The familiar saying “If you want something to be done right, do it yourself” is correct in many cases, but doesn’t seem very helpful when it comes to Internet quality. But for a rural Michigan man named Jared Mauch who happens to be a network architect, the solution when you don’t have a good quality broadband network at home is to build your own. build a network to provide fiber-optic Internet services for yourself.
Mauch, a senior network architect at network services company Akamai, moved his house to Scio Township, a commune in Washtenaw County, Michigan, USA in 2002. Initially, he signed up for the T1 network. had a speed of 1.5Mbps, which was rated as “a really great Internet connection” at that time. But as broadband technology develops, Mauch expects that an ISP will provide Internet services to his home by cable or fiber. But this never happened.
“I had to set up a telephone company to get Internet access [tốc độ cao] at his home, “says Mauch
In the end, he turned to a wireless Internet service provider with speeds of around 50Mbps. At one point, when this speed was not enough to satisfy his demand, he contacted Comcast. The company said it will charge $ 50,000 to expand the fiber-optic network to his home.
“If they value it 10,000 USD, I’ll write them a check”, Mauch said. “But it’s as high as $ 50,000 making me consider if this is worth it. Why am I paying them to expand their network, when I don’t get anything out of it?”
It wasn’t until five years ago that AT&T finally provided DSL service to Mauch. However, the network speed they were planning to deliver to this area turned out to be only 1.5Mbps.
Frustrated by Internet service provider Interet, about four years ago, Mauch started planning to build his own Internet service provider, in order to improve the network for the entire Scio Township region and Lima Township is nearby. Mauch has installed about 8km of lines to date and started servicing its first customers a few months ago. As of early January, Mauch said he had connected to the network for 30 houses and there were about 10 more houses waiting to be wired. Initially he estimated that he would get about 35% of potential customers buying the service, but the actual number was about 70%. The customers Mauch has not yet connected to are those who rely heavily on mobile services.
The “unique” network provider
Mauch’s company name is Washtenaw Fiber Properties LLC, which is registered as an “access service provider” with the state government of Michigan. Though technically a telephone company, Mauch only provides Internet service without any telephone or TV service.
“My rates are really funny”, Mauch said. The document he had to submit to the authorities explained that his company only provides services to individuals, on a case-by-case basis.
Mauch said he spent about $ 145,000, of which $ 95,000 for contractors to install fiber optic pipes. Fiber optic lines are usually about 2 meters deep underground and in some cases 3 or 6 meters underground to avoid gas pipes and other obstacles.
The most important construction phase begins in March 2020. Mauch requires the contractor to install two sets of pipes that run in parallel because it is less costly than installing one set of pipes. The addition of the currently empty pipeline gives Mauch the option to add fiber-optic cables later, also allowing him to lease or sell the empty pipeline to another telephone company.
And the installation of fiber optic cable into the pipe is a task that Mauch did himself. He built a machine that pushes yarn into pipes with air compressors and parts for about $ 50, instead of buying a machine that costs more than $ 26,000. However, not everything can be saved. He spent $ 8,000 on a directional drill to install cables or pipes under the roadway without digging giant holes.
Mauch then bought bandwidth and Internet connection for his ISP from ACD.net, a major network provider. ACD.net has not yet deployed fiber optic transmission lines to the vicinity of Mauch. The bandwidth provided by this carrier is distributed directly to his home, turning it into a hub for providing connectivity to Mauch’s individual customers. He also buys connection from another carrier to provide redundancy.
Mauch’s home ISP equipment includes an Arista router to connect to the ACD.net network; a terminal; an Intel NUC server for network monitoring, graphing, and client speed testing; Mac Mini for backup; and the Raspberry Pi 4 system that serves as a redundant DHCP server. He also has a backup generator for the whole family, as well as providing connectivity during a power outage. At the customer’s home, Mauch installs the adapter, or supplies the wireless router on demand.
An extremely expensive plan
Mauch initially estimated the project would cost $ 60,000, but in the end it was more than double this figure. Some clients have spent $ 5,000 upfront to help him offset construction costs, in return they receive service incentives for years. Based on the amount of investment and expected revenue, Mauch estimates he will break even within 42 months.
Talking about the plan, Mauch said he copied a prepaid model from an existing ISP, as well as learned the operating experience of some ISPs. And now, after construction is complete, he gives advice to several other people working on their own similar projects.
Building a network is not easy. Mauch had to receive a work stoppage order from the government for failing to meet construction standards. Some licensing and paperwork issues also confused him.
“Licensing agencies are not always clear about what their requirements are. This is an entry barrier for newer vendors like me”, Mauch shares.
Flyer for Mauch’s network service.
One time, one of his devices was stolen. Later, Mauch found it for sale on Facebook. Thankfully, thanks to the police’s assistance, he got it back. The COVID-19 pandemic has also helped Mauch a lot, because less out of people allows for simpler system building and finding customers. The pandemic also helped local residents realize the importance of broadband access, which could have boosted Mauch’s subscription rate.
Mauch currently charges $ 65 a month for 50Mbps service, $ 75 for 250Mbps and $ 99 for 500Mbps, with an setup fee of $ 199. If a house is more than 70 meters away from the road, you will charge an extra fee for each meter of cable extension.
There are no customers complaining
“This service seems to be working well”, Mauch shared in November last year. “I’m not getting customer complaints, that’s probably the main thing. There are no customer issues other than the small-scale problems common with small Wi-Fi routers, when it doesn’t cover the entire house. “
While Mauch’s network has a total bandwidth of 10Gbps, he says his customers rarely use more than 200Mbps at any one time. And although he doesn’t offer speeds above 500Mbps, the actual speed is close to 1Gbps because “the device I chose was cheap and therefore the speed limiters didn’t work”, I said. “If we check the speed, the customer will notice they get 900Mbps or something.”
Mauch’s network service went viral on Facebook and word of mouth. To date, he has added more than 150 new contacts. Although Mauch won’t service all of them, he is talking to people in other communities to replicate the model.
“They have a lake with about 180 houses around it”, Mauch said. “I’m talking to them about iterating my project on a larger scale.”
Construction of the network will be done by contractors, with Mauch in the role of project supervisor. It’s like a project with a set cost and you’ll be the one to do it.
“Personally, I can’t do it all by myself, it’s too big to carry on myself”, Mauch said. “But I can teach others how to do this and I can share information, aggregate resources and help make that happen.”
In addition to residential customers, Mauch is also selling bandwidth to a friend running a wireless ISP network. The wireless Internet service provider had about 100 home Internet customers and it had trouble getting enough upstream bandwidth until it connected to Mauch’s fiber-optic network. But there is no stiff competition between the wireless ISP and Mauch, instead they are helping each other to expand their networks. In the future, Mauch plans to continue working in Akamai despite running an ISP service company.
“I was amazed at how desperate people are over broadband Internet,” he shares. “I’ve always known this is a problem. But most people don’t have the technical and financial resources to do a project like this and I’m lucky to be able to do both.”