Connected Nation

Innovative solutions for underserved populations: A conversation with Kwikbit Internet's CEO

April 10, 2024 Jessica Denson Season 5 Episode 11
Innovative solutions for underserved populations: A conversation with Kwikbit Internet's CEO
Connected Nation
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Connected Nation
Innovative solutions for underserved populations: A conversation with Kwikbit Internet's CEO
Apr 10, 2024 Season 5 Episode 11
Jessica Denson

On today's two guest episode we are first joined by Joe Costello, the founder and CEO of Kwikbit Internet – an internet service provider with a mission to help some of the most underserved populations in the country.

Learn how the company is focusing on bringing access to everyone from rural communities to inner city households – by using what it calls “flexible deployment.”

BONUS: Following Joe, we are joined by Brad Randall of Terrapinn. Brad and Jessica preview the upcoming Broadband Communities conference in May!

Recommended Links:
Kwikbit website
Joe Costello LinkedIn

Brad Randall LinkedIn
Broadband Communities summit
Broadband Communities news

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

On today's two guest episode we are first joined by Joe Costello, the founder and CEO of Kwikbit Internet – an internet service provider with a mission to help some of the most underserved populations in the country.

Learn how the company is focusing on bringing access to everyone from rural communities to inner city households – by using what it calls “flexible deployment.”

BONUS: Following Joe, we are joined by Brad Randall of Terrapinn. Brad and Jessica preview the upcoming Broadband Communities conference in May!

Recommended Links:
Kwikbit website
Joe Costello LinkedIn

Brad Randall LinkedIn
Broadband Communities summit
Broadband Communities news

Jessica Denson (00:09):

This is Connected Nation, an award-winning podcast focused on all things broadband from closing the digital divide to improving your internet speeds. We talk technology topics that impact all of us, our families, and our neighborhoods. On today's podcast, we talk with the founder and CEO of Kwikbit Internet, an internet service provider with the mission to help some of the most underserved populations in the country learn how the company is focusing on bringing access to everyone from rural communities to inner city households by using what it calls flexible deployment. I'm Jessica Denson and this is Connected Nation. I'm Jessica Denson, and today my guest is Joe Costello, the founder and CEO of Quick Bit Internet. Welcome, Joe. Joe Costello (00:55):

Great to be here. Jessica Denson (00:57):

Kwikbit Internet is kind of fun to say. I told my staff I was like, try to say that three times in a row. It's not easy. Quick bit internet, it's a little fun. Before we dive into what Quick Bit internet is doing, let's explore some of your background. Joe, where did you grow up and when did your interest in technology in the internet began? Joe Costello (01:19):

I actually moved 16 times when I was growing up, when I was living with my parents, so all across the country from the east coast to West Coast ended up, Jessica Denson (01:29):

Are they military? Joe Costello (01:32):

This the same idea. My dad was a General Motors executive, so that was move, move, move. During that time I ended up graduating high school in Kokomo, Indiana, and then I went to college in Southern California at Harvey Mud College, a technical school engineering science school, and then went from there. I studied physics and graduate school. First I got my master's at Yale, then went to get my PhD at Berkeley and so ended up back in California, which is how I got connected to Silicon Valley and technology, et cetera. Jessica Denson (02:05):

Yeah, Yale and Berkeley, those aren't prestigious at all. That's quite the pedigree physics. I did an interview last year and we talked a lot about physics and I was surprised at how much physics and the internet and all of that kind of overlaps. The whole idea of technology is really fascinating. Just an aside there, so you're now, where are you based now in California? Joe Costello (02:33):

So I actually live in Woodside, California, but quick bit internet. The original company was founded in Minneapolis, Minnesota. That was quick bit the original company and then we spun out quick bit internet from it and it's hard to say headquarters because what we do, we do internet services for people in mobile home parks across the country, and so we're everywhere. So we're in eight states and we've got parks everywhere and our employees are all around the country too. Jessica Denson (03:05):

Yeah, I really want to explore what quick bit internet does. I just have fun saying that by the way. I just do in a moment, but before we do, we always, you hear the talk about the C-suite, the CEOC, F-O-C-O-O in layman's term, what do you do as the CEO of a company and how do you approach your position with quick bit? Joe Costello (03:30):

