To many people J.W. Breeden is known as ‘that kid’ reports

As in, that kid who was fascinated by technology in preschool, who earned his first $50 hooking up a family friend’s computer when he was 7 and who had his first business customer in the seventh grade.

As in, that kid who wrote his company’s award-winning business plan while in high school and who juggled college with launching his company, LiveAir Networks, an Internet service provider that competes with corporate giants while also providing broadband in rural areas where the giants don’t offer service.

Today, at 24, Breeden estimates that the initial $30,000 investment in LiveAir Networks has grown 25 times . He said he has 300 clients, including a chamber of commerce, a school district, nonprofits, businesses and residents, from Smithville to Giddings to La Grange and points in between.

Last year, LiveAir Networks was the Smithville Chamber of Commerce’s Employer of the Year.

Broadband is to this generation of rural Texans as the railroads, farm-to-market roads and interstate highways were to their forebears: They get bypassed at their peril.

About 100 small, fixed wireless companies, mostly homegrown, are trying to fill the state’s huge rural gaps, according to Connected Texas, the nonprofit that is mapping the state’s broadband services.

To hear his customers, friends and former teachers, rural Texas just needs a few more “Jay Dubs” as he is sometimes called. It helps that many of them watched the precocious boy grow up.

“He was one of those kids you could tell had a strong head on his shoulders and knew what he was doing,” Smithville City Manager Tex Middlebrook said. “He’s a local boy. We have all the faith in the world in him.”

Photo by Declan Jewell

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