ISP of the Month

Dalton Gilmore of SpeedFi Inc.

When Dalton Gilmore, 27, started SpeedFi Inc in 2017, it fulfilled one of his childhood aspirations. “It always was my dream to supply internet to people, honestly,” he says. “When I was 12 years old, that was my dream.” 

Dalton grew up on a farm in the Manitoba province of Canada, where he opened his own computer repair shop, PC Mini Tech, when he was barely 16. “I didn’t know how internet worked at the time, so I started the computer repair store instead, but I always played with wireless stuff and loved it.” 

As often as he could, Dalton would dabble in internet-related side projects, including providing internet to his childhood home and his family’s farm. “I also worked with a radio station and TV station back in the day, and they let me use their tower and equipment,” he recalls.  

Dalton built the station’s dedicated links for their video-on-demand livestreaming before Twitch was even a thing. One of the most notable projects he was involved in was helping the local TV station broadcast a Safeway Select Curling game, which is a big deal in Canada.  

Dalton Gilmore, owner of SpeedFi Inc.

SpeedFi Inc in Kingston, Canada 

SpeedFi Inc, Dalton’s WISP, was initially a subdivision of his computer shop, but come 2018, SpeedFi would incorporate PC Mini Tech. “I realized the computer business wasn’t profitable anymore because people throw things away so easily these days.” 

Today, Speedfi Inc provides internet to 300 customers in and around the City of Kingston in Ontario, Canada. Daring to go where big-name ISPs won’t, SpeedFi serves several remote locations, including Wolfe, Howe, Simcoe, and Amherst Islands. Because of the challenging nature of their area of service, and since SpeedFi only has four employees in total, Dalton says he prefers to buy “very expensive equipment” while prioritizing integration and automation.  

“So we deal with a lot of remote, frustrating locations where a lot of bigger ISPs don’t want to go. And I don’t blame them, honestly.” According to Dalton, a simple 15-minute service call to one of the islands can take several hours because ferry wait times can be extreme, thanks to the region’s high volume of tourism. 

“We’ve had a service call before where a router died, and the one call took us 6 hours,” he says. “This is why having Vilo has been mission critical to us; we have to be sure the Wi-Fi routers we install work.” 

A google maps image of Kingston, Canada, and the islands to where SpeedFi provides internet services.

SpeedFi and Vilo 

Dalton first discovered Vilo at a conference in Ottawa in March last year and was skeptical because of the Vilo’s competitive price point. “I thought, ‘how can you sell a router at this price and expect it to perform?’ We had even just purchased some more expensive routers that we thought were better at the time, and it was one of those things where Vilo was about a third of the price of this other one, and I was like, ‘you know what? Let’s buy it. Let’s try it out.’” 

Prior to putting Vilo to the test, Dalton had a Ubiquiti UniFi Wi-Fi system installed in his house. Despite having an access point (AP) on each floor, he was unsatisfied with the performance he was getting. “I would go outside, just 10 ft. away from one of the AP’s where my hot tub is, and I still couldn’t use the Wi-Fi.”  

Hoping to finally stream TikTok’s from his tub, Dalton swapped his UniFi system with Vilo’s. “And it worked. The mesh worked seamlessly. I switched over to the Vilo network and was getting like 100 Mbps in the hot tub through my house’s metal siding and everything,” he recalls. “I was very shocked with the results, and I’ve had no issues with it.” 

As SpeedFi relies heavily on automation and integration, Dalton has been making good use of the Vilo ISP Portal. “We are very happy with the ISP Portal, and like I said, I like to have everything tying in, and so being able to look at the dashboard and see device statuses, run speed tests remotely, to lock channels—being able to select channels—has all been huge for us.” 

By April 2021, Dalton was deploying Vilo as SpeedFi’s Wi-Fi system of choice. “We’ve been pulling another vendor’s out like there’s no tomorrow,” he says.  

“We’ve only had one truck roll involving a Vilo and it was because of bad power at the place—it cooked a lot of other devices in that house, so I’m not going to blame Vilo for that one,” he continues. “But I still get reminded, sometimes weekly, about issues with our other vendor’s routers where we have to do a truck roll and put a Vilo in.” 

