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Internet in the air

Shawn Hanson, director of network services, works at his desk at AirFiber, 1705 Tower Ave., Superior. Formerly part of Telephone Associates, AirFiber split off as an independent company on Jan. 1. (Jed Carlson/

AirFiber is here. The new internet service provider, based in Superior, makes customers a promise.

"We deliver what we sell," said Shawn Hanson, director of network services for AirFiber Inc. If customers want three megabytes of data they get it, both when they download a picture and when they upload it. That symmetrical pipeline, Hanson said, sets AirFiber apart.

Formerly part of Telephone Associates, AirFiber broke off as an independent company on Jan. 1. The locally-owned business employs five and has grown to cover all of Superior and parts of Duluth. AirFiber started with a few hundred customers. Only five left the service when they made the break from Telephone Associates. About 30 more have joined since January.

"We still know our customers by name," Hanson said. And expansion plans are in the works to add more names to the list.

Businesses, in particular, have opted for the new provider. About one-third of Superior's businesses -- 112 -- are AirFiber customers.

The Superior Amateur Hockey Association made the switch to AirFiber last March, when it was still part of Telephone Associates.

"I've been extremely happy with it," said John Hack, arena manager.

Both the SAHA business computers and their wi-fi hot spot are linked through AirFiber. With his previous provider, Hack said, he had to call up the chain of managers in Detroit and San Francisco to get something fixed. SAHA actually went four days without internet because it took that long for Hack to convince the provider that he had an internet problem. Now, it's a simple as calling the AirFiber office at 1705 Tower Ave. But there hasn't been a need for Hack.

"I just think it's a really great thing, the fact that it works all the time," he said. Hack liked the service so much he got it installed at home. By ditching his landline telephone, breaking the bundling habit and going with AirFiber, Hack estimated he saved about $45 a month.

"I'd absolutely recommend AirFiber to anybody," he said. "It's really a great deal."

The Perkins Restaurant in Superior is also hooked to AirFiber, both for business and wi-fi. D&S Development President Sean Flaherty said it is better than the former DSL service and more reliable.

"Since they've got it up and running, it's been 'forget about it,'" Flaherty said. "It works."

Customers have come to expect wi-fi service at Perkins. Hanson said he changed to AirFiber because it is a local company that offers quality service, and they made the switch seamless. Currently, three Perkins restaurants -- the London Road, West Duluth and Superior stores -- and the D&S Development headquarters boast AirFiber. Flaherty said when the service gets to Cloquet, he plans to add that Perkins to the list as well.

AirFiber sends internet signals through the air instead of through a copper cable. A wireless modem/antenna, which can be leased or purchased outright, is then connected to the user's computer system. The system was developed for Telephone Associates to help bypass the DSL infrastructure, particularly in Superior.

"We built the network ourselves," Hanson said. End users themselves, developers took everything they learned from working with DSL to tweak the system for the better. They will only deliver if they can guarantee high quality, Hanson said, and they all remember where they came from.

"We're very grateful for what Telephone Associates did for us, very grateful," Hanson said. "They backed our ideas."

The end result has been happy customers and very few service calls or "roll outs," Hanson said. The company also offers free installation. The installation crew even trimmed a few trees in Hack's yard for better reception. Both Hack and Flaherty said the only weather issue that has come up was when extremely strong winds knocked equipment off kilter once.

"They came and took care of it right away," Flaherty said.

Customers -- especially Netflix users and gamers -- appreciate the speed on both sides of the pipeline, Hanson said. From HD quality video and IPTV to security cameras that owners can check from their cell phones, AirFiber connects.

"It's a different kind of equipment, a different way of doing it, a different deal," Hanson said.

For more information on AirFiber, call (715) 395-6150 or visit AirFiber is in Suite 101 of the Timmers Building, 1705 Tower Ave. People can test their service for themselves at wi-fi hot spots like SAHA, Perkins, and Les Bird's Bar.