Well, I have been CEO of companies since 1987, so it's been a long trail of being CEO and it's different for different companies. What your role and responsibility is in small companies like this, young technology companies, the role of the CEO is mostly to give it core guidance. What product set are you going to go after, what market set are you going to go after? Make sure you're assembling the right kind of team of people. Obviously in a startup company you have to get investors, so you have to make sure that you can raise the money to support that effort, but it's mainly about getting a mission, a very, very clear mission that you can align all of the team to and build a great team around it, align investors to build it around that. And then when you have your product, align the customers in the marketplace around it. So a lot of it's about that mission focus, picking that mission and making sure that you are executing toward that mission very well communicated to each of the different constituencies, whether it's investors or customers or your employees so that they're very clear on it and build a larger and larger base of people that are excited about that and making it happen. Jessica Denson (04:46):

Speaking of mission, when I was talking with your PR person, two things stood out. One was that quick bit internet is on a mission to close the digital divide is what I was told. And also that you founded the company, you kind of breezed over that when you were talking about it starting in Minneapolis and then expanding. So talk about why you decided that this was such an important issue and why you decided to found this part of Quick Bit. Joe Costello (05:16):

It was a friend of mine who I've worked with before started the company, he's the technology genius behind it, Vladimir Pelman, he started the company in Minneapolis building the core technology that we use to do this extremely high speed, very efficient wireless internet connection for people's homes. And so he built this technology. I was on his board of directors and the company was struggling and so the board asked me to come in and help as the CEO and the first thing you got to do is like I said, pick the mission, pick a direction, where are you going to go to have this technology see light and life? And it turned out the day I decided to choose was two weeks before Covid shut down country. Oh gosh, it wasn't exactly the greatest time. We were about to announce our product, which was this extremely fast, very efficient wireless technology that goes a gigabit a second down and up.
And it was really exciting that we were going to do that. They were going to announce it at this show. It was in Texas in March. That show didn't happen for three more years. So it was a difficult time to be announcing a brand new product in technology in a space like this during Covid. So that's what led us on this journey. So we couldn't do the normal kind of a product announcements and all of that, and we were watching television like everybody else, and we saw these news stories about kids who were going to Taco Bell to get their internet connection. And I said to the group of the company like, guys, there's obviously a huge need for internet. You can't sell normally. Why don't we actually solve some people's problems? Why don't we actually give our technology away and solve some problems? And that's a way to test it too, and we can see if it really works as well.
We think it does. So we'll test it, we'll give it away, we'll do some good and maybe it'll actually have some positive effect on the brand of the company because we've done some good for some people. So that's what we started. We started by using our wireless radios. The first thing we did was in a small agricultural town in north central California called Corny, and there was a school district that was struggling and we helped them actually get a bunch of their kids connected and it worked great and really fast. It literally took hours to make it happen. You could imagine hours to get people connected versus if you're trying to bring them fiber or some other wired technology. And that was exciting. And then we had another connection we got was with the Boys and Girls Club in Long Beach, California. And Boys and Girls Club is kind of a safe haven for kids oftentimes as they're growing up for various different things.
And we thought, why not make it a safe haven for internet? And so we did a deployment like that to give the kids there an opportunity to get ready work right there, which gave us the thought. And by the way, that was what really got me thinking about this whole digital life. I honestly was kind of clueless about how many people suffer and how greatly they suffer not having any kind of reasonable internet access. And all these kids that were talking about we're not able to do their homework and schoolwork. The studies have now all come out that show people fall. They fall a grade behind half a grade a year behind if they're not able to get on the internet, do this kind of thing. And we could see it upfront and personal what was going on in these places. And I said, man, there's lots of places to put internet, but the best place to put it is on the other side of the digital divide. These folks that have no internet, no access. And so we thought that's the place to focus. That's what got us moving in this direction. Jessica Denson (08:58):

And were you able to visit any of those sites when you were doing this? Did you really get to see the impact? And if so, can you share some of that? Joe Costello (09:07):