An Airbnb and a lot of profanity 

Things can get hairy when you’re providing internet to islands, especially when Airbnb’s are involved. Just last week, Dalton found himself in one of the most frustrating situations of his ISP career.

One of his customers who runs an Airbnb missed their scheduled appointment for a Wi-Fi installation and told Dalton that he could send the Vilo in the mail, and they would set it up themself. A few days later, he found out it was never installed when he got a call from the Airbnb’s guests. 

“There was a lot of frustration,” he recalls, “They couldn’t figure out how to install the app. It was constant profanity on the phone. It was next level! They couldn’t even figure out the password on the bottom of the router.” 

To complicate things further, Dalton was unable to do a remote installation on his end as the particular Vilo system came from an earlier batch and didn’t have the latest firmware upgrades. “The customer was irate.” 

One of SpeedFi’s towers in Kingston, Canada

“So I gave Vilo a shout and asked if there was a possibility to get this password since I had the serial number. I got a text message a half an hour later with the password. I emailed it to the client; I have not heard from them since. Clearly, we see bandwidth coming through, and they stopped calling the Airbnb owner every two hours.” 

“So we followed up with the owner, everything’s good now. You guys helped us through that when I don’t know if any other vendor would have,” he said. “So yeah, working with the Vilo team has been amazing.” 

What’s next for SpeedFi

Apart from providing internet, SpeedFi Inc has data center and consulting divisions. According to Dalton, they are aiming to deploy 5G networks soon, but are waiting for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Division (CRTC) to lay out their new spectrum. He also expressed his excitement for upcoming Vilo releases, including the Vilo 6 and API integration. 

“I can’t wait to get my hands on the Vilo 6,” he laughed.  

Discover Vilo’s ISP solutions! 

Vilo Living provides complete Wi-Fi hardware and remote management solutions that empower ISPs of any size to delight your customers, reduce your operating costs, and grow your business. Schedule a demo today! 

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ISP of the Month: Chief Se’khu of RedFi Broadband 

RedFi Broadband

“My tribe’s need for internet when Covid dropped is why RedFi exists to this day,” says Chief Se’khu Hadjo Gentle. Chief Se’khu, 48, founded RedFi Broadband in 2020 to ensure that his tribe, the Yamassee people in Allendale, South Carolina, could access telehealth services.  

Chief of the Yamassee Indian Tribe

Chief Se’khu has held many titles, including director, writer, cinematographer, WISP Owner, historian, and even firefighter. In fact, he was on-call at his reservation’s fire station during his interview with the Vilo team. 

“I’m always trying to give my time to the community as much as possible,” he said over Zoom. “So if the tones drop, which is them telling us there’s a 911 call, I may have to do the interview en route” he laughed. 

Of all of his titles, it’s clear that “Chief” is the most important to him. After dispelling Hollywood’s portrayal of chiefs, Chief Se’khu explained, “Chiefs, true chiefs, are not leaders at all; they’re actually servants. So I’m the servant first of my people. I’m the voice of my people.”  

His people, the Yamassee Indian Tribe, was thought to be extinct. According to the Chief, historians and genealogists recently investigated their ancestry and found that the Yamassee people had merely been renamed and reclassified as the “Seminole” people.  

“My jurisdiction as Chief is wherever my people are,” he added. Most of the Yamassees reside in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.  

RedFi Broadband and reliable internet during Covid

RedFi Broadband was founded on Chief Se’khu’s devotion to his people. In 2020, when the Covid pandemic reached South Carolina and the elders of his tribe were unable to go to the doctors and the children couldn’t attend school, Chief Se’khu knew he had to take action. 

“That put me in a position where my leadership skills had to kick in,” he recalls. “I can’t wait and depend on a government agency or someone else to do it for us. That’s never how we have been as native people.” 

Before starting RedFi Broadband, Chief Se’khu ran a telecommunications store front for his tribe. Though he knew how to run cable and follow instructions to set up another company’s equipment, he knew very little about running his own internet services. And with the added internet demands during Covid, the service they had at the time “was not cutting it.” 

