The Question: WhyFly?

The answer: Yes, please, as more users sign up with this start-up that provides ‘gluten-free internet’

Do a Google search for “WhyFly” and the first things that pop up are testimonials from pilots about the joys of flying an airplane. After that come websites that give you tips on the sport of fly fishing (it’s all in the wrist). Finally, you find it—WhyFly, the start-up internet service provider that’s located in the small city of Wilmington and is ready to take on the big boys of cyberspace.

WhyFly’s approach has been simple and, so far, profitable: They offer more for less and they do it with a neighborhood vibe that has convinced many residents and businesses to sign up with them instead of internet giants like Comcast and Verizon.

WhyFly is the brainchild of Mike Palita and Mark Thompson. Palita is from Oxford, Pa., and worked for Capital One Bank as director of data center technology before leaving to start WhyFly, and Thompson is from Newark and left his founding post with Media Analytics, located in West Chester, Pa., to join Palita in the new venture.

The real motivation for WhyFly came when Thompson moved to Wilmington in 2016 and was dismayed at the state of internet connections in the city. He and Palita decided to start their own company and eventually set up shop in the Nemours Building, where they also won over their first significant customer—The Mill, another young start-up company that rents co-worker office space to various clients, including WhyFly. The Mill has about 200 clients and one of the first was WhyFly, which also wired The Mill and all its resident businesses for the internet.

“With the current providers out there, they [The Mill] were getting some pretty high rates and they still weren’t getting enough band-width to support the needs that they had,” says Nick Sabean, director of marketing for WhyFly. “The internet is basically a commodity at this point—people need this service, they need to connect to the internet. So, they gave us a shot.”

Robert Herrera, who owns and operates The Mill, found kindred spirits in the WhyFly gang, which is one of the reasons he gave them that shot. But Herrera admits he was initially skeptical when he gave the newly-hatched company the critical job of supplying internet service to his offices.

“It was definitely a big risk at first,” Herrera says. “Now it seems like it was a long time ago, when you see how well they’re doing. They really had a vision—to supply superior internet service at reasonable prices—and they made it happen with hard work and determination. They’re the perfect poster child for what The Mill is all about and they’re a great addition to the City of Wilmington.”

WhyFly can offer better rates because it’s focused on the internet and not on television and all the hassles and expenses that come with cable. And with more and more people—especially younger people—cutting the cord to their cable services, WhyFly has found its market. They like to call it “gluten-free internet” because of its simplified format.

“We launched the residential production in June,” Sabean says, “and were able to deliver service that has no contracts, costs $55 a month and is able to give you anywhere from 75 to 120 megabits [per second] of upload and download speed, and low latency [the amount of time between a given command and its response], which is actually the biggest issue about connectivity.”

Another big selling point for WhyFly is the fact that it’s local—if you call for technical service, that call is answered by somebody a couple of blocks away instead of a couple of continents away. Even in today’s high-tech world, that local touch is appreciated by WhyFly’s customers. That includes Loretta Walsh, a long-time member of Wilmington’s City Council. She switched to WhyFly and was so pleased with her choice that she even placed a rave review on the company’s Facebook page.

“After an hour-and-a-half on hold and being transferred repeatedly to agents with my past provider, I called WhyFly Wilmington,” Walsh says. “Kevin [Kriss, vice-president of operations] answered my call and within three hours two installers were at my home. These gentlemen were smart, courteous and had my new Wi-Fi system set up in less than two hours. I now have high-speed, no-hassle service from a local start-up in Wilmington.”

Sabean says WhyFly already has more than 2,000 businesses and residences wired up and that number is growing every month as word of mouth spreads and one local business after another hops on board. In fact, Sabean says that WhyFly offers an incentive for that word of mouth: They will give a month of free internet to anybody who refers them to another customer. One customer already has 18 months of free service coming his way.

A small business that recently switched to WhyFly is Lou’s Pawn Shop on North Market Street. They negotiated with Verizon and Comcast and weren’t happy with what they heard, so when WhyFly came calling they decided to give the new, upstart company a try.

“Suddenly, these guys were on the scene with a great offer and we couldn’t be happier,” says Matt (who didn’t want his last name used), the manager of Lou’s Pawn Shop. “We’ve had no problems at all with them. They’re always checking with us to see how the service is and you don’t get that kind of individual attention from the big companies. They’ve delivered everything they promised and more and we’re very happy with the service they’ve provided.”

WhyFly has grown so much, so quickly, that it’s moving most of its operations to a new headquarters on 6th Street between Orange and Shipley. Sabean says that should give the company more sidewalk visibility and strengthen its reputation as a friendly neighbor that you can count on.

WhyFly also has plans to expand to Newark and Rehoboth Beach and after that, the company will investigate moving into Pennsylvania and beyond, although they always want to keep that small-town feeling to their operation.

After that, well, who knows?

“In five to 10 years I see them hitting a lot of mid-size cities that have a similar demographic to Wilmington, and being as successful there as they are here,” Herrera says. “And the beautiful thing about it is that Wilmington will always be their hub.”