Yeah, no, we got to visit some of those sites and then we started expanding on it. I mean you could see, I would say the site in Long Beach, it was a hundred percent clear. When you say Long Beach, most people go, well, wait a minute, that's part of Los Angeles. It's a big urban community. They must have internet everywhere. And unfortunately that's the problem. It's like the old thing, water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink. There's fiber running all around these places, but it doesn't connect to people's homes and they don't have internet access and it doesn't do them any good. And so we saw that and we thought, how many communities are locked that like that? And it turns out there's a ton. Hey, look, that rural town and Central California is an example. Urban communities is another example of that. There are many suburban communities that are examples like that too.
There's places all over the place that don't have great internet. And along that path, when we were exploring that, one of the people that was advising the company at the time said, Hey, I have a friend who owns a mobile home park. And he said, the Internet's terrible. And he said, should we take a look at that? I said, yeah, sure. And so we went to visit, and indeed he was right that the internet was terrible and the people there were struggling. I mean, they had horrible internet. And this by the way was in South San Francisco, another right in the area of Silicon Valley, and they have terrible internet, which seems totally ironic. So we ended up doing that mobile home park using our technology, and then we started looking at the whole mobile home park industry and realized how big it was, how many mobile home parks there are, by the way, just for everybody's edification.
There are about seven and a half million mobile homes in mobile home parks in the United States of America, seven and a half million. And there's about a little less than 25 million people live in those mobile homes. If they all were in one state in one place, it would be the third largest state in the United States of America, slightly bigger than Florida, slightly smaller than Texas. So it's a huge population and universally they have terrible internet in these mobile home parks. So we said, look, there's a clear category that is absolutely underserved, wildly underserved, and we can do something about it. And that's how we chose to start the company to focus just on that. Let us be the best mobile home provider for mobile home and RV parks in the United States of America. Jessica Denson (11:49):

I'm sure there's a lot of mobile home owners or families are going, yes, please, we've needed this. And I could see that when you're talking about deployment of fiber and stuff, how that could easily be overlooked in the traditional sense. So expand a little bit more on this technology and this flexible deployment model. And it's okay to get a little geeky and dive into the tech if you'd like. What is this approach you're using? You said wireless radio, but is it a long-term solution or is it something that you could see expanding and be able to take on more as you move forward? As in what I mean by that is as our homes mobile or not get more and more techie themselves, there's a need for more and more internet. So talk about the type of technology it is, just expand a little bit on that side of things. Joe Costello (12:43):

Absolutely. And I'm going to back up for a second because it's important I think for everybody to understand the problem that we're facing in the United States today, the first broadband technologies were DSL over your phone line and cable over your television cable connection, and they reached their speed limits is the bottom line. So everybody's like, oh yeah, we need more and more data. We got to get to something higher speed. And everybody said, oh, no problem. There's fiber. And so everybody has thought that's our solution. Fiber is the solution. And I will say fiber is fantastic. Fiber has almost unlimited bandwidth in terms of its possibilities, it's capabilities. And so that sounds great, but there's a big problem. Cable and DSL deployments happened really fast because you already had a telephone wire and a cable to your house. There was no construction needed. You do not have a fiber cable to your house.
And in fact, in the United States of America, only 23% of homes have a fiber cable to their house. So the problem is a massive construction project, which you did not have to have with the first generation of broadband. You didn't have to do construction for telephone wires and cables, you do for fiber, and that's a costly and time consuming thing that's going to take decades. It's not going to take a few years, it's going to take decades. Even with all of this money being spent by the federal and state governments on things like the bead program, 42 billion being put into increasing the broadband access for people. At the end of all that spending, you're still only going to be in the 30% of people who are connected, maybe the high thirties of people who are connected to fiber. So it's a long, long and expensive process and you have to have some alternative technologies that give people answers in the meantime.
And to your point, maybe even less than the meantime, or I should say more than the meantime for the long term, so our founder, Vladi had this idea. He saw this problem coming. He saw this huge fiber gap that was going to happen. And he goes, look, there's new wireless technologies. Everybody thinks of wireless. They think of one of two things. They either think of wifi or they think of mobile phones, right? That's what you think of when you think of wireless technology. And sometimes they mix the two up, but this is a different technology in a completely different spectrum. Those spectrum that you use today for wifi at either two gigahertz or five gigahertz, that's what you're using for the wifi of today. Same thing in the cellular technologies. They use a whole set of frequencies in that kind of range. The frequency that we're using is 66 0 60 gigahertz. So 10 times higher frequency. And with higher frequency comes higher data bandwidth potential.
This technology, this 60 gigahertz technology was actually developed. A huge amount of money was spent on it as potentially the next generation of wifi. In fact, they called it Y gig. And companies like Qualcomm, Broadcom, Intel, Facebook, apple, all these guys invested billions of dollars into this technology hoping that it was going to go into the mobile home handset as the next wifi. The problem with it for that application was that it was too power hungry. So it worked very well, except your phone battery died in about an hour. So that wasn't very helpful. And so it wasn't good for a mobile battery powered application. But what we have done, and there's other companies like ours, but not many, just a handful, less than a handful, we've redeployed that technology not for a mobile battery power, low power oriented kind of approach or marketplace. We've done it for what's called fixed wireless access where you have some fixed infrastructure and you don't have to power it off of batteries.
You can use normal power. So extremely high speeds. So the first generation did one gigabit bi-directionally up and down the current generation already at two gigabits. And it's improving. To your point, this has legs. We'll be able to continue to increase the speeds. So it's not a bandaid solution that you say, oh yeah, it's great until I get my fiber. Fiber today is one gigabit a second. And do you really need more than one giga week a second over the next five to 10 years? Probably not. And this increases in its speed. So it's not a short term bandaid until the fiber guys show up. This is a technology that can solve many problems for many marketplaces and give people absolutely fantastic internet speeds and connections. And it's not something that you have to throw away anywhere in the near term and may be never for certain of the applications and marketplaces, Jessica Denson (17:44):

