"If you're cut off from the Internet, you're cut off from the world in today's society," said Frankfort resident Roy Collins.
Collins and his partner, Michael Shaw, also of Frankfort, realize the necessity of internet access in today's world. So when Shaw discovered Collins had no WiFi or internet access in his home on Bridgeport Benson Road, the two decided to take matters into their own hands.
"When we started talking about how Roy didn't have internet," said Shaw, "I just thought that was crazy. So at first, we decided to try and shoot internet from my house to his."
After experimenting with ways to bring internet to Collins' home, the two saw an opportunity to improve their community by providing high-speed connection for rural areas. Prior to the establishing their Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) company, Bluegrass Fiber, county residents, especially those who live outside the Frankfort Plant Board's service area, had few options for broadband access to the internet.
"It's important that rural people have choices," said Collins. "Not just one single internet provider."
Collins and Shaw ventured into uncharted territory last summer when they purchased a 200-foot tower in Bald Knob. Wireless broadband service in isolated areas had not been attempted before in the county. Recent advancements in technology made the idea feasible, but the process of kickstarting the WISP took commitment.
"We leased a tower on Bald Knob that was in pretty bad condition," said Shaw. "We had to clear all the weeds, replace the flooring in the building — but once we found the tower, we started researching, ordering climbing gear and really getting things going."
The two launched their company in October. While the original mission was to bring wireless broadband service to the county, after extensive research, trial and a few obstacles, Shaw and Collins have expanded their area of coverage to residents in Farmdale, Flat Creek and even parts of Lawrenceburg.
Their furthest customers are 16 miles apart, making their total coverage area roughly 200 square miles.
The company offers four tiers of service, ranging from $49.99 per month for up to 5 megabits per second (Mbps) download speed and up to 1Mpbs upload speed to $104.99 per month for up to 30Mbps download and 5Mbps upload. By contrast, the Frankfort Plant Board's bottom tier is up to 25 Mbps download and 3Mbps upload for $44 per month and its top tier is up to 250 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload for $80 per month.
All of Bluegrass Fiber's plans include a $100 setup fee.
"Internet is almost a utility in today's world, like water or electric," said Shaw. "One woman told me, 'I knew it would be fast, but I didn't think it'd be this fast!' It's rewarding to see a customer's face light up when they realize they have a fast, secure internet connection."
The two co-partners handle all aspects of the operation, from installation and maintenance to climbing their 200-foot tower.
"Everything is automated, meaning we can control it from our phones," Collins said. "A customer can just text us if something is wrong, and we can reset their connection through our phones. There's also a customer app where they can find anything they might need."