Comcast was too expensive and AT&T was too slow, so this man built his own ISP

Shawn Knight

Posts: 14,343   +165
Staff member
Bravo: A Michigan man has gone above and beyond the call of duty to bring broadband Internet connectivity to his rural town. What started as a personal goal for Jared Mauch soon morphed into a community-based project. To date, Mauch has around 70 customers connected to his ISP across 14 miles of fiber. He still works as a network architect with Akamai but thanks to a recent infusion of cash from the US government, his ISP will soon be reaching a lot more customers.

Mauch moved into his home in Scio Township in 2002 and was able to get a T1 line, a speedy connection at the time. As broadband technology matured, his once mighty 1.5Mbps connection fell behind the competition. Surely an ISP would come along and wire up his home for cable or fiber, but unfortunately that never happened.

Mauch eventually settled on a wireless ISP that offered speeds of around 50Mbps. Comcast at one point reportedly quoted him $50,000 to run its cable network to his residence. "If they had priced it at $10,000, I would have written them a check," Mauch told Ars Technica in 2021.

Around 2016, AT&T started advertising DSL service to Mauch's address but the paltry 1.5Mbps service was laughable at that point.

Out of options and not content with the 50Mbps wireless connection, Mauch decided to build his own ISP. He got the ball rolling about five years ago, first by starting a telephone company called Washtenaw Fiber Properties LLC. The outfit doesn't provide phone or TV service, only Internet connectivity on a case-by-case basis.

Mauch's company was recently awarded $2,618,958.03 through the American Rescue Plan's Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. The contract was signed back in May and requires him to extend service to an estimated 417 addresses in his township and a couple of others nearby.

The contract calls for Mauch to offer 100Mbps symmetrical Internet service without a data cap for $55 a month. Another plan bumps speeds up to 1Gbps with unlimited data for $79. Mauch told Ars that his installation fee is typically $199 and that unlike most major ISPs, his bills consist of a single line item for the service with no hidden fees.

Even with the government contract, it's not going to be easy going. Like others in different industries, Mauch is already facing increasing equipment costs. He told Ars that fiber conduit used to cost 32 cents a foot but it's now more than double that. Underground handholes used to run around $300 but cost Mauch closer to $700 these days.

Unsurprisingly, Mauch has become quite popular in his small town. "The world around me has gotten a lot smaller, I've gotten to know a lot more people," he said, adding that he is now saved in people's cell phones as "fiber cable guy."

One has to wonder - if Mauch had it all to do again today, would he go down the same route or opt for a far simpler solution like Starlink?

Image credit: Leon Seibert, Lars Kienle

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wiyosaya

Posts: 7,982   +7,030
Opt for a simpler solution like Starlink?? You have got to be kidding me. This guy is beholden to no-one, and on top of that he stands to make a living with what he is doing. Also, to not have to be a BSer is a big plus to me. If this guy keeps up what he is doing with his no BS billing, there is no predicting where this might lead him.

His service sounds much like the local FTTH provider that within the past few years, has gradually expanded in my area and is giving Spectrum a run for their money while forcing Spectrum to upgrade their service at no extra cost. In addition, their bill is also a one-line item with no hidden charges, fees, data caps, etc. IMO, the competition cannot be beat, and this shows that Comcast quoting him 50K to install service at his home is utter BS aimed at siphoning his wallet and nothing else.

We need more people like this, and, IMO, those TS readers constantly P&Ming about lack of good options should maybe consider doing something like this themselves.
 

Lionvibez

Posts: 2,714   +2,528
Mr Mauch is in the comments sections in the ars article great guy.

And I hope they leave him alone because as he scales out and gets bigger he will eventually get on their radar and be a threat to Comcast, AT&T etc.

And no starlink is not a better option as it cannot compete with direct Fiber when its comes to speed and latency.

As people have said in the Ars comments this guy deserves a medal.
 
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drjekelmrhyde

Posts: 398   +147
I wonder if he tried to add a cellular antenna to his wireless setup to get more speed? Some people speed would go from 60/8 to 400/70 when using a semi directional antenna.
 

Plutoisaplanet

Posts: 764   +1,204
Opt for a simpler solution like Starlink?? You have got to be kidding me. This guy is beholden to no-one, and on top of that he stands to make a living with what he is doing.
I’m not sure about that, he was willing to pay a company $10,000 so they could have him as a customer. I mean I don’t blame him, I personally wouldn’t do that but I understand it when people have the means to. But he’s probably not typically a maverick based on that tidbit. I gotta appreciate people starting local ISPs though, the more competition the better.
 

PEnnn

Posts: 872   +1,050
"Comcast at one point reportedly quoted him $50,000 to run its cable network to his residence"

Yep, sounds like Comacast alright!! Their customer service is even more painful than that quote.

