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Startup Takes on Big Telecom, Starting in Colorado Springs

Underline is targeting 2,500 communities where it says it can deliver more internet options — and cheaper ones — using an open access model. 

An open access fiber network is intended to make it easier for new broadband companies to enter the market and introduce choices for consumers. 

An open access fiber network is intended to make it easier for new broadband companies to enter the market and introduce choices for consumers. 

Photographer: Ceneri/E+

When it comes to choosing an internet service provider, most Americans have limited options — if any at all. The handful of major companies that dominate the telecommunications market have long been criticized for failing to invest in rural and low-income urban neighborhoods, even as some 42 million Americans lack a reliable connection. 

The startup Underline, which focuses on community infrastructure, is now hoping to disrupt that industry by building open access fiber networks across 2,500 underserved communities. The company says its first full-scale deployment will break ground Tuesday in Colorado Springs, Colorado — where 10% of all households have no internet access.