Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Internet for all

ShoreWaves Internet and Telephone on a mission to provide affordable, reliable service


ShoreWaves Internet and Telephone is on a mission.

Founder Steven Fitzgerald wants everyone in the Copper Country to have fast, reliable, affordable Internet. Three years in, the mission is going well. “We already have hundreds of customers in Houghton County, and we recently started service in Keweenaw County, too” says Fitzgerald. “We serve the neighborhoods nobody else can, and word is really getting around. If you are out in the sticks with bad Internet, we want to hear from you. If you are in the city and disgusted with your expensive cable or cellular Internet, we want to serve you too.”

The ShoreWaves Service Center is conveniently located in the Copper Country Mall, just inside the center entrance. “This is where families can try out different Internet service plans on their own phones and computers, or borrow a tablet from us” explains Customer Service Manager Anna Walls. “We also have home and business phone setups available to try out, and some customers like to stop in, say hello, and pay their bill in person. Some of them are very surprised when they realize we really are local, by meeting the person they have talked with on the phone. We’re the only Internet service in Houghton County that is 100 percent locally owned and operated, and we enjoy meeting the people we serve. The difference between us and the big name services is that we have to live with our customers every day.”

A frequent question to the ShoreWaves team is “How do you provide such good service where other companies fail?” Network Engineer Zach Simpson explains. “We will not use satellites, because it’s simply impossible to deliver satisfactory Internet with them. Using a satellite is like driving from Houghton to Marquette by way of Chicago. Satellites are also susceptible to bad weather,” he said. “We do not use a few big towers like ATT and Verizon, because that doesn’t work with all the hills and trees here. Instead, we keep expanding our own wireless network between the fiber cables in the cities and the many rural neighborhoods we serve. By partnering with cities, townships, business owners and some very helpful home owners, we have been able to put our radio bases or ‘towers’ where we need them. We are called a ‘last mile’ provider, because we connect remote locations with the long-haul fiber in the cities.’’

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Left: ShoreWaves Founder Steve Fitzgerald assembles a ShoreWaves specialized tower control and power electronics. Right: ShoreWaves Network Engineer Zach Simpson commissions a new antenna (foreground) mounted to a water tower.

What’s next?

“Service starts in Calumet March 1, and we have our eye on Copper Harbor for spring,” says Fitzgerald. “Going all the way north is possible if we can get some strategic partnerships in  place. We see good Internet as vital to the economy up there. Motel owners need it, government needs it, and we know some families wanting to move up there year-round if they have fast internet to work at home. A recent Gazette article says ATT wants 6 years and $180 million in tax dollars to do the job. I think we can do it sooner, better, and without the huge tax burden.”