text. If you’re home on your computer, it’s the same and the faster your Internet speed determines how quickly you can download photos, watch videos or catch a flick on Netflix. It’s all good. That is, if you are in what is defined in the business as a ‘served class.’

Virginia Broadband’s Joe Lenig knows well the chasm of the ‘Digital Divide.’ Rural counties like those that make up much of the Piedmont Region are challenged when it comes to adequate service.

It’s the ‘unserved class’ that Lenig is most passionate about.

“We go where the big boys don’t go or have no interest in going,” said Lenig. “We want to serve that cluster of 10 homes in the middle of nowhere…our focus is on the unserved and we’d like to make a difference in their lives.”

Lenig’s wife is a teacher. She reminds him on a regular basis about the difference she sees in students that have Internet in their homes to those that do not.

“I tell her that we’re doing the best we can,” smiles Lenig who pulls up a map on his computer with a series of colored stars indicating those who have their service or would like it.

Lenig attended a recent Culpeper County Board of Supervisors meeting where he offered his company as a resource. The county was presented with a plan to address Culpeper’s gap in coverage. Lenig sees that it may well take a coordinated effort among all the counties in the Planning Nine District of which Culpeper is a part.

As examples, there are too many families in Culpeper that end up schlepping their children to fast food places or the library so they can use the Internet for their schoolwork. People flying into the Culpeper Airport often can’t make phone calls once they land.

As of July 2015, there are more than 1,280 fixed wireless broadband providers operating in the US covering 51 percent of the US population.

In areas – predominantly rural – where you don’t have adequate cable or DSL coverage, you’ll have what is known as a WISP.

Virginia Broadband is one of those, a wireless Internet service provider (WISP). You need open skies and not a lot of tall trees. At Virginia Broadband, Lenig offers a different approach to a customer’s cost.

“We don’t charge you for a bucket of speed…if you look at the fine print, speed is never guaranteed…it’s a best effort..we charge by usage.”

“We have customers that only want to occasionally check their email or have access to Internet when their grandchildren come to visit…why should they pay the same as the person who has a home office and is on the Internet constantly,” says Lenig.

With 14 employees and five tower climbers, Lenig sees Virginia Broadband a  ‘huge success story.’

One with many more chapters to come.

 

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