• DigitalBridge Communications Announces a Strategic Investment by the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative
  • May 20, 2009 | Authors: Jennifer L. Richter; Jennifer A. Cetta; Dean M. Dilley
  • Law Firm: Patton Boggs LLP - Washington Office
  • Last week, DigitalBridge Communications Corp. (DBC), a leading private operator of WiMAX 4G broadband networks in underserved regions of the United States, announced that it raised an additional round of equity financing, including a significant investment from the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative (NRTC). By combining capabilities, and executing a distribution agreement between NRTC and DBC, NRTC’s 1,500 rural telecommunications and electric cooperative members will now be able to work with DBC to rapidly deploy affordable, next-generation services to large parts of rural America using WiMAX technology. NRTC acquired a seat on DBC’s board of directors.

    NRTC, a not-for-profit cooperative, has been a pioneer in introducing advanced telecommunications services to strengthen its members’ businesses and improve the quality of life in rural America. During the mid-1990s NRTC provided the first external funding and led in the launch of DIRECTV, activating nearly 2 million of its initial subscribers. More recently, NRTC repeated that success by investing in WildBlue, a satellite Internet access provider. NRTC activated all of WildBlue’s first-year customers, and today WildBlue provides Internet access to more than 350,000 subscribers.

    During the past two years, DBC has launched service in 15 communities nationwide. The company not only brings fixed broadband wireless services to a variety of customers—consumers, businesses, educational, healthcare, and public safety institutions—but also provides mobile broadband services through WiMAX-enabled laptops, netbooks, USB adapters and other portable devices. DBC’s open, all-IP network and cost structure will enable NRTC members to significantly expand broadband service in their markets at a fraction of the capital and operating cost required for traditional wired and wireless services.

    “The Administration and Congress have made the expansion of broadband a national priority, and it’s a goal that we embrace,” said Bob Phillips, NRTC President and Chief Executive Officer. “Our nearly 1,500 members have a commitment to improving the quality of life in the communities they serve and have demonstrated the ability to deliver advanced technologies to their consumer members . . . Broadband is now a utility – like electricity and phone service. Expanding the availability of high-speed Internet access is key to closing the digital divide, creating jobs and spurring economic development in rural America,” said Phillips. “WiMAX can also provide a solution for electric cooperative members who are implementing smart grid technologies that rely on enhanced communications capabilities.”

    “WiMAX is rapidly being deployed around the globe,” said Phillips. “It is a proven, scalable technology, that is ‘shovel-ready’ and a natural fit for our members who have a proven track record of delivering new technologies, such as DIRECTV and WildBlue satellite Internet service.” According to the industry organization WiMAX Forum, global WiMAX deployments are approaching 460 networks in more than 135 countries with an expected reach of 800 million people by 2010.