Chief Se’khu recalls studying YouTube videos to learn how to set up his own WISP. With the help of his mother and wife, RedFi Broadband was successfully providing internet to eight customers by the end of their first year. Today, RedFi has nine part-time employees, most of whom are the Chief’s fellow firefighters, and provides internet access to over 300 customers covering roughly 10-square miles.  

RedFi provides internet at no expense to a large portion of its customers, as Allendale is an impoverished area with nearly a 40% poverty rate according to the latest Census data. “So a lot of people here can’t necessarily afford internet, especially the elders,” Chief Se’khu explains.  

RedFi and the WISP community

Chief Se’khu attributes a lot of RedFi’s growth to knowledge and confidence he gained from being in the WISP community. “I have seen the smartest people in the WISP industry that I have ever seen in my life. The WISP community and smaller ISPs do things that larger ISPs can’t even fathom—with all of the creative ideas to get the job done.” 

It hasn’t been smooth sailing for RedFi Broadband, though. In April 2022, an EF-3 tornado tore through Allendale, damaging several properties and destroying a large portion of RedFi’s equipment in the process. Chief Se’khu remains grateful to the members of the WISP community who came to his peoples’ aid shortly thereafter.  

“People in the WISP community started giving us equipment, and no one asked for any money.” he began. “And Vilo came in and donated as many [routers] as we needed. They donated whatever we asked for. That is important at the end of the day, because if you’re going to do business with a company, do business with a company that cares.”  

Chief Se’khu’s experience with Vilo

Chief Se’khu first discovered Vilo when a friend introduced him to our affordable routers. “When you’re in an impoverished area like we are here, I can’t go to these people and say, ‘Hey, here’s a $400 mesh system that you need to have to make sure your house is covered,” he said. 

When his first 3-pack of Vilos arrived, he was using a Linksys router at the time that was connected to RedFi’s fiber head-in near his office. “With the Linksys router, I was probably getting about 120 Mbps down, and I thought that was great at the time. When I installed the Vilo router, I instantly jumped to 400 Mbps. And I’m like, ‘Okay, hold-up, what is this?’ And so it sparked my interest.” 

From that sparked interest, Chief Se’khu became one of Vilo’s earliest beta testers and loved how all the ideas he suggested to Vilo’s cofounders were not only welcomed, but often implemented. “No other company is working with the WISP community the way Vilo is,” he said. “I’ve watched Vilo actively shift and change based on the advice of their customers—people like me, and that says wonders. It says they’re in it for the long-game.” 

In the early days of RedFi, the Chief ran into challenges such as a lack of visibility into his customers’ networks and the ability to remotely manage them. “We were installing routers that we had no control over, and had no insights on, so Vilo helped us with that hurdle because now we’re able to monitor our customers’ networks—we’re able to manage their experiences through the ISP portal.” 

Chief Se’khu also noted how invaluable analytic insights are for an ISP. “Being able to go into the customer’s accounts, having the numbers and the information, which is what Vilo offers, plays such a large role in making business decisions,” he explained.  

The future of RedFi and the Chief’s advice

RedFi also provides security cameras and alarm system services. Moving forward, Chief Se’khu plans on expanding RedFi’s reach into more rural areas and to be “a one-stop shop for anything that connects to the internet.”  

His intention to expand, again, is motivated by his commitment to his people. As Allendale is an hour and a half away from the nearest large city, providing every internet-related service possible alleviates the high costs of having technicians commute all that way. 

With gratitude for all he has learned from his fellow WISP owners, Chief Se’khu offered this piece of advice in return: “Don’t rush. Take your time and think outside the box.”  

When he began researching what it took to start a WISP, Chief Se’khu believed that heighth was key; that he needed a 120 ft. tower. “That wasn’t the case,” he said, “I’m able to get to whatever location I need using micropops; I’m on the ground, I’m only 20 ft. in the air. So don’t rush, take your time, plan it out so you can do it right the first time and not have to do it over again.” 

Discover Vilo’s ISP solutions! 

Vilo Living provides complete Wi-Fi hardware and remote management solutions that empower ISPs of any size to delight your customers, reduce your operating costs, and grow your business. Schedule a demo today! 

Schedule a demo