WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) – Make no mistake – homegrown internet service and IT provider CloudWyze is high tech. Its chief wireless engineer has a Ph.D in physics from Yale. The terms used to describe even its most basic services probably would be unfamiliar to most people.
But what the company actually does is rather simple – CloudWyze is in the “connectivity” business. And it specializes in serving places bigger companies can’t (or won’t) serve and in providing guaranteed internet connections and speeds.
CloudWyze’s business has been evolving toward new directions since local tech-entrepreneur Shaun Olsen founded it in 2012. The areas it pursued have paid off. Jump to 2020 and CloudWyze finds itself uniquely suited to help businesses, nonprofits and other organizations connect in ways most probably had never thought imaginable, much less necessary.
“Distancing” may be the law of the land, but that doesn’t reduce the need for “connections,” regardless of the circumstances: homebound workers with colleagues and clients; health providers with patients; and, the biggie, students with teachers.
Enter CloudWyze, a modest but ambitious firm that specializes in guaranteeing (yes, they guarantee their internet service and speed) that people can connect over any distance and in any place.
Long before COVID-19 made the internet the new classroom, Olsen was aboard the rural-broadband bus.
“There are towns in North Carolina where people don’t have Internet access at home,” Olsen said previously. “I’ve seen it firsthand, where a local McDonald’s fills up most evenings simply because it’s one of the few places in town with public Wi-Fi access. … Kids come home from school and there is no internet access.”
“That is a major disparity,” said Olsen, who grew up in rural Surry County, northwest of Winston-Salem.
It’s a disparity that’s now being magnified thousands of times
(On April 21, the state reported there are 197,000 households that have students living in them but don’t have internet access. Olsen hopes this new spotlight being shined on the problem is a wake-up call for movement on an issue that’s seen more discussion than action).
Olsen said most of those places lack internet service because there is no financial incentive for providers to invest in the expensive infrastructure.
Using a mix of available technology, creative solutions and diverse financing, CloudWyze has devised ways to get high-speed internet to communities that had been told they’d have to wait six years for it – if that soon.
“Rural counties trying to attract a business would tell potential employers, ‘We can get you water, we can get you sewer, we can get you power, but we can’t get you internet,’ ” Olsen said.
CloudWyze came in and had affordable service up and running in less than 100 days. In conjunction with state and local officials, the company is working on similar projects in multiple areas and is pursuing even more.
CloudWyze does not provide routine residential internet service in Wilmington – that demand is easily covered by the major ISP players. But the COVID-19 outbreak has definitely caused an uptick in business, notably from medical practices unexpectedly thrust into the world of telemedicine, which, due to HIPAA laws, requires special privacy and security protocols.
The company’s established customers were already in good shape, Olsen said – CloudWyze offers fault-tolerant systems that use redundancy to ensure business continuity after a system failure, a popular option in the hurricane-prone Wilmington area.
CloudWyze currently is in discussion with local business, education, government and civic leaders to permanently close the large, poverty-fueled internet gap that exists in parts of Wilmington.
As he wrapped up a phone conversation with a StarNews reporter, Olsen’s next call was with officials from Chowan County – another place that’s found itself unprepared for this new world of “life-by-internet.”
“We consider ourselves evangelists for the internet,” he said.
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