Civic News

Independent ISP PhillyWisper is expanding its local reach

Want to shop local for your internet? Over the last seven years, PhillyWisper has expanded its service across the city and participated in major cultural events such as Made in America.

PhillyWisper infrastructure on a building.

Who does your internet come from?

If you don’t want to use Comcast or Verizon for your internet provider, the Philly area has another option available to you — and it could be expanding to your area soon.

PhillyWisper, a local, independent internet service provider (ISP), has been around for seven years. Lately, the company has been making big strides in expanding its reach to people all over the city, founder Mark Steckel told Technical.ly.

The company started as “almost an experiment” to see if his team really could just start their own ISP and make it work — “and most importantly could we make happy customers?” Steckel said. It had indeed worked: “Each of those has been a resounding success.”

PhillyWisper is now expanding its service to different parts of the city. Steckel said the company just launched service on Monday to the Bok building in South Philly and plans to launch service in a few large apartment buildings in West Philly in late October.

Many apartment and commercial buildings only have one ISP option (as was the case with the Bok building, per Steckel). PhillyWisper offers customers choice — and a personal touch.

“As a small, growing company, we are expanding where we can, and in a way [that] maintains our reliability and high customer service standards,” he said. “Fundamentally, more choice for customers means better pricing and more responsive customer service. And our customers love us because we take care of them.”

Case in point: In the company’s earlier days, we wrote about how customer service calls went straight to Steckel’s cell phone.

Mark Steckel, cofounder of PhillyWisper, takes a customer service call at Indy Hall.

PhillyWisper’s Mark Steckel takes a customer call at Indy Hall in 2018. (Technical.ly photo)

The company has also been partnering with developers and general contractors to install service infrastructure to buildings in the city as they’re being built. Sometimes, buildings have deals with single, larger ISPs, making it harder for tenants to choose a different ISP if they want to. But this way, PhillyWisper already has a presence.

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“New residential development is — and has been — exploding in Philly, with Kensington and North Philly being a major hot spot,” he said. “Over the last two-plus years, we have established relationships with some developers to ensure that our infrastructure is installed during the building construction. While it’s taken a while to gain traction, over the last nine months it has really taken off.”

Steckel said his team is now working with over a dozen developers and multiple buildings, and that by the end of 2024, there will be around 10,000 apartment units completed that will have PhillyWisper as an option. Steckel hopes a significant number of them will choose the independent ISP. (He declined to share current customer figures.) PhillyWisper has also partnered with an unnamed global hospitality company, and the company plans to provide service to about 500 hotel rooms, according to Steckel.

On top of this growth, PhillyWisper maintains its partnership with Philly Community Wireless that started in 2020 amidst the pandemic.

PhillyWisper also provided internet service to a few major Philly events, including the 2022 Philly Flower show at FDR Park and at the box office of the last four Made In America music festivals. Event internet is a challenge because the infrastructure must be get set up quickly and is typically torn down shortly after that — but “mostly it’s just exciting to be part of these big events, but it also shows that the PhillyWisper network is fast and reliable enough to take on these sorts of things,” Steckel said. “So things have to happen fast and they have to work right. I take it as a vote of confidence since MIA keeps coming back to us each year.”

Overall, Steckel said the plan is to continue growing. He said the company wants to continue expanding its coverage area and customer base, but continue to maintain and improve its service quality and customer service. He said they also want to expand their team to support this growth. “And have fun while doing it,” he added.


Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: PhillyWisper
People: Mark Steckel
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