On this episode of Connected Nation, we talk with the CEO of Fiber Fast Homes – a company that works directly with real estate developers and builders to connect homes and rental buildings to lightning-fast internet.
Learn how the company approaches working with builders, what’s next when it comes to connectivity to the home, and why some say having internet access at home is more important than having water piped to the home.
Fiber Fast Homes’ website - https://www.fiberfasthomes.com/
Listen to the Airebeam podcast featuring CEO Ben Elkins
Jessica Denson (host) (00:06):
This is Connected Nation, an award-winning podcast focused on all things broadband from closing the digital divide to improving your internet speeds. We talk technology topics that impact all of us, our families, and our neighborhoods.
On today's podcast, we talk with the CEO of Fiber Fast Homes, a company that works directly with real estate developers and builders to connect homes and rental buildings to lightning fast internet.
Learn how the company approaches working with builders, why it's better to put in broadband infrastructure early on in construction, and what's next when it comes to connectivity to the home. I'm Jessica Denson, and this is Connected Nation.
I'm Jessica Denson, and today my guest is Scott Sampson, the CEO of Fiber Fast Homes, a Florida based internet service provider. Welcome, Scott.
Scott Sampson (guest) (00:53):
Thank you for having me.
Jessica Denson (host) (00:55):
I'm excited to talk to you today. I know I've talked to one of your colleagues, I want to say loosely, someone you've known before, Ben Elkins. We talked to him about a week ago about Airebeam, which will be coming out shortly. So you guys have an interesting story. Am I right?
Scott Sampson (guest) (01:13):
Oh, yes. Ben and I have known each other for over 20 years. Actually. We met as a threesome. There was another gentleman that was a part of us. We were sort of a tag team. Sales. Ben did long distance. I did internet. And then our third partner was a local service provider, so he do local voice, and so we got to know each other. And then when I was looking for somebody to replace the CEO over at Airebeam, I called Ben and asked him if he knew anybody and he said he would be interested, and I said no, because I've been trying to hire Ben for 20 years, but he has been a great addition to our team and he has just blown it up over their beam.
Jessica Denson (host) (01:58):
Well, we really enjoyed talking to him and his podcast is coming out before yours, so if our audience is true to form, they should have already heard from Ben. So now we're going to hear from Scott before we get into Fiber Fast Homes and what it's doing, its approach to connecting more people. I'd love to hear a little bit more about your background, Scott, you've been involved in the telecom industry for quite some time now, right?
Scott Sampson (guest) (02:23):
Almost 30 years.
Jessica Denson (host) (02:26):
Tell me a little bit about what you were doing. I know you talked about the cells that you did with Ben and the third Amigo, if you will. So tell me what exactly all your background is, dive a little bit deeper into it for us.
Scott Sampson (guest) (02:40):
Yeah, I started out about 27 years, 28 years ago. Started actually doing door to door point to multi-point wireless internet sales. Started out in the industry, worked for a company called Speed Choice. It was really a groundbreaking. They owned a lot of wireless bandwidth, so we actually did a lot of internet mainly in the Phoenix market. We had some down in Tucson. They ended up getting bought out by Sprint, and then I moved on and went to a few other companies, worked for one as running Nationwide Channel sales, and then left that company and went to work for a company called Interwork or Internet Holdings and became their COO and started running it and then ended up buying half the company about three years into it. And we were actually one of the fastest growing ISPs in the Phoenix market. Did really well. And then the market turned and we had a little bit of downside in 2008 and I left about three years later, moved to Colorado, started consulting, consulted for some really big companies, Rio Tinto, United Launch Alliance.
Did work for a short stint at Aero Electronics. Got to learn the big corporate side, not just the small business side of it. And which brings me to today actually the company that Ben does work for Airebeam. My first job with Boston Omaha was actually to do a consulting role for them. I went and did an analysis of all their wireless network and their fiber network in Pinal County area. I drove 5,000 square miles over two weeks with the assessment. And then after I got done with that, they called me up, and this is right at the beginning of covid. So we all had a couple month vacation and then they called me up and asked me if I would come and work for, technically I worked for Airebeam. I was the director of business development, but with the aspirations to actually start Fiber Fast Homes. And really the rest is history. When we get to what we've done. I mean, we sold Dream Finders was our first client, and today I think we're working with 13 major developers and we've got three or four smaller developers, and we are doing a lot of building nationwide. We're in 11 states and it's going like gangbusters.
Jessica Denson (host) (05:14):
So in the open eye, you mentioned that you were Florida based. Is that just where your back offices are since you said you're in 11 states?
Scott Sampson (guest) (05:21):
Yeah, so actually we're Colorado based. We were based when we started this, we actually based it out of my home. We just needed an address, so it's a Colorado based company, but our first warehouse was in Jacksonville, Florida. So actually a lot of our mail goes there. Nothing comes to my home anymore. But yes, I would say we're more Florida based where we started, but our main states we're up and down the East coast, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, California, and even a little bit in Arizona.
