Santa Monica will be the first city to get Wander, a startup that aims to undercut behemoth internet companies with reliable internet service at $25 per month.
Starting Wednesday, Wander will offer households from Ocean Avenue to 26th Street an alternative to Spectrum and Frontier, the main internet service providers in Santa Monica. The startup has installed infrastructure in several apartment buildings in the area that will rebroadcast internet to about 20,000 potential subscribers, said co-founder and CEO David Fields.
Fields said he started Wander because he was frustrated that most parts of the United States have only a few ISPs to choose from. The Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of net neutrality — which required ISPs to offer equal access to all web content — gave ISPs even more power over the market, he said.
Startups like Wander that offer cheaper, more transparent service have recently become possible because of advances in wireless technology and the growing popularity of cord-cutting, Fields said.
“There’s fiber infrastructure in almost every city, but connecting it to homes has been the expensive part and has led to monopoly players in most markets,” he said. “Now, wireless has really reached a tipping point where you can push gigabit speeds over the air for a fraction of the cost.”
But Wander will prioritize service over speed, Fields said, citing recent studies from Princeton and the University of Chicago that show that most households don’t need nearly as many megabits per second as internet service providers say they do.
Spectrum starts at 100 mbps for about $50 per month and Frontier starts at 6 mbps for about $30 per month. The startup Starry also launched in Santa Monica last December, offering speeds of 200 mbps for $50 per month.
The average household uses less than 15 mbps during peak hours, Fields said.
“Speed is something that we see the ISPs pushing so they can justify ever-escalating prices,” he said.
Wander offers 50 mbps and subscribers will be able to monitor how much data they use, Fields said. The company also uses software to anticipate and resolve performance issues and provides real-time information on network connectivity. He said he believes Wander is the first ISP to build that level of transparency into its service.
“If my network is down at home and I turn the router off and on again and it’s still down, my two options are to call my ISP and wait on hold for two hours, or check with my neighbors in person or on social media,” he said. “On our dashboard, you can see if the network is experiencing an issue and there are ETAs for your service to get back up.”
Fields said the company chose Santa Monica for its initial launch after testing the service in Van Nuys because the city has lots of cord-cutters and the right density for its wireless network. It plans to expand to similar markets in the coming months, he said.
“We’re using data to inform where we go with our service, looking at demographics and cord-cutting trends,” he said. “We also put on our website a way for consumers to demand internet in their area — we want to go where consumers feel there’s a lack of choice and affordability.”