I worked for Minnesota Regional Network (MRNet) in the mid 1990s. They were the first Internet service providers in Minnesota. They partnered with big folks (3M, UofM and more) to bring the Internet (backbone then was three T1s) to the state. They sold subscriptions to home users and they were upstream connections to other ISPs. Everything was new and there were very few rules.
We’d get calls from all over the state of someone who wanted a dialup connection to MRNet. Dialup only made sense if you were within the local service market – or your long distance bill would break you. So sometimes we’d get very entrepreneurial folks who would decide they’d get a difference connection to their house (maybe with a 56k or T1 Frame Relay connection) and sell to their neighbors to offset the cost. Sometimes that grew like a garage punk band on their way to CBGBs. Sometimes it imploded. But I always love the ingenuity and I was reminded of it listening to a story on NPR…
Long before the pandemic forced many office workers to depend on their home internet, Jared Mauch had been working from home for about two decades.
When he moved to Scio Township in 2002, an area in rural Michigan not far from Ann Arbor, his employer set him up with a great home internet connection — many of his neighbors at the time were still stuck with sluggish dial-up.
After a while, though, his bandwidth couldn’t keep up with his tech job and his growing family.
But when he started shopping around, he wasn’t happy with his options. The internet speeds from AT&T were painfully slow. Comcast wanted to charge him an up-front fee of $50,000 to expand service to his home. He opted for a third route.
Rather than shell out that kind of money only to depend on the whims of an internet service provider, the 46-year-old decided to create his own fiber ISP.
“I had every reason to believe that I would be able to execute and perform a lot of these pieces of it, and most likely be more able to bring the service to the community than, you know, a large company,” he told NPR. “I saw it as an excellent opportunity both to expand service and something I’m passionate about.”
He created the company in 2017 and secured permits in 2019 to start construction the following year. In August of 2020, he was officially in business. Just in time for his kids to start virtual school during the pandemic.
“It was great,” he recalled. “I had a home fiber that I controlled, and the ability to kind of control my own fate in the future.”