Casting A Net: Under new ownership, Ultranet sets sights on providing wireless internet to the area

Two local women have recently acquired wireless internet provider Ultranet LLC in order to provide internet service to those who may have issues receiving broadband. Staff for Ultranet LLC include from left to right, Daniel Griffis, lead field technician, Jeremy Lighty, network operations manager, Aaron Cowan, customer service and Harley Wise, installer.

After creating Ultranet as a way to provide high-speed wireless internet to the area, Lakeway Publishers Inc. recently sold the service to two Morristown women who plan to help provide wireless internet to the Lakeway Area, while also helping rural customers who may not have access to internet.

Stephanie Liposky and Renee McGarel are the majority owners of the new Ultranet LLC, which is keeping its brand name as it transitions ownership..

“The fact is, rural internet can be quite bad,” Liposky said. “Especially in these times, kids are doing their school work at home, parents are doing their school work at home, it’s more critical than it was even a year ago.”

The new company owners began negotiations with Lakeway Publishers a year ago and began finalizing plans in the spring. The deal was finalized recently.

R. Jack Fishman, president of Lakeway Publishers, said he is proud to see the long-term future for the service founded to provide necessary digital infrastructure in places where it was unavailable.

“Good, reliable internet is important in these times as we face the pandemic and it will become even more important in the future for local businesses, education and economic development,” he said. “We are more than pleased to see Stephanie and Renee taking this product that we started and making it into a premier internet provider for the Lakeway Area. It’s especially important for the underserved.

“High-speed internet is the infrastructure of the 21st century. It is a necessity. Now, in this time of Zoom meetings and online learning we are seeing every day just how important it is to get high-speed internet to the home of the people of Hamblen County.

“These businesswomen are community leaders and have a vision. When that vision meets opportunity, great things can happen. We hope for great things for Ultranet LLC.”

The new network has a total of eight radio towers across the Lakeway Area that form the backbone of the network. Company officials said they plan to spend several hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade the system.

It will be done in three different phases. The first phase is already being undertaken and the second phase will happen soon.

The upgrades will enable Ultranet to provide broadband speeds and throughput capabilities that meet modern standards.

The first upgrade doubled the speeds of current users existing packages by simply changing the package designs in the existing systems. The second phase will be to make current customers aware of new system capabilities as upgrades take place across the network and offering them new packages with upgraded speeds for little additional expense. The third phase involves major upgrades between the towers to create a larger footprint in the area.

The company also plans to expand its footprint throughout the area by “bouncing” radio signals to some harder to reach areas that could be hidden away by hills and ridges common in East Tennessee. Company officials said the only constraint they have is that the service does require line of sight, so if trees or hills are in the way, that could potentially affect the customer.

Company officials said they have more towers than their wireless competition. They hold FCC Licensed spectrum in several key areas, which speaks to the quality of the service.

The company plans to coach people on “cutting the chord” and getting rid of satellite service or landlines and using Wi-Fi for TV or phone which can save them money.

The target audience is those who are underserved by their existing internet service providers or those who have no other options – until now.

In a lot of rural areas, large internet providers will not serve sparsely populated areas due to the costs of expanding services and not having enough customer base. Ultranet officials said they believe that is where they can compete with wireless service.

“There are people trying to use Hot Spots, all kinds of things, just to try to work or study from home,” Liposky said. “So, our mission is to get internet to people who don’t have it.”

The company said if people don’t have internet “they want to know who you are and will try to find a way to get it to you.”

In order to verify service availability, a technician can conduct an initial study using network maps integrated with topographic models to determine the likelihood that the customer can be served. If that test is passed, a technician will go to the potential customer’s location and conduct a final survey and to determine the equipment required to complete an installation.

Quite often, the technician can complete the installation on the same day. The company said they are competitively priced.

Company officials thanked the Fishman family for their support during the transition in ownership.

For those wanting more information, you can contact 423-581-2100.