Jessica Denson (host) (05:52):
And share a little bit about what Fiber Fast Homes does. It is a little different than just the direct to individual's market, correct?
Scott Sampson (guest) (06:00):
Correct. I mean, we are a fiber to the home internet provider. We are an ISP, so we do come into neighborhoods. We do build out the infrastructure. We are fiber to the home, not fiber to the neighborhood, not fiber hood to the city. We are fiber all the way into the house. We work with developers. A lot of our services are billed through the HOA and we market directly to developers, and then we have upgrades to the homeowners so they can go from one service to another. But yes, it is all through the HOA and the developers.
Jessica Denson (host) (06:32):
So share how it is when you work with builders and developers. I understand with HOA, but that's an interesting thing because a lot of what we hear or a lot of what I get in at Connected Nation from people is, oh my gosh, I've moved into a new home and it doesn't have the internet access that I need, and I had no idea this would be an issue. So a lot of new developers and builders really paying attention to that right now.
Scott Sampson (guest) (06:57):
I think they're starting to because the new home buyers, the Gen Y, gen Z, I always tell this to everybody, they're a hundred times smarter than I am. I might've been doing this for almost 30 years, but they know the internet, they know what they need. They know remote work, they know how to do the Instagram, how to do all the social media, they know this. So we actually get now more and more emails from customers asking us going, are you in this neighborhood for this developer who we are working with? But it might be a development that they were doing two or three years ago. Developers are starting to listen to these people because that is a question. And as I found out from a young gentleman about a year ago who's 20 years old, I asked him what was more important, water or internet? And he goes, internet. And I said,
Jessica Denson (host) (07:45):
Scott Sampson (guest) (07:46):
He goes, I can buy water off the internet.
Jessica Denson (host) (07:49):
Oh, that's a very good point.
Scott Sampson (guest) (07:51):
And that's how this younger generation thinks. The internet is the most important thing. So the developers and the home builders especially are listening to this, and so they have to get ahead of the game because how do you sell a house? Well, you have to beat the neighbor next door, the older home or the other builder who's maybe not worrying about it. So us being in there day one before the homeowner moves in is a big deal.
Jessica Denson (host) (08:22):
And is it a different approach when you, I would imagine build the infrastructure day one versus if you're trying to connect something that's already been established?
Scott Sampson (guest) (08:32):
Yeah, well, it's a lot easier in an aspect. I mean, we do a lot of things different, and one of our big one is we talk to the developers, we talk to the builders, we make sure we stay out their way, but we're in there working with their teams and making sure it's clean. We come in really early, get into the open trench, but we just want to work alongside them, not just come in and just do what we want when we want. I mean the open trench or the easement, the utility easement is somewhere that anybody can go into as long as you got a permit. We actually work with them to make sure it's clean and keeping these developers in the home builders nice and happy.
Jessica Denson (host) (09:16):
I know you also do on your website, I did do a little bit of research, new home versus build to rent communities. You work with both. Is it the same set of parameters or are there different concerns when you deal with build to rent communities? No,
Scott Sampson (guest) (09:31):
Same parameters. There's still new homes. It's a lot of it's build to the rent community. I mean, we do actually have other products as in the sense of what we sell. I mean not everything's through the HOA, some is actually directly to the end user, the homeowner or the renter. It depends on what the developer wants to do. We get bulk discounts for where it's needed to be, but when we get to build rents or what we call our exclusive marketing agreement, we actually just build directly to the homeowner.
Jessica Denson (host) (10:05):
So there is, it's kind of a hybrid of the builders and individuals. So what type of, when you do get in and you're building that infrastructure, it's okay to get a little bit technical because we do have some in our audience who are very high tech, they understand that technical side of things. So what type of internet infrastructure are you building?
Scott Sampson (guest) (10:27):
So hopefully these people could come explain it to me because
I'm just the CEO, I don't know that much. Just kidding. We were doing G pon, which was up to one gig. We just are migrating now to XG spon. Only 11 of our sites remaining are on G pon, which the difference between the two services is the G PON just went to one gig, xgs Pond goes to 10. So we're trying to future proof our services so we can actually have some upgrades. Our customers right now as we do migrate to the XG S pond for in the older locations, will be able to go to two gig internet service all the way up to 10. Right now, we're only going to offer two, but we might offer five here in the next year or so.
