Skip to main content

Michigan Man Builds Own ISP, Gets $2.6M From Government to Expand

ISP
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

A good internet connection is just as important as water and power to your home. Some remote users may choose Starlink, others may prefer a 5G option. But what if you have no viable options?

Akamai network architect, Jared Mauch, was so frustrated with the mainstream ISP offerings at his rural home in Michigan that he set up his own FTTH (Fiber To The Home) ISP. It has been such a resounding success that other rural folks have joined up with Washtenaw Fiber Properties LLC for their internet provider. Moreover, Mauch has now qualified for $2.6 million in government funding and will be able to reach nearly 600 further homes in the sparsely populated Washtenaw county area, reports Ars Technica.

Mauch was spurred to set up his own ISP after miserable commercial offerings of internet connectivity to his rural home. AT&T offered DSL with 1.5Mbps downloads, and Comcast wanted a $50,000 upfront payment to extend its cable network to his property. With his networking expertise, Mauch decided on a third path – to set up his own FTTH ISP.

Washtenaw Fiber Properties LLC started with one customer, Mauch himself, but when word got around it grew quickly to 30, and there are currently 70 service subscribers. The fiber network currently relies on about 14 miles of fiber, but to complete the new government-funded project, Mauch will be laying a further 38 miles of fiber. 

With the new fiber in place, it is estimated that Washtenaw Fiber Properties LLC will be able to cater to nearly 600 widely dispersed rural customers. Two of the most remote properties in the government contract will each eat up $30,000 of the funding cash, to run the cables and provide service. The cash comes as part of the county’s $71 million dedicated to infrastructure projects, which was allocated as part of the American Rescue Plan's Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds.

Expanding the Washtenaw Fiber Properties LLC network to meet with the government contract obligations isn’t going to be a challenge, according to Mauch. The work needs to be completed by the end of 2026, but Mauch says that it will be half finished before 2022 is over, with the other half complete by the end of 2023.

So, what kinds of broadband packages will new Washtenaw Fiber Properties LLC customers have access to? For $55 per month, Mauch says people can get a 100Mbps symmetrical service with unlimited data. If you want 1Gbps with unlimited data you will have to scratch together $79 a month. A one-off $199 installation fee is charged to all new customers.

Mark Tyson
Freelance News Writer

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • JarredWaltonGPU
    I wonder if I can convince my name-brother Jared to come set up a fiber ISP in my neck of the woods? I mean, I have gigabit through my cable provider, TDS, but only 20Mbps upstream and I pay $93 per month. $79 for symmetrical gigabit would be awesome!
    Reply
  • GenericUser
    Don't ask me why but for some reason I initially misread this as "Michigan Man Builds Own Fab, Get's $2.6M From Gov to Expand"

    Needless to say, I had a lot of questions.
    Reply
  • AtrociKitty
    GenericUser said:
    Don't ask me why but for some reason I initially misread this as "Michigan Man Builds Own Fab, Get's $2.6M From Gov to Expand"

    Needless to say, I had a lot of questions.
    You can fab your own chips actually. 300nm is about the limit for a well-funded garage fab, but here's a more economical example: "Z2" - Upgraded Homemade Silicon Chips
    Reply
  • JarredWaltonGPU
    GenericUser said:
    Don't ask me why but for some reason I initially misread this as "Michigan Man Builds Own Fab, Get's $2.6M From Gov to Expand"

    Needless to say, I had a lot of questions.
    State of the art 3 micron fab, circa 1977? :ROFLMAO:
    Reply
  • Giroro
    So how does a micro ISP like this work?
    Let's say a proactive land developer decides to run fiber to all the homes in a new suburban neighborhood while they're installing the other utilities. (This is almost universally illegal in the US, but bear with me).
    How does that neighborhood bypass the cable monopoly and actually connect to "the internet"
    Reply
  • ezst036
    Some people whine about ISPs.

    Jared did something about it. What a guy! Seems that Comcast isn't the monopolist people say they are.
    Reply
  • exploding_psu
    $50K to pull a cable? I'm not from the US, but that's like 83 years of 50 Mbps fiber internet for me, it's like they don't want the business.
    Reply
  • AgentBirdnest
    I don't have anything useful or clever to say about this. Just three words: Good for him! And I envy those prices!
    This was a cool and uplifting story to read. Thanks, Mark!
    Reply
  • mikeebb
    Giroro said:
    So how does a micro ISP like this work?
    Let's say a proactive land developer decides to run fiber to all the homes in a new suburban neighborhood while they're installing the other utilities. (This is almost universally illegal in the US, but bear with me).
    How does that neighborhood bypass the cable monopoly and actually connect to "the internet"
    The proactive land developer would install more cable/telecom ducts than needed, so there's at least one empty duct. Assuming of course that it's underground utilities, as most modern subdivisions are. The phone and cable people get one of each. The others are available for ISPs to be named later.

    If the project is denser than typical suburbia, with a serious HOA (not just an annoying one, but one that actually maintains common property), it might be run more like an apartment complex. That can be good or bad. Bad would be the typical apartment complex that has an exclusive contract (with a kickback, probably) with a single ISP (also supplying cable and landline phone service), which the residents have no choice about using and little choice of plans. Good would be installing fiber from a suitable head end for the whole development, and having the HOA act as the ISP for the development connecting with multiple providers at the head end, or even direct accessing a wholesale provider like L3. In that last case, the HOA might have to set up a separate ISP business (as this guy did) to take care of the regulatory and financial and liability issues.
    Reply
  • mikeebb
    ezst036 said:
    Some people whine about ISPs.

    Jared did something about it. What a guy! Seems that Comcast isn't the monopolist people say they are.
    Of course Comcast is a monopolist. But unregulated monopolies can choose who they serve. If they choose not to serve you, which $50K for a connection is an indication of, you might want to do it yourself.

    There's a strong DIY tradition among techies, and while setting up your own ISP is a bit extreme, it's not completely crazy. Getting the right advice and help, as this guy did, is crucial - and being a network architect in Real Life kind of says he knew what he was doing from the start, and had the connections to get the help.
    Reply