I can tell you how excited you are about it, and that's probably why you've had success because people follow others that are excited about something and feel strongly about it. So one of the things that we talk about at Connected Nation and when we talk about digital equity or digital inclusion is the need for affordability. Is this something that is affordable for your average person in a mobile park or the inner city who may have lower income? Joe Costello (18:11):

Yeah, absolutely. That was one of the design goals in all of this. Part of the affordable thing is how much does it cost for the actual infrastructure deployment? If it takes a lot of money to do it well, it means it's going to cost a lot for people to have access to it. So I'll give you an example to highlight this and give you the flavor of why this is so affordable. When we go do a mobile home park, which is typically something like two, 300 homes, we can put the entire infrastructure in a couple of days. So think about that, a couple of days, all 300 homes, if you were going to do a fiber kind of deployment there, it would take weeks to do that kind of infrastructure deployment. And that translates both into the, Hey there takes a lot of time, but also a lot of money for doing that. So the infrastructure expense for this kind of wireless application, in this case, 60 gigahertz is much, much lower, and that allows you to make it much more affordable for people. So as an example, in our mobile home parks, we actually, when a subscriber signs up, they pay $50 a month, that's it, 50 bucks a month. Jessica Denson (19:25):

It's pretty affordable. Yeah, Joe Costello (19:26):

Gigabit up for $50 a month, no contract, by the way. There's no contract. It's month to month, there's no other fees, no installation fees, no equipment, rental fees, no data caps, nothing. Just totally simple. $50 a month. Now is that affordable? That's reasonably affordable. But I'll tell you, I go to mobile home parks almost every week as we roll these out. And I'll tell you, there's a lot of people still can't afford that, and that's the truth of it. And so the A CP program is something that's been incredibly important for mobile home parks. And in my opinion, that program should continue. The A CP program takes people from 50 bucks a month down to 20 bucks a month, and that is the difference for a lot of these people. It doesn't sound like a lot. I mean, come on. How much a difference does it make? Well, it does make a difference to people who are on a fixed income or low income or sometimes almost no income at all, whether they're retired people or people that are just starting to get going. There's a lot of the people where the 50 bucks a month, they can't do it in 20 months. The 20 bucks makes a big difference. Jessica Denson (20:34):

Yeah, we're very supportive of the A CP. As you can imagine. That's the affordable connectivity program for our listeners. About 23 million households are affected by that, and they do. It helps low income people on fixed incomes, the ones the people that struggle the most and actually need access the most for government services, for resources, for education, for jobs, for everything. So yeah, I just want to echo that point for sure. So when you go into say a rural community versus an RV park or a mobile home park or an inner city neighborhood, are there different approaches to how you deploy or is it all very similar? Joe Costello (21:16):

Well, today, the quick bit internet, that company only does mobile home and RV parks. It is a bit of a funny story. Always. We do these launch events like we'll have a taco truck or we'll do barbecue or something like that, and we have a little party to introduce ourselves to the mobile home park and get people to know us and know our service and give them opportunity to sign up. And oftentimes they'll have people who will come as friends to the little party and they'll go, wow, this is incredible. What a great service. Oh my God, I have terrible internet. I live just over there about a quarter mile away. How about me? And I go, sorry, unless you move into a mobile home park, you can't get our service, which is really funny if you live in a mobile home park because usually it's the opposite. Jessica Denson (22:05):

