Juan Marte helped bring internet service to a developing nation a decade ago, then came to King George County—and discovered the situation was worse than in his homeland.
He was working this summer with Steve and Michele Wido, missionaries he met years ago when they visited his native Dominican Republic. He was shocked by their lack of access to high-speed internet service and the fiber-optic cables that supply it.
“This is crazy. How can you live?” Marte told Michele Wido. “We have to have fiber here; the future is fiber.”
The 33-year-old Dominican decided to bring it to the rural county, where he’s invested in the couple’s business, CRC Contracting Inc. He’s also spent more than $200,000 on equipment, licenses and hiring employees for the new company, KGI Communications Inc.
Marte and his wife live in Spotsylvania County so their three children can learn English in a private school. After that, the family plans to move to King George, where he’s chief executive officer of the new company, as well as its primary investor. Michele Wido is the president.
Steve Wido, who ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the King George Board of Supervisors earlier this month, told the supervisors Nov. 14 that the new business is poised to provide much-needed service in the most rural areas of the county.
The company plans to install equipment on three towers in King George. The cost for each is about $36,000, Marte said.
The rectangular boxes, which Marte described as stations, will broadcast a signal, via a radio frequency, to homes within a 360-degree radius, Marte said. No line of sight is needed.
This “air fiber” will provide the fastest form of broadband technology, according to the company’s website, kgicomm.com.
And the company doesn’t want anything from the county except a contract to put equipment on one of its water towers.
“We’re not looking for grants or money, nothing from the county,” Steve Wido said. “It’s our money that we’re investing, and we want to make sure it succeeds.”
The announcement was one of four presentations the King George board heard on the same night about possible solutions to internet access problems. The lack of reliable, affordable and fast broadband service has been a regular complaint of county residents and a campaign platform for local candidates.
It’s brought up almost as often as criticisms about the quality and cost of county water.
The problem isn’t limited to King George, but occurs in any area that doesn’t have a dense enough population to make it financially feasible for companies to extend underground fiber optic cables.
Marte said the solution is easier since the government made it possible for small businesses to tap into this radio frequency that provides access to the LTE network. Some of the big technology companies bought licenses just so others wouldn’t have access to them, Marte said, but KGI Communications was able to acquire one.
The company already has gotten permission to put its equipment on a private tower at State Route 218 and U.S. 301. The second tower, still under negotiation, is past the CVS Pharmacy on U.S. 301.
After the company finalizes its second lease, it will work with King George about placing equipment on the water tower at Arnold’s Corner, at State Route 3 and Dahlgren Road.
“We’re going to concentrate on the area where they don’t have anything, in The Meadows and for the Shiloh people,” Marte said.
Installation and monthly fees would vary, based on the proximity to the towers and the desired speed. Those who want to check their email occasionally might want slower speeds, at a monthly cost of about $49, Marte said, while those requiring faster speeds might pay up to $200 a month.
Steve Wido told the supervisors that after negotiations are completed, the company could be up and running within two weeks.
“We’re excited about it, we can’t wait,” he said.
Marte seems calm about the money he’s already spent, saying he’ll need about 1,000 customers to get a return on his investment.
“He’s a risk-taker,” Michele Wido said about Marte, a former race car driver.
“In business,” Marte added, “if you don’t assume risk, you’re never gonna make money.”