Wilmington-based internet provider WhyFly remains net neutral, continues its growth
Jeff Neiburg, The News JournalPublished 12:24 p.m. ET Jan. 8, 2018
WhyFly, a small local internet provider, is growing quickly and will continue to be 'net neutral' after the recent loss of Net Neutrality.
Jennifer Corbett/The News Journal
It's been nearly a month since the Federal Communication Commission controversially voted to roll back a two-year-old internet rule book printed during the Obama administration to protect consumers from service providers and the world wide web isn't yet broken.
But one small Wilmington internet provider, amid the outrage of the agency's decision to seemingly cater to big corporations, is marching ahead and continuing its growth with a promise of remaining net neutral.
"Repealing Net Neutrality will open opportunities for shenanigans and WhyFly is a shenanigan-free company," reads a message on the company's website. "We will remain net neutral. Big business owns your internet and we’re giving it back."
WhyFly, founded in 2016, has simple messaging: Awesome Internet. The company offers its shenanigans-free internet to businesses and homes. Home plans run as low as $55 per month and business plans start at $75. Co-founded by Mark Thompson and Mike Palita, WhyFly's internet comes from leased fiber similar to what big ISPs like Verizon and Comcast are doing. Commercial buildings like The Mill have WhyFly hardware on their rooftops. Wilmington's density allows for WhyFly's signal to be easily picked up in the city. Homes are outfitted with small antenna's on their roof.
"We do internet. Instead of paying Comcast and Verizon, you pay us," Thompson said. "There’s no secret sauce to it. We’re just a better provider of that.”
The company, which recently moved out of The Mill and into office space downtown, is experiencing pretty rapid growth and is up to 20 employees. Thompson, the CEO, said WhyFly now serves around 500 residential customers, a number that's growing weekly. WhyFly has plans to expand to Rehoboth by this year's summer season and hopes to be in Philadelphia by the middle of next quarter, with aspirations of being in other dense Pennsylvania cities like Pittsburgh and Doylestown shortly after. The growth plan is three to four new markets per year, at least for now.
The provider's "farm-to-table" internet business plan is gaining popularity as people cut the cord from big telecom and cable companies.
“It’s not uncommon to have an f-bomb," Palita said of potential customers reaching out to WhyFly with complaints about their current provider. "'Just get me out of this contract.'"
And in the days following the repeal of Net Neutrality, WhyFly has been able to distinguish itself in another way, too, from the companies leadership refer to as the "V-word and C-word."
"A lot of states and communities underwrite the ability for cable companies and existing operators to exist in those markets, going back 40, 50 years," Thompson said. "You have franchise agreements where specifically one vendor is allowed in markets. When you start talking about things like limiting and pay-to-play type of existence for internet service providers, the consumer is going to lose because it’s not going to create competition. It can’t. There’s no competition now and it’s very hard to be a competitor, for the most part."
Except if you're WhyFly, which is wireless and doesn't have the infrastructure cost of wire.
"We create an opportunity to be neutral, to be open, to be very consumer-friendly," Thompson said. "For us, it gives us a value add, something we can offer for our customers. And it creates huge opportunity for us as we scale. We can come into markets where there’s an existing single provider and provide our alternate service at a better price."
Included in the provider's pledge to remain net neutral, WhyFly says it won’t block access to internet content and won’t throttle back the speed at which content comes to its customers. WhyFly doesn’t prioritize internet traffic or create paid fast lanes and will inspire innovation, promote learning, create access to jobs and connect communities.
WhyFly is also growing its tech. Thompson said as things shift toward automation, WhyFly is getting involved with smart home technology. And in the future, paying your WhyFly bill with Bitcoin may be possible.
The company is also working on giving free internet to disadvantaged neighborhoods in the city.
Contact reporter Jeff Neiburg at (302) 983-6772, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Jeff_Neiburg.