Entrepreneur shakes up local internet connection

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20 Under 40: JenniferDessoye

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Dr. Jennifer Dessoye is assistant professor of occupational therapy at Misericordia University and owner of Bright Beginnings Early Learning Academy (BBELA). Discontent with the early education curriculum and understanding of human development and neurolo (read more)

20 Under 40: Amy Hlavaty Belcher

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Amy Hlavaty Belcher, 39, owner and artistic director of Abrabesque Academy of Dancing, believes that for those who have been given much, much is expected. “I just try hard to do my best,” she said. I have been blessed with many opportunities and many gift (read more)

20 Under 40: Christopher Hetro

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Chris Hetro, 33, works hard and plays hard. “A strong work ethic is important, but finding balance outside of work is important because life is too short and you need to enjoy it,” he explained. As an electrical engineer and project manager at Borton-Laws (read more)

20 Under 40: C. David Pedri

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For attorney C. David Pedri, 37, it’s all about a combination of qualities that contribute to success. “My philosophy is simple: be open and honest, treat people the way you would want to be treated, with respect, and work hard to attain your dreams. The (read more)

20 Under 40: Ed Frable

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Ed Frable, 28, believes “if I work hard and stick to my word, good things will happen. My crew will not be deterred. We will re-evaluate our game plan and not give up until the job is complete,” explained Frable, the owner/operator of Ed Frable Constructi (read more)

20 Under 40: William H. Bender II

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William H. Bender II, CFP, CIMA, CRPC, loves what he does. “I’m lucky. I come to work every day excited to help the people and institutions we work with,” explained Bender, 34, first vice president at Bender Wealth Management Group, Merrill Lynch. The fam (read more)

20 Under 40: Angelo Venditti

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Angelo Venditti, 38, heard a call to the helping professions early on. Geisinger Northeast’s chief nursing officer answer was to volunteer for his local fire company. After high school, he became a paramedic, then enrolled in nursing school. Three years a (read more)

20 Under 40: Donald Mammano

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At 20, Donald Mammano began his own company, while attending the University of Scranton. Mammano, now 33, and president of DFM Properties, recalls, as a youngster, holding a flashlight while his father fixed the kitchen sink. “From that point on I was fas (read more)

20 Under 40: William J. Fennie III

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William J. Fennie III, 27, is always knocking on the proverbial door, because he knows one day, one will open. As an investment specialist with Integrated Capital Management (iCM) he cannot take “no” for an answer. “I make cold calls every day to invite f (read more)

20 Under 40: Marcus Magyar

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As an advisor at CAPTRUST Financial Advisors, Marcus N. Magyar, CFP, 30, provides comprehensive wealth management and investment portfolio services to business owners, executives, families and high-net worth individuals. His multi-disciplinary team of pro (read more)

20 Under 40: Heather Davis

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Heather M. Davis, 33, director of marketing and communication, is responsible for creating, overseeing and implementing a strategic marketing and comprehensive communications plan for The Commonwealth Medical College (TCMC). She is also responsible for pr (read more)

20 Under 40: Alexandria Duffney

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Alexandria Duffney, 30, is competitive by nature and loves a good challenge. These qualities have led her to her position as associate director of graduate admission at Wilkes University. Here she works with prospective students interested in enrolling in (read more)

20 Under 40: John Culkin

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John Culkin’s tenets inform: “Less haste equal more speed; the same boiling water that softens the potato hardens the egg, it is all about what you are made of, not the circumstances surrounding you; and don’t ask someone to walk a mile in your shoes, bef (read more)

20 Under 40: Conor O'Brien

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“What could be worse than getting to the end of your life and realizing you hadn’t lived it,” mused Conor O’Brien.” As co-founder and executive director of the Scranton Fringe Festival, O’Brien, 25, is responsible for leading the development of the overal (read more)

20 Under 40: Jessica Siegfried

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Jessica Siegfried, 38, is senior designer with BlackOut Design Inc., where she is responsible for all creative design at the full-service agency, from traditional branding and print to collateral and front end web design. “I’ve always had an interest in t (read more)

20 Under 40: David Johns

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David Johns’ career path has been shaped by his diverse experiences. As director of structural engineering at Greenman-Pedersen Inc., Moosic, Johns, 39, ensures that his engineering and consultant teams provide clients with their best effort. “We complete (read more)

20 Under 40: Robyn Jones

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Robyn Jones, 38, president of ReferLocal LLC, has learned just as many lessons from her business successes as she’s had from her failures — and she believes it’s important to share that knowledge with her employees. After graduating from American Universi (read more)

20 Under 40: Nisha Arora

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Nisha Arora, 36, tries to be the best version of herself every day. As general counsel for ERA One Source Realty Inc., she realized she cannot control other’s behavior so “I try to focus on myself and how I can be better,” she explained. Arora’s responsib (read more)

20 Under 40: Justin Sandy

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Starting at a young age in Hazleton, Justin C. Sandy, 33, found a passion for running. He became a member then a coach for Misericordia University’s cross country and track and field programs. “It was at Misericordia that I also garnered the profound sati (read more)

20 Under 40: Dr. Ariane Conaboy

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As a doctor of internal medicine at Physicians Health Alliance, Dr. Ariane M. Conaboy, 34, realizes the importance of human life and how fragile it can be at times. Conaboy graduated from Scranton Prep and the University of Scranton with a double major in (read more)

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Photo: N/A, License: N/A, Created: 2017:08:14 11:25:53

Times-Tribune File Photo NEPA Fiber owner Chris Hacken explains the multiport router that directs inernet service to customers in downtown Wilkes-Barre.