So I've heard that I'm a little bit of fascinated by the RV population and how internet works with that group that goes place to place. So one person told me you could to call it the modular home market and not the RV market, that they prefer that. But how do you deal with this? I mean, some of them must be transient, right, when they're in RV Park? Joe Costello (22:29):

Yes. In fact, it's funny you use that term because the first time I heard that in one of some of the mobile home parks have both, which is ultimately ironic, mobile homes in mobile home parks don't ever move, right? So to your point, they actually now call them manufactured homes. I mean, that's the actual industry term manufactured homes because they don't move, but they still in the parks, they still call them mobile homes. And then the people that do move, those are called RVs and they actually call them what you say, they call 'em transients. That sounds kind of demeaning to call 'em transient, but that's true. So we have parks which are both, which are both the fixed ones, the mobile or manufactured homes, and then the RVs that actually move. And we have a couple different deployment mechanisms for those. You can think about it. I don't know if you remember the old, do you remember in the old drive-in movies where you'd pull up and you'd get your speaker and you put it in your hang it in your car is like, you drive up. Jessica Denson (23:35):

Yeah, you're dating me. You got to stop that. But yes, I do. Joe Costello (23:41):

Well, you saw a movie. I'm sure you've seen a movie of that. Jessica Denson (23:44):

Oh yeah, right. Somebody told me about it. Yeah. But yes, go ahead. Joe Costello (23:49):

But anyway, so you drive up and you essentially get, instead of a speaker to hang your car, you get an internet wire that you connect and we give you the owner of the park or the manager of the park gives you a little wireless access point you put inside your rv and you got super high-speed wifi inside with the outside connection to our 60 gigahertz networks, which gives you the gigabit up and down. So that's how it operates there. We have a couple of different deployment mechanisms, but it's very interesting that in that R, that part of the industry, the RV industry, there are parks that are just RVs. The actual today, number one requests from people that are looking for an RV park and they're saying what's the most important thing? Internet is number one. Jessica Denson (24:39):

Makes sense, especially if you're on the go. I would think that's how you got your news. You pull in, you hook up, you get your news, you find out what's been going on in the world, you may be playing your next trip, whether it's a month or a year away or just my thoughts. I'm pretty fascinated with the RV parks. I need to come out to one time and talk to some people about their internet access. It's just such a unique area. So I think it's very interesting that you've gone to just mobile and rv. Is it just that you found, hey, this is who we can serve and this is who we need to focus on. This is our market and you're owning that market? Is that kind of the approach Joe Costello (25:23):

I have learned in building businesses? Focus is critical, have a mission, have a focus, and get really good at doing one thing. Part of the reason why mobile home or now they call 'em manufacture home communities are not well-served, is that people don't specialize 'em. If you think about a normal internet service provider, the way I describe 'em, they do their business by the acre. They go into a community, I'll call it Woodbury. I was just talking to a guy who lives in Woodbury and it's like there's 20,000 houses in Woodbury. And so an ISP, an internet service provider would come to Woodbury and they go to the state council and the supervisors, they get approval, we're going to put internet in and do fiber, then they have to go to get rights away, and then they got to talk to utilities people, and it's a year to two process of getting all those approvals.
And then they can do 20,000 houses. And so they go charging away acre by acre by acre, and they might have some lower end residential, and then there might be some low rise office stuff, and then they might hide residential. And then there might be, here's an apartment complex and here's a mobile home park. In their 20,000 houses, they might have one mobile home park. So they don't know how to deal with it. It's different, it's special, it's different. It doesn't match, by the way, all the approvals they got for their city don't work inside a mobile home park because it's a private property. You've got to start all over again inside there. So they don't know what to do and how to manage that area. They don't know how to deal with the owners, the managers, they know how to deal with the residents. And so we specialize so that we are great at serving our communities, which are these manufactured mobile home and RV communities. So that specialization means that we can provide a much better service at a much better price to that group. That does not say this technology would be fantastic for rural communities. It would be fantastic for downtown urban, but that's a different company. And maybe someday we'll start that too. Jessica Denson (27:23):

Okay. Well, let's talk a little bit about the future before I let you go. What are some challenges or opportunities that you see on the horizon? Joe Costello (27:31):

