Man who built his own WiFi to save £40,000 wins enormous £2.1million contract

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Jared Mauch, a network architect by day, wanted better internet at his home in rural Michigan. So he started his own internet service provider. (Image: Jared Mauch/Job Snijders)
Jared Mauch, a network architect by day, wanted better internet at his home in rural Michigan. So he started his own internet service provider. (Image: Jared Mauch/Job Snijders)

A man who built his own Wi-Fi to avoid hefty bills and slow connection by providers has ended up getting huge government funding.

In a quest to address the lack of reliable broadband service from major providers, Jared Mauch, from Michigan, took matters into his own hands and established his own fibre-to-the-home Internet provider, Washtenaw Fiber Properties LLC. Now, thanks to $2.6million in government funding, Mr Mauch's ISP is set to expand and reach hundreds of properties.

Back in January 2021, Mr Mauch began his journey with around 30 rural homes, including his own, receiving service from his fledgling ISP. Fast forward to today, and the subscriber count has nearly doubled, reaching about 70 customers. Now, with the aid of funds from the American Rescue Plan's Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, Mr Mauch is gearing up to connect an additional 600 properties to his network.

Man who built his own WiFi to save £40,000 wins enormous £2.1million contract erideuiqtqiqdrinvJared Mauch, who built his own broadband to avoid pricey bills got $2.6m from the government (youtube)

The infusion of $71million allocated by the US government to Washtenaw County for various infrastructure projects, including broadband enhancement, provided the catalyst for Mr Mauch's ambitious expansion plans. Before the pandemic, the county conducted a broadband study to identify underserved locations, laying the groundwork for the funding allocation.

With the funding opportunity at hand, the county issued a request for proposals (RFP) to wire up addresses that were known to be lacking proper Internet coverage. Mr Mauch took a bold step and bid on the entire project in his area, ultimately winning the bid through a competitive selection process. His ISP was among four chosen by the county to extend high-speed Internet access to different regions.

Sky TV and broadband customers given urgent warning about price hike in billsSky TV and broadband customers given urgent warning about price hike in bills
Man who built his own WiFi to save £40,000 wins enormous £2.1million contractFiber conduit for Jared Mauch's internet service (Jared Mauch)

The expansion will see Mr Mauch's current network of 14 miles of fibre grow by an additional 38 miles, effectively connecting the targeted properties. However, the rural landscape presents its own challenges, with some homes requiring costly half-mile extensions costing over $30,000.

Under the contract's terms, Mr Mauch will provide 100Mbps symmetrical Internet with unlimited data for an affordable $55 per month, while a 1Gbps plan with unlimited data will be available for $79 per month. The ISP's commitment to the Federal Communications Commission's Affordable Connectivity Program ensures eligible households receive a $30 monthly subsidy to further ease the financial burden.

The project, signed into a contract in May 2022, is set to be completed by the end of 2026, but Mr Mauch has higher aspirations. He aims to accomplish half of the expansion by the end of the current year and the remaining portion by the end of 2023, accelerating the availability of high-speed Internet for the region's residents.

Man who built his own WiFi to save £40,000 wins enormous £2.1million contractFibre installed at one of the homes on Jared Mauch's network (Jared Mauch)

Beyond providing reliable Internet to local homes, Mr Mauch's ISP also exemplifies community dedication. Offering free 250Mbps service to a local church that had previously struggled with its Comcast connection, Mr Mauch goes the extra mile to improve connectivity for all.

Mr Mauch told ArsTechnica that even his social life has improved after the investment: "I'm definitely a lot more well-known by all my neighbours... I'm saved in people's cell phones as 'fibre cable guy,'" he said. "The world around me has gotten a lot smaller, I've gotten to know a lot more people."

Washtenaw County celebrated the historic broadband investment as the press release highlighted the county's investment of $15 million in broadband projects, combining federal funds with the county's general fund. Alongside the other three selected ISPs, over 3,000 households are poised to gain access to high-speed Internet in the coming years, a significant milestone in bridging the digital divide.

Despite the success and noble intentions, Mr Mauch faces challenges in maintaining the project's sustainability. Equipment costs have surged, and the availability of contractors remains a concern. Nonetheless, with passion and determination, Mr Mauch's Washtenaw Fiber Properties LLC is bringing high-speed Internet to rural homes, demonstrating that local initiatives can make a substantial impact in meeting the connectivity needs of underserved communities.

Vassia Barba

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