Rural N. Idaho, a new universe heads your way

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Would you be willing to work hard for 18 months on a project that very well might net you nada?

Mike Kennedy was, and for thousands of rural North Idahoans, that gamble paid off. Kennedy, president of Coeur d’Alene-based Intermax Networks, landed an $11.5 million contract that will put some serious horsepower into rural residents’ ability to get from Point A to Point B on the internet.

The windfall comes not from taxpayers but from a small fee that all cellphone users pay monthly. For Kennedy and Intermax, the $11.5 million, spread over 10 years, will allow the company with about 3,000 customers to invest more rapidly in expensive infrastructure, which in turn will ramp up speeds for many rural users from snail’s pace to roadrunner (beep-beep!). For Intermax, it means possibly quadrupling its customer base over the span of the program, according to Kennedy’s projections.

Other than this being a fantastic local business success story, what does it mean? That teens in Bonners Ferry will be able to play video games they can’t download on their phones now? That Agnes in Athol will be able to stream Netflix without having the movie stop in mid-play? That Ralph in Rathdrum can more readily FaceTime with Nellie in New Zealand? Well, yes. But much, much more.

Schools in the areas that Intermax will be able to turboboost will have access to educational content that now is out of reach. Kids who can’t visit the new Idaho State Historical Museum in Boise, for instance, will at least be able to take video tours of the fabulous facility. Lectures from renowned educators can be live-streamed into classrooms. The possibilities of going beyond outdated textbooks are virtually limitless.

What has us really excited are the doors that will open for rural entrepreneurs and businesses whose potential is now throttled by limited or non-existent internet access. The ability to conduct e-commerce will expand dramatically. As our economy shifts away from bricks and mortar workplaces toward digital domains, an increasing number of jobs will depend upon high-speed internet capability — and Intermax will do its part to provide that. Best of all, some exceedingly talented people won’t have to abandon their rural roots to make a good living.

Alas, this won’t happen overnight. It will take several years for most people in the enhanced rural areas to benefit in a big way, but that’s another thing about modern times. Most of us expect instant gratification, forgetting that patience is a virtue.

In this case, it will be worth the wait.

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