Look for us, honestly, when I sit back and think about this, the thing that really, how would I say it? Worry is a kind of funny way to say it, but I say is most concerning is there are 65,000 mobile home parks and we've done 50. So if you're trying to fix the digital divide, we're not doing it fast enough. I mean, from the bigger picture point of view, I'm not healing the digital divide fast enough. I know there are millions of people suffering with poor internet in mobile home parks, and I'm not going fast enough. So how do we do it faster? How can we have a bigger impact? And then to your question, I know that other people can do other things like rural communities, downtown, urban other places, and heal this digital divide faster. So our sister company, so this quick internet is we're the guys that do the internet for the mobile home parks, the sister company does the radios that we use as the technology.
The thing that enables all of this is having this very sophisticated radio technology. They are out there selling to all the other people because we need a lot of different companies using this technology to reach across that digital divide and solve these kinds of problems. And I'm fundamentally worried about it because it is, in my opinion, after this experience, and honestly I would've been before the pandemic and really diving into it, I would've been ignorant about it. Unlike you guys who were focused on the digital divide for some period of time, a long time I wasn't. And then I got my own personal experience and I realize it's a big, big problem for us. All of us in the United States, all those people who do not have adequate internet, cannot be a fully qualified citizen of the United States. And I don't mean that to exclude them. I mean we are excluding them by of them not having good access to the internet. You have to have it today to be a full-blown citizen and have every right take advantage of every right of being a citizen of this country. And so it's a critical, critical factor for us to make that happen. And my own view is we quick bit internet aren't doing it fast enough. We need to do it faster. We need other people doing it the same way if we truly are going to heal the digital divide. Jessica Denson (29:57):

Yeah, when we talk about it, we talk about how huge it is when I say those of us that connect to nation, how big the problem is and that it takes partnership in all of us and having these kinds of conversations we're having now and just really tackling it from all sides. So yeah, I would echo what you say there. What about the people power? People power? What I mean by that is I've heard a lot of talk about needing more trained technicians in this industry. Are you running into any of that? I know you don't necessarily do traditional infrastructure, but is that an issue for your company as well? Joe Costello (30:35):

It's not been terribly a terrible problem for us. Maybe you could say because we're still small, but I don't think that's really it. Interestingly enough, a reasonable fraction of the people that do some of the installation work for us actually live in the mobile home parks themselves, and there's an incredible amount of talent there that can do these kinds of things. Part of that is by making sure that your technology is simple to deploy. Simple deployment means that it's easier, it takes less time and it takes less highly skilled people, therefore it makes it more affordable. And so we've tried to make it very, very simple to do that kind of installation and therefore enables us to have a much broader base of people that can do it. So we've not seen that. I know that there's a lot of talk around that, for instance, fiber installation that it takes a certain kind of technician. There's not enough people to do that, but I think that's the nature of both the technology and the heavy construction that's associated with it. Jessica Denson (31:37):

What do you think is ahead when it comes to internet technology like five years, 10 years, or even 15 years down the road in your mind you think's next? Joe Costello (31:50):

I think the most important thing right now is to stop thinking about going faster and faster right now for the leading and bleeding edge people. And that's always fine. I mean you want some people, you always want people racing ahead to make the fastest, very fastest things. I happen to be on the board of a company that is super high speed fiber optic links for inside data centers and they are already running at 224 gigabits a second on one fiber. So you can go, there's wild speed rockets you can set. I don't really think that that's the next decade for us. I think actually the next decade for us should be make sure that we actually get uniformly across this country, everybody to a state where they have something like a gigabit up and down, that kind of fiber level connection. That's a big enough problem, solve that problem, get everybody to that level.
And I think we will have made huge progress. It's like my view about it, people use that analogy. They say that a chain is only as strong as its weakest length. And you also look at, if you look at a country or a larger community, hey look, you're only really as wealthy as the people in your population that have the least resources. That's the same thing is true. And that's true about the health of our internet. So we're only as healthy as when we have vast swaths of our population that have terrible indirect connections. That's our weakest link in this country. We've got to fix it. Jessica Denson (33:25):

Well, you're speaking my language or our language at Connected Nation, we talk a lot about digital equity and digital inclusion and how we have to get there. First, before I let you go, last question, what would you like the audience to take away from our conversation today specifically about quick bit internet? What do you want them to remember? Joe Costello (33:46):

