Arecent Thursday found Key West Broadband owner Jordan Smith installing high-tech equipment on the waterfront roof of a luxury resort, and later listening closely as the administrators of a New Town nonprofit described their agency's Internet and networking needs.
Florida Keys businesses, governments, nonprofits and health care facilities have a new local option when it comes to Internet service providers.
"It's true," Smith said. "We're an alternative to what people are used to with Comcast and AT&T. Key West Broadband is a boutique, full-service Internet solutions company that eliminates the phone or cable company."
While cable companies deliver data through a co-axial cable connection, and phone companies use a telephone line, Key West Broadband uses fixed wireless broadband to deliver high-speed data with a microwave (wireless) connection.
"Key West Broadband installs a microwave transceiver on the roof or exterior of our customers' buildings. We then extend an Ethernet CAT 5e network cable from this transceiver down to the customer premise for connectivity into the customer's network," the company's website explains.
Although the rooftop equipment resembles a satellite dish, there is no connection with satellites thousands of miles away, Smith explained.
With wireless broadband, Internet clients are connecting to a fixed tower site that's only a mile or two away from their location, Smith said, which means Key West Broadband clients experience no connectivity issues during rain or high winds.
The company that Smith brought to Key West a year ago has been operating successfully in Kansas City for 15 years.
"I've always been taught, 'Do something common uncommonly well,'" Smith said. "Internet has become a commodity. It's expected, but it comes down to how you support the customer when you provide Internet access. Key West Broadband is more concerned with quality than quantity."
Every client has Smith's personal cellphone number, and all service calls are answered by a human being -- not an automated phone system.
"Think of it this way: In the hotels we serve, say a hotel guest has a problem getting online with his laptop in his guest room. Nine times out of 10 he'll call the front desk. They call us directly and we immediately dispatch a technician, who is knocking personally on the guest's door in about a half hour -- and, of course, 99 percent of the time there's something misconfigured on the guest's laptop that isn't letting them access the hotel's network. But that's the amazing level of service we provide. Imagine the looks of surprise our technicians get from hotel guests when they show up immediately to address their issues."
That level of service reflects positively in the online reviews of the hotel and everyone wins, Smith said, adding that despite constant customer requests, Key West Broadband is not currently equipped to offer residential Internet service.
"We are hoping to begin offering our services to apartment complexes in the coming year, but right now, we're strictly commercial: Hotels, hospitals, nonprofits, government agencies," Smith said, emphasizing his team's commitment to customization.
"And data packages are unrestricted," he said. "In other words, we're not going to limit the number of hours your hotel guests can watch Netflix."
"We're going to listen closely to what a client needs and then customize the best package for them," he said. "We offer three tiers of service based on their needs and we're competitively priced, but if a client wants the absolute cheapest package, then we're probably not going to be their first choice, but for the clients who understand the need for quality over quantity and who rely on Internet connectivity 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, then we're the best option."
Key West Broadband offers Interner service as well as intraoffice networking services that can connect multiple locations and enable file sharing and other services for a business that may have offices in Key West, Marathon and Key Largo.
One of Smith's personal goals is to eventually be able to provide free Internet access to low-income families whose children need an Internet connection to succeed in school.
"But a $50 a month Internet bill may be too much for some families, who have to spend that $50 on food or the power bill," Smith said. "We're investigating grants, as well as a service model supported by ad revenue, so these families would see occasional ads pop up on their screen, but that's an easy trade-off for free Internet.
"But that goal of mine depends on local businesses supporting another local business and giving us a try so everybody wins," he said, adding that he and his wife have been meeting an amazing array of "quality people who get it," since their arrival from the Midwest.
"We wanted to live the island lifestyle, and the business opportunities in Kansas City allowed us to bring that service and connectivity here to Key West," Smith said.
And so far, Key West Broadband has met with excited optimism and customer satisfaction -- just the way Smith wants it.