Locally Owned Small Business Pioneered Wireless Internet Service in DC
Washington, DC – This year marks the 15th anniversary of DC Access, a locally owned business that provides Wireless Internet (WiFi) to more than 1000 residential and commercial customers in the District of Columbia.
DC Access is owned and operated by the husband-and- wife team of Matt Wade and Martha Huizenga. In addition to being DC’s only locally owned WiFi provider, the company offers digital living consultation and design. DC Access also operates Hill Ads, which offers hyper-local web advertising for Hill businesses, and Free TV DC, which installs rooftop antennas that allow residents take advantage of broadcast digital television.
In 2012, after 13 years of running DC Access out of their home on Capitol Hill, Wade and Huizenga purchased a building at 1504 Pennsylvania SE to provide office space for the steadily growing company.
“As we celebrate 15 years of doing business on Capitol Hill, its very rewarding to trace the path from being a small start-up offering dial-up Internet, to expanding into Wireless Internet and building up our customer base, to being able to move into our office space and provide good jobs,” Wade said.
Building a Strong Foundation: 1999-2004
Wade founded DC Access in April 1999. He got the idea while working as a computer-programming consultant. Frustrated with the unreliable connections and poor customer service he and his clients had experienced with national Internet providers, he set out to provide reliable, affordable Internet service combined with outstanding customer support.
The new company grew quickly and Huizenga – who had 14 years experience in the telecommunications industry – soon joined DC Access as a full-time partner. In 2003, DC Access embraced the emergence of Wireless Internet and added WiFi to its service offerings.
DC Access uses high-powered antennas to broadcast wireless Internet connections, eliminating the “last mile” connection problems associated with landline services and the need to order a physical connection from a large telecommunications provider. Wade and Huizenga partner with local property management companies, developers, and owners of residential and commercial multi-tenant units to secure strategic rooftop access for the antennas. Each antenna creates what is known as a Point-of- Presence (PoP).
“One of our first partnerships in 2003 was with the Cymrot family, to provide WiFi at one of their properties on the Hill – Lincoln Towers Apartments on 12th Street SE,” Wade said. “In 2004, we expanded our reach into Northeast by installing a PoP on a building on Massachusetts near Union Station.” At the time of its fifth anniversary in 2004, DC Access had around 130 WiFi customers.
Steady Growth: 2005-2009
In 2005, DC began to offer WiFi to residents and businesses south of Pennsylvania Avenue SE in cooperation with Capitol Hill United Methodist Church near Seward Square. Subsequent partnerships with Evolve LLC and Yarmouth Management allowed DC Access to provide WiFi in many more multi-tenant properties on Capitol Hill.
In 2008, the company’s WiFi service area expanded beyond Capitol Hill when it partnered with UIP Property Management to provide WiFi to six multi-tenant units in the Adams Morgan neighborhood.
As its customer base grew, DC Access continued to build a reputation for offering reliable, personal service to customers – never forgetting why Wade founded the company in the first place. “We didn’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity, so we focused on steady, incremental expansion,” Huizenga explained. “Our top priority has been to provide personalized service to all of our customers.”
Wade and Huizenga’s shared business ethos also includes giving back to the community, and they often donate or discount their time and expertise to support high-impact projects. For instance, they worked with the School Libraries Project to set up wireless networks in public school libraries on the Hill and provided Internet to 12 DC Housing and Urban Development apartments at Kentucky Courts. DC Access also was an Internet sponsor for Capitol Hill Group Ministry offices and the School Within School Auction.
Wade and Huizenga are strong proponents of smart growth and small business development on Capitol Hill, and DC Access has been an active member of CHAMPS (the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce) since 1999, with Huizenga serving as board president in 2007-2009. Huizenga also is a longtime board member at the Capitol Hill Community Foundation.
Gaining Momentum: 2010-2014
In the last five years, DC Access has reached several exciting milestones. At the time of its 10th anniversary in 2009, the company had more than 460 WiFi customers and was still primarily a two-person operation, bringing in part-time office and tech workers on an as-needed basis. In 2010, the company hired its first full-time employee, and today it is a six-person operation, with four full-time staff in addition to Wade and Huizenga.
From the beginning, DC Access had been run out of the Wade-Huizenga home on Kentucky Avenue SE. In 2012, with a growing team and the pressing need for more space to accommodate technology and equipment, Huizenga and Wade began to look for a new office space on Capitol Hill.
In the fall of 2012, the company moved into its new home at 1504 Pennsylvania SE. Last November, DC Access received the CHAMPS Hilly Award for Service Provider of the Year, reaffirming that the company’s core commitment to fast, friendly service has not wavered, even as it has continued to grow.
Today, DC Access has more than 1,000 WiFi customers. The company also offers digital living consultation and design. “Over the years, we’ve gained a lot of expertise installing wiring and outlets in historic homes and buildings on the Hill,” Wade said. “Now we have the capacity to offer digital living consultation and design as a service to homeowners, contractors and architects, with an emphasis on ensuring that homes and multi-tenant buildings are ‘future-proofed’ during renovations and expansions.”
As they look ahead to the next five years, Wade and Huizenga remain committed to strengthening the community where they live and work. They plan to do that, in part, by continuing to build a successful small business that contributes to the local economy.