Partnering with Hawk Networks: an investment in the community broadband ecosystem

Partnering with Hawk Networks: an investment in the community broadband ecosystem

If we’re to achieve internet for all, today’s broadband sector needs to be far more diverse, with many more types of providers able to reach the communities that have been left out by the traditional market.

That means growing the supply of capital, technology, and technical support available to encourage the kinds of last-mile providers that both connect the unconnected AND actively collaborate with communities to meet their digital needs.

To that end, we’re excited to announce a partnership with Hawk Networks — providing a revolving loan facility that unlocks working capital to expand the company’s operations and ultimately nurture the more diverse broadband ecosystem we need.

Nurturing community broadband

Some companies build broadband networks. Others provide technology and expertise to help partners build them. Hawk Networks does both — and in genuinely innovative, community-centric ways. That makes the company a great partner to support our digital equality mission.

First, our financing will support Hawk to grow their service footprint, enabling new builds in Dallas, TX and Atlanta, GA. These networks will serve low-income communities of color — communities that are disproportionately underinvested and without the reliable internet that’s essential in today’s world.

As Hawk builds out service in these areas, families and businesses will have an affordable alternative to legacy providers offering slow service for high prices. Althea — Hawk’s underlying technology — is designed to minimize the financial barriers for people on low-incomes. It enables a ‘pay as you go’ model, so subscribers only pay for the data they consume. Customers are also able to set limits so they stay within a budget that they choose. If they do reach this limit, an ‘always on’ service provides a baseline level of access so they are never without connectivity altogether.

Second, we’re excited to partner with Hawk as it develops its innovative technology to help others build broadband in areas with tough economics.

Building a broadband network typically requires a lot of up-front capital. This barrier discourages new providers from entering the market and helps to preserve the low-competition environment that keeps many communities underserved and overcharged.

Hawk lowers this barrier in a couple of ways. The first is by offering an end-to-end service for new providers to build and run broadband networks — including equipment, build support, and billing tools. With this support, providers are freed up to focus on the many other demands of operating a network. To see what this looks like in practice, check out how our partner Wave 7 Communications is deploying Althea technology to extend affordable internet access to 400+ homes in the rural community of Enfield, North Carolina.

Changing network economics for small providers 

The second is through Hawk’s micro-transactional Althea platform that, by tracking data flows across the network, changes the economics for small network providers. Here’s how that works:

Traditionally, a provider has to contract up-front with a number of partners that own assets the network needs to access: things like telephone poles, roof space, and building rights of way. That requires committing capital without much certainty around revenue: a big bet with big potential downside. This risk means that for a startup ISP, raising the required capital is a likely prohibitive barrier.

Hawk’s technology offers another way. By giving a granular view of traffic flows across a network, asset owners can be compensated with micropayments based on their contribution to the network over time. They become stakeholders in the network receiving a revenue share, aligning financial and social incentives to truly engage with the community. The better the network does, the more they benefit.

By reducing upfront capital in the face of unknowable unknowns, providers can better manage risk by negotiating flexible rather than zero-sum contracts, making the economics easier to manage and more attractive for asset managers and investors. This model crowds in more participants to partner in the network — all with a vested interest in seeing the network succeed. 

Aligning financial and social benefits

Like Connect Humanity, Hawk is working to meet communities where they are rather than expecting them to fit within existing technology and financial products that don’t suit their needs — and that ultimately risk setting them up for failure. 

There are many ways that digital equity investors can fund and catalyze a broader ecosystem of community-based providers to solve the digital divide. We’re excited about the potential of this partnership with Hawk to show how broadband can be both community-centric and profitable, helping deliver internet for all.

Read the press release to learn more:

Broadband company Hawk Networks receives debt financing from Connect Humanity to expand affordable internet access in Dallas, Atlanta, and beyond

Hawk’s service runs on Althea, a platform designed to enable sustainable broadband networks in underserved communities with challenging economics.

Atlanta, GA – Connect Humanity, a non-profit impact fund for digital equity, has provided a revolving debt facility to internet company Hawk Networks to support the growth of its broadband solutions to underserved communities across the Southeastern United States.

Hawk Networks provides an end-to-end service to build and run broadband networks, including equipment, build support and its ‘Althea’ software platform, which offers an innovative system for routing network traffic and billing. Althea’s novel approach opens new models for building and operating broadband networks that can reach communities that currently lack fast, affordable internet options.

Hawk Networks’ current footprint covers locations in 10 states, including Oregon, Washington, Georgia and Texas, serving customers in rural and economically disadvantaged communities. The company supports a range of network models, including cooperatives, public-private partnerships, and universities, that together have helped connect thousands of families across four countries.

Connect Humanity’s investment provides working capital for Hawk Networks to scale its footprint and ensure more families can access the many benefits of internet connectivity, including work opportunities, online education, telehealth, and internet banking.

“We’re excited to support the next wave of Althea’s growth with a financing product that meets the needs of their business,” said Brian Vo, Chief Investment Officer at Connect Humanity. “Bridging America’s digital divide means ensuring that every family has a fast, affordable internet option. Digital equity is a leading challenge of our time and the innovative approach that Deborah Simpier and her team take is exactly what we need to get the job done.”

The investment will initially support the rollout of broadband networks in Texas and Georgia, connecting neighborhoods that lack affordable, reliable internet connectivity — a challenge that disproportionately impacts low income communities and communities of color.

Hawk Networks solutions are designed to reduce deployment barriers for low-income communities, frequently inviting the communities themselves to drive the buildout and participate in the economic benefits of the networks. In addition, networks built on Althea offer ‘pay as you go’ pricing models and an ‘always on’ tier for those struggling with bills. Unlike many legacy broadband providers, Althea’s networks do not refuse service to those with broadband debt and customers eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) can receive discounted internet each month.

“Just as every community is different — every community’s digital needs are different.” said Deborah Simpier, Founder and CEO of Hawk Networks. “Our networks are built to meet communities where they are, no matter their terrain or their economic reality. These new internet builds will bring lasting revenue, jobs, and opportunities that will improve life in these communities and other underserved neighborhoods. With Connect Humanity’s support, we’re ready and able to partner with other cities across America that want to build community-centered networks that keep revenue and control in the local area.”

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