Rob Oyler, Founder & CEO
Using funding from the Universal Service Fund, the E-Rate program, run by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), makes telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools and libraries by discounting the service by 40-90 percent. Using these funds, libraries and school districts have the opportunity to build their own private fiber networks at greatly discounted rates.
This federal program has been valuable to schools and libraries in rural areas of the country to ensure they have equal access to network connectivity. However, there can be a barrier to entry for the program’s beneficiaries due to the complex nature of navigating federal programs; schools and libraries may be intimidated to complete the applications for discounts, and local officials may lack program understanding. This is where WANRack’s experience proves invaluable to its customers.
Kansas City-based WANRack was established in 2014 by Rob Oyler to focus on networking needs in the education sector. WANRack built its foundation focusing primarily on the E-Rate portion of the school and libraries and selling private fiber WAN under that umbrella. The company’s E-Rate expertise has proven invaluable as they have a 100 percent approval rating on all funding applications. This track record of approval has enabled them to undertake successful projects for schools and libraries in 24 states across the country.
WANRack builds private fiber networks from scratch, offering customers unlimited bandwidth potential. Part of the company’s competitive advantage is the unmatched service. A district on a public network that experiences an outage may have to wait on a repair because higher priority customers like hospitals and large companies may be first in line for restoration. On a WANRack network, the district is the one and only customer on the network and, therefore, they’re the first fibers connected back together.
The turnkey solution offered by WANRack has positioned the company to participate in building out network infrastructure in more rural areas.
Our strategy has been to build private networks for cities, counties, municipalities or school districts across America
COVID has undoubtedly put a spotlight on the need for students working at home in these areas to have access to broadband just as fast as someone in Chicago or New York, or LA.
With expertise in navigating the complexities of the federal E-Rate program, the company has added cities, counties, municipalities, to their repertoire and has become an expert in other federal funding mechanisms, most recently money associated with the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) or the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) Broadband Infrastructure Program.
One area where the company has been successful is bringing various local entities – cites, counties, municipalities, libraries and school districts together to agree on the same fiscal budget cycles. Providing this level of consultation helps many stakeholders maximize the benefits available for improving networking infrastructure.
“Our strategy has been to build private networks for cities, counties, municipalities or school districts across America,” says Oyler, Founder, and CEO. “Our executive management team has built over 200 school districts across 24 states.”
A prime example of WANRack’s ability to deploy funding mechanisms to build up an entire community’s broadband infrastructure is Yuma, Arizona. WANRack first built out the school district’s network and from that framework was able to offer services to the medical community, city and county, and eventually homeowners under one private network.
The incumbent was a bigger organization who wasn’t motivated to serve a relatively more minor market and were wary of investing additional capital as they were the only player in the town. Some parts of the city had conduits while others didn’t. Within 18 months, WANRack changed the entire network infrastructure and got all the schools, hospital locations, medical offices, and satellite offices throughout the whole town. The revamp made it more affordable for the hospital system to get on board. “We certainly stimulated the local economy as well as the competition in Yuma,” says Oyler. “We will even go further than that, and potentially be offering fiber to the home.”
Backed by a large international infrastructure fund that can infuse some speculative capital and success-based capital into WANRack, the company now has much deeper pockets. The addition of CBRE Venture Capital is further adding fuel to the growth of WANRack and its ability to serve school districts, cities, counties, municipalities, hospital systems, data centers, and wireless towers.