Ground Floor: Cedar Rapids internet service provider wants to plug the holes around town

WiFitz Networks grew out of homeowner's frustration

Aaron Fitzgerald, CEO and CIO of WiFitz, an internet service company, with one of the company’s antennas used at commercial properties in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Aaron Fitzgerald, CEO and CIO of WiFitz, an internet service company, with one of the company’s antennas used at commercial properties in northeast Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Aaron Fitzgerald’s frustration with his home internet service is what led him to start his new business.

When Fitzgerald and his family moved into a new Cedar Rapids subdivision a couple years ago, he was surprised to learn he couldn’t get decent internet service to his home. In particular, he was frustrated with slow internet speeds that impacted his ability to work from home.

He talked to various internet service providers, as well as a few of his neighbors. One neighbor told him that he had been trying for months to get improved service but without any luck.

“Finally, I thought, ‘Well, I’m good at this stuff, why don’t I just bring it in myself?’” recalled Fitzgerald, who has degrees in computer engineering and systems engineering and works as a senior software engineer.

He began researching what it would take to get direct access to the internet, which involved leasing fiber optic from here to Kansas City as well as cell tower space.

“I started realizing how much it would actually cost,” he said. “It was a lot more than I expected.”

To recoup some of his costs, Fitzgerald decided to offer his internet services to others in the area. He worked with the Kirkwood Small Business Development Center on how to approach his idea and develop a business plan for WiFitz Networks.

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A year and a half ago, his Kirkwood mentor told him, “It looks good to me. Now go prove it.”

After researching and testing equipment and securing tower space, Fitzgerald began signing up customers this past spring. He currently has a mix of about a dozen residential and business customers.

“On the residential side, upload speed is the biggest difference,” he said. “For example, for someone backing up their photos to an offsite location, upload times are cut considerably.”

He noted one case study where the upload time for backing up photos went from 45 days to about 12 hours using his service.

Business customers benefit by receiving more speed for a comparable price or comparable speed for about half the price.

“Because I’m small, I don’t have near as much overhead,” he said. “I can get them hooked up for less.”

Fitzgerald said he does most of the work on his own, although he does have a family member who helps with installation.

Fitzgerald said his short-term goal for the business is to sign up enough customers to get the business into the black. His next goal is to plug all of the holes around town, like his own subdivision, that the larger internet service providers have neglected.

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“In this day and age, internet is a big deal,” he said. “No one should have to worry about it.”

AT A GLANCE

Business: WiFitz Networks

Owner: Aaron Fitzgerald

Email: aaron@wifitz.net

Telephone: (319) 540-8999

Website: wifitz.net

Know a business in operation for less than a year that would make an ideal “Ground Floor” feature? Contact michaelchevy.castranova@thegazette.com

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