I think the number one thing to think about is your message that there are huge numbers of people in our population that actually don't have adequate internet, and we've got to fix that problem if we're going to have a completely healthy society. That's absolute number one. Your message is on point, in my opinion 100%. Now, second about us particularly, we're picking one piece of this marketplace. You can't solve it with one single silver bullet. Ain't going to work that way. So it's going to take a lot of people taking different pieces of the problem. We've taken one, we're at mobile homes, mobile home parks, RV parks, we're taking that. And even that, we're not enough as I just pointed out. So it's going to take a lot of people like ourselves out there. There's tremendous opportunity in this. There's a tremendous problem. But with that problem's opportunity, there's lots of businesses that can be built to provide that kind of robust internet for this people.
And that's another message about this. It's not like you have to wait for government programs to solve this problem completely. They're very helpful, as I pointed out with the A CP and other FUNDEE programs. Very helpful to kickstart it, but you don't even have to wait for that. You can build really good businesses with new technologies that are providing these kinds of services and doing a great service for our overall community and country by getting everybody up to speed on the internet. So hey, if you're one of those people who lives in a mobile home park or RV park and your internet is lousy, contact me and we'll see what we can do about getting there. If you've ever thought about moving in and taking some of these opportunities to help fix Digital Divide, I encourage you to do it. It is a great opportunity and it's not short term. It's going to take at least a decade or more to solve these kinds of problems. There's tons of opportunity and it does a lot of good for our overall country. Jessica Denson (35:38):

Alright, that's a perfect place to leave it. Thank you, Joe. I really appreciate your time today. Joe Costello (35:43):

Alright, thank you for having me. Jessica Denson (35:45):

Again. My guest has been Joe Costello, the CEO of Quick Bit Internet. I'll include a link to the company's website and a description of this podcast. If you have a topic or guest idea for our podcast, I invite you to email I'm always looking for great new ideas and personalities for our discussions. My next guest today is Brad Randall, who is with Terrapin, the company helping to organize this year's broadband communities summit taking place in the Woodlands just outside of Houston, Texas. Welcome, Brad. Brad Randall (36:19):

Hi, Jessica. Nice to meet you. Jessica Denson (36:21):

Nice to meet you. We're both going to be at this summit, so I'm looking forward to meeting you in person, but tell us a little bit about what Terrapin is and what your role is with the company. Brad Randall (36:32):

Yeah, we're a company that runs events and we recently acquired broadband communities. So I'm the editor of the digital brand of broadband communities, which is bbc And what we do is we just kind of keep it going all year. The summit's only a few days, but our coverage lasts throughout the year and we cover the industry inside and out. Jessica Denson (36:54):

Yeah, BBC You guys do a great job. So what is your staffing there? Do you have a full-Time staff or is it just you having to work with contractors? Brad Randall (37:05):

Yeah, you're talking to the full-time staff here. It's pretty much me. We have contributed content from some leading voices in the industry. But yeah, I'm the main contributor and we also source some content from Total Telecom. We're in the total telecom portfolio of events here, Jessica Denson (37:27):

So I always have a hard time saying the word communities. I don't know why. So Broadband Communities Summit and yours is portfolio, but when you say that terrapins role as an events coordinator, what exactly does that entail? Brad Randall (37:41):

Yeah, I mean, we run shows in a variety of different industries. So broadband communities was an especially appealing show because of who it reaches out to in the country and what the country's going through with the build out of broadband in all 50 states really. So Terrapin wanted to get in on that and you can't blame 'em. Jessica Denson (38:02):

Yeah, you can't blame 'em. And I love BBC Mag. I look at you guys probably once a week, so good job. Let's talk now about some of the topics that are expected to be lightning rods this year's summit. First, there are some big changes happening within the digital inclusion space, specifically with the Affordable Connectivity Program, also called a CP. Talk a little bit about that and what you're seeing with that issue. Brad Randall (38:25):

Yeah. Well, this is the last month that the Affordable Connectivity Program is fully funded. So if Congress doesn't do anything, it'll run out of funding and you're looking at 23 million people that rely on that program for broadband subsidies. Now, what sticks out to me is one in six households is the data that the FCC is saying rely on this program to help pay for broadband. But what sticks out more to me is that 68% of those polled by the FCC had inconsistent or zero connectivity before the program began. So 75% of people polled say they expect some sort of service disruption if nothing is done, and that's going to be starting in May. So I think that'll have a huge economic impact on the country if it happens. Hopefully it doesn't, but it's something we're watching very closely. Jessica Denson (39:16):

Yeah, that's something Connected Nation is on board with too, is we need something that is the Affordable Connectivity Program. I think the pandemic really showed us that connectivity is not a luxury, it's not a privilege. It's something you need to be able to take part in everyday life. Absolutely. Don't you think? Brad Randall (39:35):