Jessica Denson (host) (11:14):
Yeah, I would imagine that's really, and I do have in my notes to talk about the internet of things, devices that we see in homes now, the future proofing, we don't even know what's coming yet, and a lot of these homes are going to be asked to be able to be connected. Homeowners are going to be frustrated if they're not. So how do you tackle that idea that a home is going to have, at least at my house, I can control my thermostat for my phone, you could control your TV from it. All these different things that are connected and what's still ahead that we don't know about that future proofing? Is that where that bigger 10 gigs is really critical?
Scott Sampson (guest) (11:55):
Correct. Yeah. And that's where it is. I mean, I look at it today. I've always made the crack. I love the internet, and why just wait till tomorrow? It will change. And I still put the internet as it's at a weird teenage stage of life. It thinks it knows everything, but it doesn't, and we don't know what it's really capable of doing. And I still think we're probably five, 10 years out to really seeing what the internet can do, and that's where we just got to stay ahead of it. I mean, you look back in the day, I remember dial up, that's probably one of the first products I ever had, and then go into wireless with one meg down, one meg up, and I was ecstatic with having it. Today I have gig speeds and we're selling two gig speeds, looking at 10 gig speeds.
How do you know what's going to come? We don't. But if we're just that one step ahead of it every day, we should be fine. I mean, devices in my house, I have two 20 year old daughters, but I had two teenage daughters. We had 50 plus devices plugged into our house. Now I have them off out of the house and I now it's 60 devices because I've added cameras, I have door locks. I mean, I can secure my whole home by one command to my house and lock every door and make sure every window's closed and make sure the alarm is set. It is amazing how much has changed in our world today. But what's going to happen tomorrow? I don't think anybody knows. I think people are trying to predict it. You've got the Facebooks and you've got the Microsofts and the Metaverse and all these things that are coming out, but what does that mean? I don't know, but I'm going to love to watch it.
Jessica Denson (host) (13:40):
Yeah, it's exciting time for sure. So I was just at the US Broadband Summit in the last week, and a lot of talk was about a people problem that's happening within the broadband space. As in there's a concern that over the next three to five years there's going to be a labor shortage and there's already an equipment shortage. How do you tackle those types of issues?
Scott Sampson (guest) (14:06):
That is one that keeps me awake at night today. Bead actually scares me, and it doesn't scare me in that competition or that you're going to have get fiber out to rural markets. It's not my competitive market that I'm looking at. What it does scare me is the timeframe in which the government expects them to fulfill this need. We don't have that many employees out there, and we're hiring a lot of, and I will call them kids, they're straight out of high school, 19, 20, 21 with no experience, and we're teaching them. I'm worried that we're going to lose those kids because they come in and we teach 'em, and then some of the big boys are going to try to offer 'em more money in the employee side of it. We try to do our best to, hey, give you a great work environment, give you good benefits, give you a decent wage, but also give you a life that you want. That's where we're trying to do that. When you get to the equipment side, we're stocking up now. I mean, we're starting to buy heavy equipment, trenchers, anything we need, and we're looking at conduit and fiber, making sure that we have enough on order or in stock that we can cover our needs for at least the next three or four years.
Jessica Denson (host) (15:26):
Is there something that you think needs to be done federally or even in the states about the people issue? Do you think that's something that the broadband industry really needs to be pushing? We need to be hiring and training people now or putting more training programs out there? What's the stop gap or the solution or is that's just something that still needs to be worked through?
Scott Sampson (guest) (15:51):
That's a great question. I don't think I really have the best answer for it. Government involvement sometimes can be helpful, but a lot of times it just gets in the way. I believe that we can really take a look at teaching kids, especially the ones that are in high school, that, hey, there's a lot of roles out there, and this goes even to dealing with home developers and builders. I mean, there's electrical jobs, there's low voltage jobs, there's trenchers, there's running a backhoe. There's all these different roles, and these roles pay fairly well coming straight out of high school. I mean, these kids are making 22, 23 bucks an hour coming out of high school, and they'll be up to 30, $35 an hour by the mid to late twenties. I mean, these are good wages for good jobs, for good work, and I think we just need to make sure we educate the kids that are coming out into the real world that sometimes look at a different path, figure out what you need to do because we're training from the ground up. And I'm going to say, so are most of my competitors. We're all training these kids, and these are good, hardworking kids. They're not trying to just find the easy way to go be an online star. They're trying to come out and get a real job, and they're learning about benefits and they want to be educated. So I think we just need to look at it that way. And these kids will become young adults, which will become families that will be able to take care of their lives for forever.
Jessica Denson (host) (17:23):
So part of it is just letting kids know that this is even an option.
Scott Sampson (guest) (17:27):
Yes, they don't have to go work at a fast food restaurant. I mean, if that's what they want to do, then so be it. But there are a bunch of other careers out there. They don't have to go drop $150,000 on a student loan where they can go get a good job. That's going to be a good career. I used to always speak to a lot of kids. I always said the one thing it's not about, if you love what you do, you'll make enough money. I think there's a lot of jobs, especially in this industry. It's a lot of fun, a lot of growth. We've had kids that have came work for me that started in customer service that are now in it or now out in the construction field. I've watched these kids grow and expand and go find what they love doing, and they just don't leave because we're expanding their minds and expanding what they do.
