Fiber Frees Florida Folks from Bandwidth Frustration
When several service providers told me that high-speed Internet services would be available in my subdivision “next year,” I was frustrated. The next year, I implored them to help our eastern Manatee County neighborhood. They replied, saying it would be multiple decades before they would bring their Internet services to our community. The subdivision was too far out, and the five acres lot sizes were too large for the companies to make a profit.
Fortunately, I’d been curious about whether our area could be served by fixed wireless. And since it looked promising, I asked my father-in-law, Charley Matson, and my brother-in-law, John Matson, to join me in giving it a go. That’s when we incorporated a new company, Myakka Technologies, Inc, which became the first company to offer high-speed broadband to Myakka City and the surrounding area. I remember the excitement of installing our first customer—my next-door neighbor. Word quickly got out that there was “high-speed” Internet service available in our subdivision of Magnolia Hill in West-Central Florida. People no longer had to settle for dial-up delivered over degrading copper phone lines that crackled and hummed when it rained.
Over time, Myakka’s customers signed up for home-grown Internet access. Then came the Florida summer, with its daily vicious lightning storms. Fixed wireless transceiver technology was not designed for Florida’s extreme lightning, and we found ourselves replacing expensive transceivers almost daily during that summer. Once, we replaced the $1,800 transceiver twice in the same day due to the lightning. We started thinking, maybe there’s a reason no one else is doing this in Florida.
Later that summer, after yet another lightning bolt hit the transceiver and another $1,800 expense, we were really questioning the future of the company. Just as we were ready to throw in the towel, a neighbor called and pleaded with us not to quit. The family offered to come over and help with repairs or anything else that required manpower. So, we trudged on, and on.
We made it through that summer and built up our cash reserves to meet the next summer’s expenses. But, the next summer, lightning returned with a vengeance. Thankfully, we had more paying customers, providing some of the necessary funding for repairs. The transceiver technology had also improved, which somewhat reduced the frequency of the devastating strikes.
Fast-forward to 2010 when the federal government was trying to stimulate the economy, they offered low interest loans and grants to companies willing to deploy high-speed Internet into rural areas of the country. We were immediately awarded a grant/loan to deploy an underground fiber optic network for Internet and landline phones in the Eastern portions of Manatee and Sarasota Counties under Myakka Communications, Inc. To build it out, we partnered with companies like DZS, whose Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) broadband connectivity solutions have been a critical part of our fiber network for over a decade. We committed to serving 1,500 customers; but grew to 1,800 customers by the time the project was complete. By 2019, we had 2,800+ users. By mid 2022, we surpassed 3,500 users.
Three CSPs replied, “saying it would be multiple decades before they would bring their Internet services to our community. The subdivision was too far out, and the five acres lot sizes were too large for the companies to make a profit.”
Today, the rapidly growing population migration in Sarasota and Manatee counties has fueled our continued growth further eastward. We were recently recognized by BROADBANDNOW® as the “Fastest Fiber Provider(s) in Florida - Small Provider Category” with symmetrical gigabit available to all of our subscribers. We also currently have an almost 100% take rate among the subdivisions and businesses we pass, and it’s no wonder given the critical need for all-fiber broadband service levels since the pandemic. GPON network architecture provided by DZS allows us to scale as needed by deploying Optical Line Terminals (OLTs), Optical Network Terminals (ONTs), and Wi-Fi gateways. It also has resulted in downtime being close to zero and service calls decreasing by more than 90% since moving to a fiber-based network.
FTTx meets the work-from-home needs, as well as for school, entrepreneurial business operations, telemedicine, gaming, and other services that people increasingly want and need. Partnering with a company like DZS, that is based in the US and has manufacturing operations less than an hour’s drive away, helped us overcome significant challenges to bring gigabit-class, 100% fiber optic services to a rural area that large providers aren’t serving.
With the federal government funding $65 billion to extend broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved areas, we know fiber is the right choice. And we’re pleased to continue serving our community with a future-proof network.
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