Absolutely. And that's part of the struggle is getting it seen as a utility. And right now it is seen as a luxury by a lot of people, and that's certainly a mindset that we're trying to change and shows like broadband communities assist in that. Jessica Denson (39:52):

Another big topic to expect at this year's summit is the proposed bulk billing ban. I have to admit that I don't know a lot about this topic, so explain what that is and why it's a hot button issue. Brad Randall (40:04):

Yeah, a lot of providers, ISPs, they will implement bulk billing and it really started a few years ago where they get exclusive rights to provide services to a multifamily building or some sort of complex where there's lots of units. Now program has these types of billing arrangements have been singled out by the FCC and the White House with proposed rules that would ban them and they're seeing them as junk fees. And the idea behind it is that they want to promote some sort of competitiveness, but it's seen some major opposition within the industry. National Multifamily Housing Council has come out against it pretty strongly, and they're trying to make the case that it would actually kill competitiveness in the industry. So there's a lot of ISPs that rely on bulk billing as a main source of their revenue stream, and if this does get passed, they'll have to adjust. So it's something that's kind of a dark horse issue that could have a larger impact on the industry. Jessica Denson (41:10):

And how would they adjust to something like that? Has there been talk about solutions if this goes through? Brad Randall (41:16):

Well, they'd have to change their structure to try to keep as many customers as they could. Knowing that those complexes, those MDUs where they had those types of arrangements, will now be open up to a choice. Jessica Denson (41:32):

What are some other important topics that you think that will be explored or that attendees will be talking about at this year's Broadband Community Summit? Brad Randall (41:40):

One that kind of came up out of nowhere is net neutrality. And a lot of this is happening because the FCC now has their majority, their Democratic majority. So they're moving on a lot of things that they've wanted to move on. Net neutrality is one, and they're taking an aim at ISPs that throttle, which is really when a company will slow down someone's services because it's not their service. And it comes into play, especially with companies that provide streaming services and internet service. So rural ISPs have been kind of singled out in the fccs proposed rules, and they're trying to make the case that it's the entire digital ecosystem that should really be held responsible if net neutrality gets passed. Jessica Denson (42:31):

This event, the Broadband Community Summit is taking place May 6th through the eighth in the Woodlands of Texas, which is, like I said earlier, just outside of Houston, was really on the suburb of Houston. I'm a Texan, if you can't tell, I was born in Texas. But is there still time to take part and register and be a part of this, whether as a speaker or as an attendee? Brad Randall (42:54):

Absolutely. So we're still soliciting speakers. We are still accepting registrations up until the event, so if you're interested, please go to bbc And we also, we're giving out free tickets to those who are in real estate, public officials, people in academia. If you're in government and you can't accept free tickets, we have a hundred dollars concessionary rates for public officials. And yeah, I mean we are trying to get as many voices as we can there, so obviously we'll be accepting registration until the event. Jessica Denson (43:29):

Fantastic. And I look forward to seeing you. I will be there and I'll be bringing our podcast. And you have a podcast too as well, right? What's it called? Brad Randall (43:37):

I do. It's called Beyond the Cable, and we go beyond the cable and broadband communities is, it's about broadband, but it's also about communities. So we combine those two things and we look at stories. We focused on rural towns in Texas where a connected library changed the game for the entire town. We focused on tribal areas. We've talked to academics and we've talked to people in government, so we try to cover as many bases as we can. It's a relatively new podcast, but I appreciate you giving us a shout out. Jessica Denson (44:07):

Yeah, I'm going to listen to it and I look forward to seeing how you do your work in person. Thank you so much, Brad, for joining us today. Brad Randall (44:15):

Thank you, Jessica. And I just want to say it once portfolio there I got it. Jessica Denson (44:20):

And for me, communities is so hard for me to say. Again, we've been talking to Brad Randall, who is with Terrapin, the company helping to organize this year's broadband Communities summit taking place. This May again, yours truly will be at the event doing interviews for our podcast. If you see me, stop and let's talk. I'm Jessica Desen. Thanks for listening to Connected Nation. If you like our show and want to know more about us, head to connect or look for the latest episodes on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Google Podcast, Pandora, or Spotify.

Meeting Joe + Background
Kwikbit Locations
Mobile homes
Importance of affordability
Similarities between deployment locations
Challenges and opportunities
Kwikbit segment concludes
Brad Randall joins
Talking about
Previewing the Broadband communities summit
Conclusion + Outro