A Plan to Provide Rocket Fast Internet Service to Detroit

As Detroit continues its emergence as a center for entrepreneurship and technology innovation, there are many factors driving its transformation–including how information will be delivered to and received by business and residential consumers.

A critical part of the city’s future is its ability to aggressively compete by offering products, services and tools which are innovative, fast and yet, reliable.

And a major part is how high-speed internet and cable TV are delivered.

How many times have you been connected and, for some reason, your service has been disconnected? Or, you were working on a major project and your service freezes? Or, to download your favorite song or movie seems to take forever to complete?

Needless to say, these are frustrating experiences–irrespective of the size of your business or where you live–which can lead to lost business opportunities and the ability to effectively compete on a balanced playing field.

With more co-sharing spaces, increased number of businesses and residential areas opening across pockets of the city, having the ability to communicate in an ever-crowded environment is critical.

Meet Marc Hudson, formerly a software engineer at Quicken Loans, turned Co-Founder, Rocket Fiber, located in downtown Detroit.

Hudson, along with co-founders and colleagues, Edi Demaj and Randy Foster, is hoping to revolutionize how internet and cable services are delivered in Detroit. Their objective is to build a Gigabit fiber-optic network, branded Rocket Fiber, based on speed, access and affordability.

I recently discussed Rocket Fiber with Hudson regarding plans for Detroit and how using fiber-optic technology will advance Detroit’s internet capabilities.

Lee: What is Rocket Fiber and how did it come to fruition?

Hudson: Rocket Fiber is a high-speed gigabit internet and cable TV provider that started as an idea in the Quicken Loans Cheese Factory internal company website, which is an idea portal that team members can use to submit and vote on ideas. From that simple idea submission, Rocket Fiber grew into a project and then into a full-fledged company over a nearly two-year period that saw intense research and business modeling by a core team that was funded and supported by Quicken Loans, Rock Ventures, and Dan Gilbert. Without a culture that supported an entrepreneurial idea like Rocket Fiber, we would never have been able to get started.

Lee: My understanding is the initial launch will be downtown and then expanded into Midtown. What is the thought process behind this approach?

Hudson: We started in the Central Business District and Midtown with the highest commercial density in the city, along with a growing residential density so that we could create a viable business plan around a Gigabit network deployment. The network will augment many of the entrepreneurial and technological efforts that exist along the Woodward corridor which is also home to many of the city’s largest cultural, medical and educational institutions.

Lee: Any plans to wire the entire city and, if so, when?

Hudson: Currently, we are focused on our initial footprint downtown. Next, we plan to expand to Midtown and then will look to continue pushing further out into other neighborhoods and areas of density. We will push the expansion of Rocket Fiber as far and fast as we can. It’s challenging work, but something our team is incredibly focused on as we know it will drive job growth and opportunities for many in the city.

Lee: What are the primary differences between Rocket Fiber and other high-speed internet services?

Hudson: Speed and client care are our secret sauces. Our residential offering is nearly 100 times faster than the current average residential Internet speed in the U.S. today. On top of that, we aim to seriously raise expectations for our clients and plan to provide outstanding customer service.

Lee: Expecting any kind of competitive reaction? Potentially, what kind?

Hudson: We certainly hope so. Many of the incumbent providers have allowed the U.S. to fall behind the rest of the developed world in connectivity and the cost of connectivity. If Rocket Fiber can disrupt our industry and cause speeds to rise and prices to fall, we’ll be on track to accomplishing a crucial mission to keep this country competitive in a digital economy.

Lee: What are key benefits to users, particularly, entrepreneurs, who are located in the downtown and Midtown areas?

Hudson: Aside from productivity increases associated with basic tasks such as downloading files and sending email, Rocket Fiber will be a platform of innovation. Big thinkers and entrepreneurs who want to create the next generation of web-based products will be able to utilize some of the fastest Internet in the world right here in Detroit to tinker and build. We’ve always had a history of innovation here in Detroit and now we’ll have more cutting edge digital infrastructure we need to continue that tradition.

Lee: When is the initial launch and who’s the primary target audience?

Hudson: Rocket Fiber’s initial launch will be in late 2015. We’ll be hooking up both residential and business clients in Detroit’s Central Business District. More announcements around specific locations and the sign-up process will be released in the coming months.

Lee: How will Rocket Fiber be marketed and how can people get more information?

Hudson: Our primary information outlets are our website, Rocketfiber.com, our Facebook page, and our Twitter account @RocketFiber. We’ll be releasing more information over the summer and will start to roll out more visible marketing at that time.

Lee: Other thoughts?

Hudson: Rocket Fiber is proud to be a Detroit-based company and we are thrilled to invest in building a world-class fiber network and creating jobs and opportunity in the city. We worked together with many stakeholders from the city, state and beyond to bring the Rocket Fiber technology to Detroit and we look forward to bringing Detroit up to speed.