He Started a Side Hustle to Bring Affordable, Fast Internet to Rural Areas. Now, He's One of the Most Popular Guys in Town. Helping your neighbors get WiFi has one unexpected side effect: more friends.

By Gabrielle Bienasz

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Jared Mauch had to do it himself.

About five years ago, Mauch started building his own broadband internet service as a side hustle to help bring affordable, fast internet to his own home and others nearby in rural Michigan, according to reporting from Ars Technica.

Now, he's received $2.6 million in government funding to expand the project.

When Washtenaw County, Michigan was looking for contractors to build out internet access to underserved areas, Mauch submitted a bid and won, along with three others. The grant is from the American Rescue Plan.

Broadband internet is faster than its predecessor, dial-up, and includes DSL, cable, and fiber optic connections. But Rural Americans are more likely to report not having access to broadband than those living in the suburbs, according to a Pew Research Center study. This is usually due to a lack of infrastructure.

Mauch told Ars Technica that when he looked into AT&T DSL five years ago, they offered DSL at 1.5Mbps speed at his home. That was the recommended internet download speed for Netflix in 2011, per the New York Times.

At one point, Comcast quoted him $50,000 to bring its cable network to Mauch's house, he told the outlet.

Entrepreneur has reached out to AT&T and Comcast for comment.

So Mauch built his own fiber cable network, and so far, has connected roughly 70 other homes. The new money should allow him to connect about 600 more homes, he said.

Mauch was able to do this side hustle because of his skill set: He works a day job as a network architect at Akamai Technologies.

Per the government contract, the internet will be offered at prices of $55 and $79 a month, for internet speeds of 100Mbps and 1Gbps, with installation fees of around $200, Ars Technica wrote.

"Most people don't have either the technical wherewithal or the financial wherewithal to execute a project like this, and I was lucky to have the capability to do both," he told Ars Technica in a prior story.

In addition to being a bonafide side hustle, now known as Washtenaw Fiber Properties, the project has also increased his sense of community.

"I'm definitely a lot more well-known by all my neighbors... I'm saved in people's cell phones as 'fiber cable guy,'" he told Ars Technica. "The world around me has gotten a lot smaller, I've gotten to know a lot more people.

Gabrielle Bienasz is a staff writer at Entrepreneur. She previously worked at Insider and Inc. Magazine. 

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