Tristate Wi-Fi filling a need in the community
BULLHEAD CITY — One of the biggest challenges to bringing big business to our community is the lack of reliable high-speed internet. A local entrepreneur has been working hard to address that, although it started out as a mission to help his own business.
Tristate Wi-Fi formed in 2012 when George Simon was doing computer repair for his company, The Computer Shop, and realized that he didn’t have the things he needed.
“When I was doing computer repair, one of the things I used a lot was the internet,” Simon explained. “We would download a lot of files. I started needing more bandwidth.”
Simon would back up his customers files locally and the servers would bog down. He would have multiple files downloading at the same time, so he went to his service provider asking for help.
“I ... asked for more bandwidth and they didn’t respond,” Simon said. “I then met Gene Baron, and he was working with a company that was providing this new product. So I tried it and it was great.”
But the product didn’t last long and they soon shut down their internet in our area. Baron was left without a job, and Simon was left with the same service he had previously.
“So I approached Gene and told him I need bandwidth,” Simon said. “He said he could help me build it, and so we started building it.”
The result is Tristate Wi-Fi, which is a woman-owned business, wholly owned by Simon’s wife, Claudia.
Simon credited Bullhead City Manager Toby Cotter and the city’s IT Manager Randy Scheffert with really helping Trisate get established.
He originally planned on getting Wi-Fi for the area’s RV parks to offset the costs of bringing the bandwidth to town for himself. Eventually, Cotter went looking for a provider to get Wi-Fi into the city’s parks.
“The two of them were life savers,” Simon said. “If it wasn’t for them helping me grow the company, we wouldn’t be here today. Toby wanted to provide free Wi-Fi in all the parks, which I thought was insanely crazy, but very forward- thinking.”
Tristate Wi-Fi and Suddenlink eventually came to an partnership agreement. After winning the bid, Suddenlink gave the job to Tristate. Simon said he believes that Suddenlink saw a large cost and very little return coming back. But Simon thought that the good that it would do for the community outweighed the short-term costs up front.
Now he had to first get a big enough block of bandwidth into the city to handle the hundreds and thousands of visitors that would be using it. That required leasing a fiber-optic line all the way from Las Vegas.
“It was a huge risk,” added Simon. “We were in the negative for the first five years. Finally, my wife said ‘OK. We’re five years into this project and making no money. You need to do something.’ ”
Simon branched out and began serving the city complex as well as residences. That didn’t come without obstacles.
“You’d be surprised at how many people fought us,” Simon explained. “The big guys tried to block us. To me, that’s flattering. We were becoming very relevant.”
Tristate Wi-Fi is providing reliable, inexpensive service to businesses and residences from bridge to bridge and even into Needles. But as it grows, so do the requirements for more bandwidth.
Simon is waiting on the latest addition of bandwidth, a channel that he believes will allow him to provide bandwidth for anybody in the area who he can reach with his towers.
According to Simon, the company couldn’t have survived and thrived without a few other individuals like Ken Parrillo and Tristate Wi-Fi’s technicians as well as the area’s homebuilders and the Bullhead City Fire Department.
“To be honest with you, the homebuilders and the city have been my biggest supporters,” Simon said, “along with the Fire Department. I’m so grateful for all of them.”
Simon is hoping to make Tristate Wi-Fi into a cooperative, similar to Mohave Electric.
“I’m not sure that even exists anywhere,” said Simon. “I would love to see the community get reliable, inexpensive service and the money stays local. A utility that gives back.”
Tristate Wi-Fi is expecting the new massive pipeline of bandwidth in the next couple of weeks thanks to an agreement with a local casino and serves residential, commercial and government entities including all of the city parks and Davis Camp.
Simon credits Realtors Debbie Savage, Ann Pettit and Ray Jackson with helping him get the Computer Shop going and without that, there would be no Tristate Wi-Fi, so he said he believes that he owes the community a debt in helping him.
“My philosophy is that I want this company to be locally owned,” said Simon, “locally supported and make sure it benefits the local community.”