Wireless Internet company expanding to central NM
A Florida telecommunications company is expanding its network into New Mexico, and residents of Socorro and Catron counties may soon have another option for high-speed internet service.
Trans World Network recently signed an agreement with Socorro Electric Cooperative to lease a building and communications tower the co-op owns atop M Mountain. Now, TWN is trying to work out an agreement with the co-op to lease FCC channel frequencies.
Both the property and the frequencies haven’t been used in years. Alltel used to lease the tower and the frequencies were licensed to Socorro Satellite before the co-op switched to providing services to Dish Network.
TWN is leasing the property on M Mountain for $300 per month. The charge for the FCC channels hasn’t been determined.
“They (TWN) are trying to figure out equipment and what will be required. That’s part of the negotiation,” said Joseph Herrera, the co-op’s general manager.
Herrera said it has already been decided that TWN will pay attorney fees to prepare the FCC application, which is due by May 1. He said the co-op needs to file a usage plan or lease the channels in order to keep them.
Herrera said the frequencies transmit an analog signal.
“The channels are outdated, but still have some use,” he said. “Trans World Network is trying to figure out if they are able to use the channels for broadband. Being that they’re FCC licensed, they’ll have their own channels so they don’t interfere with anything else.”
The co-op’s board of trustees last week agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding with TWN to negotiate a lease agreement for the frequencies. A contract will be up for approval at the board’s meeting on April 27.
Casting a Wider Net
Representatives from Trans World Network gave a presentation to the board of trustees at its February meeting.
“We provide high speed wireless internet,” said Jim Gardner, chief technology officer for TWN, “and we work exclusively through cooperatives. We partner with about 100 of them today.”
Gardner said the company, based in Tampa, Fla., already provides service to customers in several western states, including parts of western New Mexico. He said TWN is expanding its network into central New Mexico in 2011, with an eye toward expanding farther into Texas.
Gardner said TWN offers high-speed internet, wireless broadband, digital and long distance phone service. In order to receive the signal, customers would need to have a transceiver installed outside their homes, he said.
Ami Rodriguez, director for marketing and business development for TWN, said the company works through co-ops because it targets rural areas that often lack reliable service.
“We provide internet service to underserved or un-served areas,” she said, and then explained the partnership program TWN offers.
The benefits to the co-op, she said, were increased customer satisfaction and an additional revenue stream that required little effort. TWN handles the technical support and incoming phone calls that are routed to their Florida office.
“The beauty is we’re not asking the co-op to provide money, only marketing,” she said.
Rodriguez said the co-op could advertise the service through ads in Enchantment magazine, on billing statements, or with radio and newspaper ads.
The co-op would generate revenue by earning commission on each account each month.
“What we’re trying to do is cast a wider net. We expect to gain 26 to 39 new customers per month,” she said.
Rodriguez said the costs for residential plans range from $16.95 to $89.95 per month. She said the digital phone service, which requires no land line, can be bundled with internet for about $60 per month.
“It’s not the cheapest, but it’s not the most expensive either,” she said. “It’s competitive. We offer the same rates everywhere.”
In response to questions from trustees, Gardner said the company uses only Motorola equipment. He said he expected about 80 percent of the co-op’s service area, which includes all of Socorro, much of Catron and parts of Sierra, Torrance and Valencia counties, to be covered by the network within a year.