Nate Bondelid, CEO of Tek-Hut Inc., told the Legislature’s broadband access study committee that his company is serving 26 Idaho school districts post-IEN with internet service that comes via licensed microwave, rather than fiber. “We were able to provide a much higher level of service for about the same cost,” he said. “That was dedicated internet access.” He added, “We did all of that in about three months, and I think for the most part, most of the school districts are pretty happy with what they have.”
Bondelid said the type of service Tek-Hut provides, which involves constructing, buying or leasing towers for the microwave transmission, plus licensing and installing all the gear, is “extremely reliable, it’s not susceptible to weather.” He said when his firm puts in a tower, say to serve a school, it also then can provide internet access to residents in the area.
“Microwave is a very cost-effective way to deliver access last-mile,” he said. “I’m not saying microwave is perfect for everyone.” But, he said, “There may be more than one way to achieve what we’re trying to achieve, and ultimately that’s reliable broadband in education.” In some cases, a combination of microwave and fiber may be the best solution to serve a particular area, he said.
Tek-Hut was founded in 2001 in Twin Falls; it now has offices in Twin Falls and Boise and employs 20 people. Bondelid estimated that for the 26 school districts it now serves, bandwidth has increased by 2.3 Gbps over IEN levels, and the cost has dropped by $58,700 a month.