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What it’s like to have an internet provider that actually cares

3 minute read
by Alex Hillman

Philadelphia is home to one of the largest internet providers in the country. So it’s not without irony – or controversy – that we don’t get any hometown love from our hometown provider.

Speeds are inconsistent or slow, prices are high, and the only thing worse than the customer support is that there isn’t really a good alternative. Some parts of the city can get Verizon FiOS but that’s not without it’s own controversy and even where it is an option, I’d just be trading a hometown megacorp that doesn’t care for an out of town megacorp that doesn’t care.

“Lesser of two evils” choices sure don’t feel like real choices, but not having internet also wasn’t an option. So I did what everyone else does: I paid the bills, avoided calling customer support, and bitched about it over beers any chance I found.

Then, about a year ago, I was introduced to a Mark Steckel

At the time, Mark had a little idea. He wanted to launch a new internet provider in Philadelphia.

6 months later, he did his first installs in East Kensington. Then earlier this year, when I moved into my new house near Cecil B Moore and Front Street, I became a customer of Philly Wisper myself.

$200 install, which includes first month. The networking hardware is the best I’ve used, it’s the same stuff we use at Indy Hall for hundreds of devices. More than powerful enough for the heaviest home use.

$50/month flat pricing (no contract required) for speeds of 25mb up and down guaranteed, though every time I’ve ever run a speed test I’ve gotten much, much higher than that. And for the uber-nerds in the room, ping times to google of under 10ms…roughly half of what I’ve ever had before.

While I can rave about the quality of the connection, I’m most impressed with the quality of customer service

Mark is undoubtedly qualified to run the technical side of an ISP, but assuming that fast, reliable internet should really be the default (even if we’ve become numb to the dull pain of being Comcast customers) professionalism and communication is really where PhillyWisper shines.

Before I started Indy Hall, and before I did web development, I did network architecture and support. I’m acutely aware of how legitimately difficult it is to design and operate any kind of network, let alone one that’s rapidly growing. There will be unexpected bumps.

The difference is in how you handle them those bumps.

For example – every one of us has experienced an internet outage that customer support attributed to some kind of “equipment maintenance,” right?

Have you ever had your home internet provider proactively contact you to let you know about 5-10 minutes of expected downtime, 24 hours ahead of time?

I have.

Have you ever had your home internet provider provide a detailed incident report 24 hours after 40 minutes of unexpected downtime?

I have.

It might seem weird to highlight downtime in a wildly positive review about a service that I’ve quickly come to love, but my point isn’t the downtime. Shit happens.

It’s about how the problem was proactively addressed: quickly, professionally, and with a friendly (and authentic) apology.

Mark treats his customers like good neighbors treat each other, while providing a high quality service. That’s more than enough to win my dollars.

Note: I haven’t been paid to write any of this. I (happily) pay full rate for my PhillyWisper service. Ask any of my neighbors, I’ve been raving about Mark and PhillyWisper since it was installed.

Philly Wisper is so choice.

The only downside to PhillyWisper is that it’s not available everywhere in Philly just yet, but that’s only a matter of time.

If you’re in one of the available zip codes, I highly recommend making the switch. And if not…drop your name and zip-code on the site so Mark can let you know when he’s coming to your area.

Bonus awesome: Philly Wisper is providing free wifi for the Trenton Ave Arts Festival

If you’re in Philly this weekend you should be headed to the festival anyway. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s the home of the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby which is one of the most wonderfully Philadelphia-weird events of the year that you have to see with your own eyes to believe.

And if you find Mark Steckel, tell him I sent you.

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Hey, thanks for reading!

Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.