In 2013, Mike Bosch knew he had a problem.
He had recently been featured in an article for Reuters about young entrepreneurs living in rural towns across Kansas. Bosch had started his own software company in Baldwin City, Kan., and while his internet access always left something to be desired, after his debut in the newspaper he could no longer stand it.
“We were getting all these calls for business,” Bosch said, “and our internet couldn’t handle it.”
That’s when Bosch figured he would be the master of his own destiny. Instead of waiting for someone to build better internet services that he could use, he set out to do it himself. That’s when RG Fiber was born – and its mission was simple: Provide affordable, reliable internet to the people of rural Kansas.
“The way the world is today, people can’t survive without internet,” he said. “We can’t ignore rural America anymore.”
Fiber in Rural America
Baldwin City is located about 50 miles outside of Kansas City, Mo. The city itself is home to 4,500 people, but the larger county is a collection of mostly rural towns that make up 110,000 people. The idyllic small town has a main street with a collection of shops that line it—including Bosch’s.
Everyone complained about the internet. Local students were forced to go to the library or the local McDonalds to study for school. Businesses were stilted when it came to expanding their services. And in 2014, while new streaming services were emerging and the world was becoming more connected than ever—Baldwin City was left in the dark.
Down the road in Kansas City, fiber was booming. In 2010, Google named the city as its first fiber city. It gave Bosch an idea.
“I thought ‘why can’t we have fiber here?’” He said. “But the question then became, ‘Okay, how are we going to do this?’”
He received the go-ahead from the city to build a 20-mile backbone to bring fiber into town. From there, he and his team could install but that wasn’t his only challenge—a big question was how he was going to deploy the service in a way that was cost-effective and manageable.
Using his experience in software, he developed a software-based technology that uses the cloud to disseminate fiber to its users. Because of this, Bosch and his team can tap into the network and manage it remotely, allowing them to reach more people.
“I’m a small town guy,” he said. “And when I realized that I could help my community and give access to my community, I knew it was something I had to do.”
An Expanding Business
The company started laying fiber and delivering high speed internet in 2015. It was a grassroots effort where Bosch himself was digging trenches for fiber and going to customer’s front doors to pitch the new service. His first big customer was Baker University, a private liberal arts school in Baldwin City, and the city itself.
Despite being a newcomer in the industry, Bosch’s business quickly grew. As word spread around town about new internet opportunities, people put their names on a waiting list for the service.
“I was really excited because our service was improving the internet within the city, but I was also frustrated because I couldn’t roll out enough deployments to get everyone the internet they wanted,” Bosch said. “I’m a software guy—I have no patience.”
In the next four years, he and his team managed to reach several other communities in the surrounding area. Their focus is to provide internet services to rural communities who need it most.
RG Fiber has a few core values employees are expected to live by: Be open, be driven, be kind, and most importantly, build community.
The company offers discounted internet rates for low-income families, especially those with kids in the free and reduced lunch program. If someone has trouble paying their bill on time, Bosch and his team work hard with the customer to help get them on track. They also have scholarship programs to help kids fill the homework gap, working with local schools and families to provide internet access.
Bosch recalled a story he once heard of a single mom with several kids of different ages. The older ones needed to do their homework at night, but because the family home didn’t have internet, she was forced to pack up all her children—ranging from toddlers to teens—and spend her evenings in the library.
The company worked with her to get internet and now the older kids can do their homework at home while their mom gets to do things like cook a fresh dinner, spend time with the little ones and relax after a long stressful day.
“That’s something we were able to do and it makes me proud,” he said. “Families shouldn’t have to struggle or wonder how they’re going to get their homework done or spend time away from their home because they don’t have access to the internet.”
Bosch says his dream is to connect all the small and rural towns of Kansas and beyond. He believes everyone deserves the chance to hook up to fast, affordable internet—regardless of whether you live in a big city or not.
“This is something that everyone needs—it affects everyone’s way of life,” he said. “If I can help people do that, then I’ve done a good job.”