Will Amazon’s Flywheel Consume the Rural Broadband Advantage?

What is the Amazon Flywheel? It is best described in a Bloomberg article examining Amazon’s Market Reach.

As Amazon grew, the company adopted a business school concept called the flywheel, loosely defined as a sort of self-reinforcing loop. Where possible, projects were to be structured to bolster other initiatives underway at the company.

Here is an example of the flywheel in action:

By the time Amazon began breaking out the revenue of Amazon Web Services in 2015, the cloud-computing unit had reshaped how businesses used technology. It was also Amazon’s biggest money maker, churning out billions of dollars a year in profit that the company could put to work investing in new services and expansion of its core retail business. Once again, the flywheel in action.

With the announcement that Amazon will be launching 3,236 low earth orbiting satellites to provide broadband internet services from space the potential competitors SpaceX, OneWeb, Telesat and LeoSat took notice. The most vocal was Elon Musk who claimed Amazon was copying SpaceX.

Perhaps those that Amazon’s broadband network will impact the most, the mom and pop stores across the nation, may not have given the announcement a passing thought.

While the Amazon LEO satellites will be providing high-speed internet access to 14 million rural US citizens who do not have access now, they will also be providing these rural consumers access to Amazon’s e-commerce kingdom. While Amazon can offer cloud services to small business in rural communities at the same time, they could be stealing those small business customers with their lower cost e-commerce options.

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According to the Foundation for Rural Service study current rural broadband users account for $1.4 Trillion in an online transaction, 14% of all internet driven transition, or 7% of GDP. However, they’re 19 million users that do not have Internet access or have access too slow for effective e-commerce. Amazons LEO network will provide easy access to these unserved broadband customers and at the same time adding them to the Amazon e-commerce customer base. The flywheel in action.

While SpaceX, OneWeb, Telesat, and LeoSat are planning to provide broadband services, Amazon will be providing broadband service, but the primary goal is the creation of marketing and sales infrastructure, which is a far different business model than the service based competition.  The depth of Amazon’s offerings gives them an advantage.

The problem remains, will Amazon’s space-based broadband access be an advantage or detriments to rural communities? Given Amazon’s market penetration so far, it appears that a ubiquitous internet will transform communities, there will be more information based businesses and fewer street side shops selling commodities that Amazon can deliver for less.

Your thoughts?

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