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Keeping Willie wireless

It’s good to have friends in high places, the saying goes. Better yet are the friends who push you to pursue a promising, emerging business in the wireless industry. David Lowder met his entrepreneurial muse in longtime friend Willie Nelson.
Lowder has been an active player in the wireless industry for decades and has done countless jobs for Nelson over the years, but the stars didn’t align until Nelson prodded him to find a way to bring wireless broadband Internet to his tour bus. And with that, Wireless Highway began.
Most wouldn’t think of technology and Nelson in the same breath, Lowder says, but Nelson was actually utilizing analog wireless technology on his tour bus at least 25 years ago. It was only a matter of time before Nelson asked Lowder to bring high-speed Internet to the Honeysuckle Rose No. 4-Nelson’s home away from home. “Once we hooked back up, they started giving me more business,” Lowder said. This is what he calls “The Willie Nelson effect.”
Lowder sells and installs routers from Top Global USA Inc. that access the Internet via wireless air cards that all of the major wireless carriers now offer. “You can buy a router off the Internet,” Lowder said. “To make it work seamlessly is the trick.” The router then works like a wireless router at home or the office and frequently provides access as far as 250 feet away, which is helpful when tour bus drivers can park their coach near the artists’ hotel rooms.
“There’s a hundred meter halo around Willie’s buses,” he said. “A lot of times they can actually use the Internet from their hotel room.”
Being rock stars and the tour bus companies they rely on, each of Lowder’s customers have special needs, so each project is custom, he said. But the benefit is the same across the board. Lowder provides around-the-clock support and drives down cost by freeing clients to exploit one wireless air card for multiple points of Internet access while keeping their monthly cost to a minimum.
“He kind of revolutionized how people were communicating on the road,” said Blake Olson, operations manager at Roadhouse Coach whose clients include Bruce Springsteen, Carlos Santana, Reverend Horton Heat and Justin Timberlake among many others. Roadhouse Coach has installed the routers on every one of its 26 coaches in the fleet. “We haven’t had any equipment failures,” Olson said. “Whenever there is a problem . David’s been great, he’s been there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The uptime has been great.”
Lowder says he’s seen his business grow exponentially in the four years since it got off the ground. He installed routers on 350 buses last year and expects to do many more this year. “It’s not boring because you have challenges all the time,” said Lowder who was in the Los Angeles area last week to work on Nelson’s bus during his stop in Universal City, Calif., and Michael Franti’s bus before a gig in Santa Ana, Calif.

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