Jared Mauch, A Michigan man who started a fiber-to-the-home Internet provider because he couldn’t get good broadband service from AT&T or Comcast is expanding with $2.6 million in public money.
When we wrote about Mauch in January 2021, he was serving about 30 rural homes, including his own, with provider Washtenaw Fiber Properties LLC. Mauch now has about 70 clients, and he will expand his network to nearly 600 more properties with funds from America’s Rescue Plan’s state and local budget fund, he told Ars in a phone interview in mid-July.
The US government has allocated $71 million to Washtenaw County for various infrastructure projects, and the county has dedicated a portion to broadband. The county conducted a pandemic broadband study to identify unserved locations, Mauch said. When the federal government money became available, the county issued a request for proposals (RFP) seeking contractors to connect addresses “that are known to be unserved or underserved,” he said.
“They had this fill-in-the-blank RFP, and through my wild stupidity or brilliance, I’m not sure yet that I bid on the whole project [in my area] and was able to win through a competitive bidding process,” he said. Mauch’s ISP is one of four selected by Washtenaw County to connect the various areas.
Mauch’s network currently has about 14 miles of fiber, and it will build another 38 miles to complete the government-funded project, he said. In this sparsely populated rural area, “I have at least two houses where I have to build half a mile to get to one,” Mauch said, noting that each of those houses would cost “over $30,000 to maintain.”
$55/month for 100Mbps with unlimited data
The contract between Mauch and the county was signed in May 2022 and requires him to expand the network to approximately 417 addresses in Freedom, Lima, Lodi and Skia townships. Mauch lives in Scio, near Ann Arbor.
Although the contract calls for servicing only those 417 locations, Mauch explained that his new fiber routes will carry 596 potential customers. “I’m building past some addresses that are covered by others [grant] program, but I will most likely be the first to build in those areas,” he said.
Under the terms of the contract, Mauch will provide symmetrical 100 Mbps Internet with unlimited data for $55 per month and 1 Gbps with unlimited data for $79 per month. Mauch said his installation fee is typically $199. Unlike many large ISPs, Mauch issues simple bills that contain one line for Internet services and no additional fees.
Mauch also committed to participating in the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connection Program, which provides $30-a-month subsidies to households that meet income requirements.
The contract calls for all project costs to be incurred by the end of 2024 and for the project to be completed by the end of 2026. But Mauch is aiming for a much faster schedule, telling Ars that his “goal is to build about half of that by the end of this year and the second half by the end of 2023.” The exact funding amount is $2,618,958.03.
Comcast wants $50K, AT&T only offers 1.5Mbps
Running an ISP is not Mauch’s primary job, as he is still a network architect at Akamai. He began planning to build his own network about five years ago after failing to get modern service from any of the major providers.
As we wrote last year, AT&T only offers DSL with download speeds of up to 1.5 Mbps at home. He said Comcast once told him they would charge $50,000 to extend cable to his home, and that he would have gone with Comcast if they only wanted $10,000. Comcast requires these upfront line extension fees when customers are outside the network area, even if the rest of the area already has Comcast service.