Jared Mauch gets $2.6 million from gov’t to expand fiber ISP in rural Michigan. To say that he is the kind of neighbor and community member we all hope for is an understatement.
Jared is the founder of Washtenaw Fiber Properties LLC, a fiber-to-the-home Internet service provider in Michigan, is expanding his business with the assistance of $2.6 million in government funding. In January 2021, Mauch was providing Internet service to around 30 rural homes, including his own. Today, he has about 70 customers, and with the help of funds from the American Rescue Plan’s Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, he plans to expand his network to nearly 600 more properties, he said in a mid-2022 interview.
Washtenaw County was allocated $71 million by the US government for various infrastructure projects, and a portion of that funding was directed towards broadband services. The county conducted a study on broadband coverage prior to the pandemic to identify areas that were unserved, according to Mauch. When the federal funding became available, the county issued a request for proposals (RFP) seeking contractors to connect addresses that were identified as unserved or underserved in the previous survey, he said.
Mauch’s ISP, Washtenaw Fiber Properties LLC, was one of four companies selected by the county to connect different areas. “They had this gap-filling RFP, and in my own wild stupidity or brilliance, I’m not sure which yet, I bid on the whole project [in my area] and managed to win through that competitive bidding process,” he said. His network currently has 14 miles of fiber, and he plans to build an additional 38 miles to complete the government-funded project, he added. In this sparsely populated rural area, “I have at least two homes where I have to build a half-mile to get to one house,” Mauch said, noting that it will cost “over $30,000 for each of those homes to get served.”
In May 2022, Mauch signed a contract with the county to extend his network to approximately 417 addresses in the townships of Freedom, Lima, Lodi, and Scio. Mauch resides in Scio, which is located near Ann Arbor. Although the contract only obligates him to provide service to those 417 locations, Mauch noted that his new fiber routes would pass by 596 potential customers. “I’m building past some addresses that are covered by other [grant] programs, but I’ll very likely be the first mover in building in those areas,” he said.
The contract between Mauch and the county stipulates that he will offer 100Mbps symmetrical Internet with unlimited data for $55 per month, and 1Gbps with unlimited data for $79 per month. Mauch stated that his typical installation fee is $199. Unlike many larger ISPs, Mauch provides straightforward bills that only include a single line item for Internet service and no additional fees.
Mauch also agreed to participate in the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program, which provides $30 monthly subsidies for households that meet income eligibility requirements.
The contract requires that all project expenses be incurred by the end of 2024, and the project to be completed by the end of 2026. However, Mauch aims to complete the project much sooner and told Ars that his “goal is to build about half of it by the end of this year and the other half by the end of 2023.” The funding amount for the project is $2,618,958.03.
Comcast wanted $50K to install high-speed, AT&T offers just 1.5Mbps service – both are lame!
Running an ISP is not Mauch’s primary occupation, as he is still working as a network architect at Akamai. He began planning to build his own network about five years ago after being unable to obtain modern service from any of the major ISPs. As previously reported, AT&T only offers DSL with download speeds up to 1.5Mbps at his home, and he said that Comcast once quoted him a fee of $50,000 to extend its cable network to his house- he would have gone with Comcast if they only wanted $10,000.
Comcast charges these upfront fees for line extensions when customers are outside its network area, even if the rest of the neighborhood already has Comcast service. Mauch was using a 50Mbps fixed wireless service before switching to his own fiber network. In addition to his home internet customers, Mauch also provides free 250Mbps service to a church that was previously having trouble with its Comcast service. He also mentioned that he provides fiber backhaul to a couple of cell towers for a major mobile carrier.