"Another plan bumps speeds up to 1Gbps with unlimited data for $79."

That's what I pay now Centurylink for their lousy DSL and 7 Mbps (in theory only, usually 2-3 Mbps)!!
 

p51d007

Posts: 3,310   +2,919
If he gets bigger, one of the "big guys" will just offer him a boatload of money, and gobble it up.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 7,982   +7,030
If he gets bigger, one of the "big guys" will just offer him a boatload of money, and gobble it up.
Perhaps. There are no indications that Spectrum tried to do that with the small, local Fiber ISP provider in our area. What did happen, though, is a local Billionaire stepped in a gave them an infusion of much needed cash. Then "Oak Hill Capital" stepped in and offered even more money. As I understand it, Oak Hill Capital is a venture capital firm that specializes in ISPs. Even though they probably have a boatload of money to invest, they are not Spectrum, Comcast, Verizon or any of the other "Biggie" ISPs.
 

DukeJukem

Posts: 300   +336
If he gets bigger, one of the "big guys" will just offer him a boatload of money, and gobble it up.
I don't think he will. the way he handled comcast telling him it'd cost $50k to service his house and he would've wrote a check if it only cost $10k...I think he's going to be fine. he'll keep saying no. if he's willing to just write a $10k check to comcast I don't think he's super focused on money as he probably already has enough. he literally has the best deal in the business and he knows if he says no it will eventually force other big time players to be more like his company or they'll just lose business.
 

Soulburn74

Posts: 122   +66
Small ventures always start out with great care and quality. then when you get big, you don't give a fck anymore because you're rich.... u got yours now.
It's not for a lack of caring, its more usual to do with the fact that a company eventually incorporates. Once this happens, his job literally stops becoming providing a service, but switches to becoming beholden to the shareowners to make more profit above all else, and if not, loose his job.
 

dangh

Posts: 692   +1,091
I love those community driven ideas. And I hope this guy will have enough determination and energy to push this through, and enough resilience to fend off big corpos who surely will try to take over.
Still, having a half Gb fiber for 30 eur I'm surprised US companies charging such sums for a simple utility ;(
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,827   +1,895
In amongst all the high-fiving about "community-driven ideas", I wonder that no one has pointed out that the federal government -- I.e. we, the tax-paying citizens -- paid this man an average of $6,500 per home to run fiber to them, or roughly ten times the national average cost. That doesn't, of course, count what he himself charged atop that amount.

Rural areas are more expensive to service, sure. But subsidies that artificially hide the true cost of an economic expenditure cause market distortions that are ultimately more harmful than good. Where do we draw the line? $60,000 per home? $600,000? More?
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 3,542   +5,991
It's not for a lack of caring, its more usual to do with the fact that a company eventually incorporates. Once this happens, his job literally stops becoming providing a service, but switches to becoming beholden to the shareowners to make more profit above all else, and if not, loose his job.
Why does this falsehood continue to spread? He would STILL need to spread the service, if it was profit only, then the price would jump to thousands a month because that makes more money.
 

TheRealSCDC

Posts: 313   +435
This guy is truly what America was built upon. See a need, fill a need. That is the true meaning of capitalism and the American dream. Unfortunately, that dream has fizzled to corporate greed, shareholders and corp lawyers shutting down the dreams.
 

lripplinger

Posts: 367   +161
Imagine that, an entrepreneurial man solving a problem, and using taxpayer money wisely. I'm impressed he got through all the stupid government roadblocks to make it happen. Props to him!
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,827   +1,895
Imagine that, an entrepreneurial man [using] taxpayer money wisely.
I'm honestly curious how you believe this is a wise use of taxpayer funds. At least two of the homes required more than $30,000 apiece to equip. Homes that remote are a small overall percentage overall. If you're in such a home and actually need high-speed fiber for something more than making your Netflixing more convenient, you have a few options:
a) Pay the costs out of your own pocket
b) Move
c) Wait a year or two, when an option like Starlink can give you the same or better service for 1% of the infrastructure cost.

Of that list, option (4), soaking the American taxpayer, seems quite plainly the worst of them all ... especially for someone such as you, who bears a Rand Paul avatar.
 

terzaerian

Posts: 1,488   +2,203
I'm honestly curious how you believe this is a wise use of taxpayer funds. At least two of the homes required more than $30,000 apiece to equip. Homes that remote are a small overall percentage overall. If you're in such a home and actually need high-speed fiber for something more than making your Netflixing more convenient, you have a few options:
a) Pay the costs out of your own pocket
b) Move
c) Wait a year or two, when an option like Starlink can give you the same or better service for 1% of the infrastructure cost.

Of that list, option (4), soaking the American taxpayer, seems quite plainly the worst of them all ... especially for someone such as you, who bears a Rand Paul avatar.
He was doing this before he got the grant and likely would have gone on doing it had he not received it.