By Borys Krawczeniuk

 

Slow internet service speeded up Chris Hacken’s decision about what to do with his life.

The 26-year-old Fairview Township entrepreneur launched NEPA Fiber 18 months ago with the goal of revolutionizing local internet service by offering speeds at least 10 times, sometimes 100 times faster, than the best Verizon, Comcast and Service Electric Cable offer.

So far, Hacken’s revolution has unfolded slowly, but he contends he’s already profitable, even though the service remains available only in downtown Wilkes-Barre. He declined to provide further financial details, but said he has about 80 customers, 80 percent of them businesses. He hopes to expand slowly outward and plans to reach Scranton someday. He has a waiting list of about 500 business and residential customers who want the faster internet he offers, he said.

“I’ve done like $200 worth of advertising so far. It’s pretty much all word of mouth,” Hacken said.

His customers rave.

Jim Bell, an architect and senior associate at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, said he tried other internet services, but no one offers upload speeds equal to download speeds the way NEPA Fiber does. Other companies’ speeds for uploads — sending information into the internet — are a fraction of downloads — receiving information.

“The download speed was OK, but the upload speed was terrible for doing anything with graphic files,” Bell said. “We’ve been really happy (with NEPA Fiber). And also who else can you call on the phone when you’re having a problem and have the owner pick up?”

Almost two years into the development of his company, Hacken remains owner, chief executive officer, financial officer, chief installer and its only employee.

After graduating from Crestwood High School in 2009, Hacken studied computer science at Temple University for two years, dropped out, worked at the now-defunct BurstNet in Scranton, then went back to Temple for a semester. He dropped out again to take a job as a software engineer with Vistar Media in Philadelphia. After four months, that didn’t work out so he returned home and earned a degree in computer information systems from King’s College.

He hoped to achieve a dream by entering the Marine Corps’ officer candidate school to become a pilot.

“There were dozens of reasons, but I just wanted to fly jets and do what very few others can do,” Hacken said.

He left after finishing eight weeks of the 10-week course. Though unable to complete the physically and mentally demanding course, he learned, he said, that he could endure more than he thought.

When he returned home, he remembered his days in Philadelphia where he noticed early on that Northeast Pennsylvania badly trails in developing fast internet service. He knew what he wanted to do and started reading online.

“It became fairly obvious that although NEPA was once one of the wealthiest areas in the country, we were now living in the Dark Ages and something needed to change,” he wrote on his website, chrishacken.com.

He began developing NEPA Fiber in the fall of 2015. He found the Luzerne Bank building on Public Square had access to fiber optic cable that leads to the internet beyond the city. The building also had a line-of-sight view to most of downtown and surrounding areas.

Line-of-sight especially matters. For now, he gets his service to customers wirelessly using licensed and unlicensed radio signals. He launched the service Feb. 22, 2016. After some early equipment malfunctions, he now provides reliable service, he said.

“When I started NEPA Fiber, I literally had nothing — no equipment, no tools and no truck,” he wrote. “I borrowed my friend’s truck to transport a ladder or put a foldable ladder in my car when installing our first seven or eight customers.”

In 2016 alone, he spent $40,000 using credit cards, personal loans and money he earned from working as a systems engineer for the U.S. Postal Service. He gave up that job in May to concentrate on his company full time.

“He’s a young guy and he found this hole that needed to be filled and he’s doing a great job,” Bell said.

Joseph Boylan, owner of Argent Eagle Development Co. in Wilkes-Barre, an economic development consulting firm and a downtown resident, said he signed up for business and residential internet. He got rid of cable and relies on internet TV services such as Hulu, Netflix and Sling TV for entertainment programming.

“You don’t even see a glitch, it’s like regular TV,” Boylan said. “Much faster ... The speeds are incredible.”

The next step in Hacken’s vision calls for laying fiber optic cable of his own in Wilkes-Barre and Kingston. That will entail cutting narrow trenches into streets and/or sidewalks to drop cable, but without a lot of digging. The cuts should be no more than two feet deep and two inches wide.

“There’s a lot of companies out in the Midwest doing this,” Hacken said.

Officials in Wilkes-Barre and Kingston are considering his proposals, he said.

“I’d like to start digging yesterday,” he said.

He worries about competition, but not too much.

“It just comes down to whether they really want to make that investment or not,” Hacken said. “They would basically have to come in and run fiber themselves and so far no one has.”

 

Borys Krawczeniuk is a Times-Tribune staff writer.

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