Jessica Denson (host) (18:15):
Yeah, I think that's a great approach. And right now the idea that there's other things that kids can do, there's not only two options. It's not only fast food or the college route. There's a lot of other options. So moving on. Does fiber Fast Homes, does it work in both smaller rural communities and large cities, or is it just a certain area?
Scott Sampson (guest) (18:40):
So most of our developments are in what we'll call the NFL cities, major cities, 500,000 people or more, but we do have some that are northern Texas that are 30, 40 minutes out of downtown Dallas, which is a little more rural. They're building some pretty big developments. It took us some bit to get some circuits out there and to get our internet. So it's up and running, but we are doing it. Most of where the developers are, they are in the bigger cities. So that's mostly where we target.
Jessica Denson (host) (19:13):
And you said you worked across the country, so east and West Coast, are there some different challenges depending on where you are in the
Scott Sampson (guest) (19:22):
Country? Actually, same challenge. It's finding good people, different laws, different state regulations. You got California labor laws versus Florida labor laws. They're completely different. Just having to be knowing the laws and making sure you're up on 'em, making sure you're treating people fairly. And that's our approach anyway. It's still about treating. I mean, we treat everybody I think the same. And I don't care if you're one of our customers or if you're an employee, we treat you fairly. And that's probably the biggest deal is just trying to make sure we do with that. But that's mainly it. And getting equipment. Getting material. We work with some great vendors, some great partners. So we've been, I am going to knock on wood right now. We've been fairly lucky.
Jessica Denson (host) (20:09):
I'll knock on wood for you too, so just a few more questions. I won't keep you all day. You're easy to talk to though. Why do you think it's important to connect homes? Why does it matter on the personal side to Scott Sampson? Why does it matter to you that people are connected?
Scott Sampson (guest) (20:29):
This is the way I make money. Why do we have to connect people? I love the internet. I really do, and I think we can learn a lot off of it. I do also believe we need to go outside every once in a while, don't have to need to sit on the internet all day long. Gaming and things that, but I do really believe this is a technology that can help advance us as a world. I mean, it used to be making a long distance phone call across town cost you over a buck a minute, and now I can call anybody around the world for free. We've made the world smaller and we're learning more and more about people, and I think that's what the internet to me really is about. It's the importance of shrinking it down and making us learn from each other.
Jessica Denson (host) (21:21):
I like that a lot. I always hear telehealth telework, remote learning, but actually just the fact that we can learn from each other and be closer is a really big important piece of that pie. What would you want our audience to really understand or know about Fiber Fast Homes that either we touched on already or maybe that we haven't talked about
Scott Sampson (guest) (21:43):
With Fiber Fast Homes? At the end of the day, I just want to bring a good product to everybody, and I always tell everybody, we have three customers. We have developers, builders, and the homeowner. Homeowners, actually, as long as I give a good product for a good price, is a fairly easy thing to do. It's communicating with everybody from the beginning, and that's from the developer and working with them, and then the builders, but even the homeowners, even if we have a problem, I think some people just want to avoid it, put their head in the sand going, oh, they're used to it. We've had outages. We send out texts, we talk to people. We've done what we've had to make sure customers are happy and that they come first. We'll make money. This is an internet. I mean, it's a product. It's been around for a while and it does fairly well, but it's taking care of people in the end. It's still number one to me.
Jessica Denson (host) (22:41):
Are there any upcoming projects that you can share with us that you're excited about right now?
Scott Sampson (guest) (22:47):
Right now, I mean, we started in Florida and Florida's just been going gangbusters. I'm always happy about that. I'm actually really liking how we're expanding into other states, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, California. It's all going so well. No, really big. I mean, we got a lot of big projects. It's always my fear every day, but nothing that really just stands out. I love our partners and love what we're doing. It's just a lot of fun.
Jessica Denson (host) (23:15):
Alright, well thank you Scott. I really appreciated you talking with me today.
Scott Sampson (guest) (23:19):
Well, thank you. I appreciate you having me on.
Jessica Denson (host) (23:22):
It's been a lot of fun. And say hi to Ben next time you talk to him.
Scott Sampson (guest) (23:26):
Jessica Denson (host) (23:28):
Again, I've been talking with Scott Sampson, the CEO of Fiber Fast Homes. I'll include a link to the company's website, the description of this podcast. I'm Jessica Denson. Thanks for listening to Connect to Nation. If you like our show and want to know more about us, head to connect to nation.org or look for the latest episodes on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Google Podcast, Pandora, or Spotify.