Quicken Loans Founder Dan Gilbert Follows Google Fiber's Lead, Brings $70 Gigabit Fiber To Detroit
from the get-your-motor-running dept
When Silicon Valley and New York City struggle to get incumbent ISPs to offer better service and faster speeds, you can only imagine the kind of broadband competition that exists in rust-belt cities like Detroit, Flint or Buffalo. But, following the lead of Google Fiber, Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert apparently hopes to do something about it. Gilbert’s employed the help of a few fellow Quicken Loans employees to launch a new ISP by the name of Rocket that’s going to start offering $70/month Gigabit service to a sizable chunk of Motor City.
So far, the company has received “submissions of interest” from roughly 80 businesses and 3,000 consumers, with plans to reach 12 miles of deployed fiber and 32 buildings by the end of the year. It’s a small beach head in a vast underserved telecom hellscape, but it’s the latest example of how communities have finally reached the breaking point when it comes to waiting for AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner Cable to give a damn about the territories they service. Rocket hopes to ease into the broadband market thanks to Gilbert’s existing ties to downtown real estate ventures, leading to more efficient installs:
“One unique advantage is its ties to Rock Ventures, Gilbert’s investment firm which funded Rocket Fiber and also owns more than 75 properties totaling more than 12 million square feet of commercial real estate in downtown Detroit. Foster says these properties and the companies within them are free to pursue internet services from any provider, and that Rocket Fiber has never assumed exclusivity with any of them.”
That’s good, since the FCC banned such exclusive MDU arrangements (pdf) back in 2007, even though enforcement remains a mixed bag. Like Google Fiber, Sonic.net and municipal operators, Rocket is well aware that there’s a growing contingent of customers fed up with the nation’s utterly abysmal incumbent ISP customer service. That’s of course particularly true of Detroit’s entrenched monopoly provider, Comcast:
Nationwide, ISPs are widely regarded as the worst-performing organizations in customer service. Rocket Fiber aims to set itself apart by being the rare local ISP that can focus all of its resources on the one region it serves…”There’s a whole host of things that people are disenfranchised about [with] the current providers that, even if they offer exactly the same product at exactly the same price point, we still feel that they will still choose us because there are still intrinsic values other than just the dollar value that you get,” Foster says.”
Also like Google Fiber, the actual deployment footprint is relatively small. There are still huge swaths of Detroit that nobody is going to want to wire, and fewer still are going to want to use tax dollars to help upgrade. It also probably goes without saying the city, while greatly improved, has problems that take priority over broadband. Still, alongside Google Fiber and municipal network builds, it’s another example of how the best hope of breaking down the traditional telecom duopoly — and returning to an age when customer service was a priority — is happening piecemeal on the local level.