A Lansing-based internet service provider with nearly two decades of experience is making it presence felt in West Michigan.
Spartan Net, now rebranded as Stellar Broadband, is targeting the multifamily industry with new products to help owners and managers better service their communities.
Arena Place Apartments in Grand Rapids is a mixed-use residential and commercial development owned by Wheeler Development Group, in which Stellar provided all of the wiring design, engineering and installation, as well as brought on access control technology for both residential and commercial components. Stellar also delivered ultra-high-speed broadband and television to the development.
Stellar also works with Rockford Construction, Third Coast Development, CopperRock Construction, Wolverine Building Group, Pioneer Construction, DTN Management Company and other major builders and developers in West Michigan.
Founded in 2001, primarily to serve the student housing market with significant demands for unlimited bandwidth, Stellar Broadband believes if it could make it in student housing, it can make it anywhere else.
“(Student housing is) a very difficult market,” said Richard Laing, founder and president of Stellar Broadband. “It’s the churn. One of the things about our business is we’re a residential internet service provider, but there’s nothing like taking at least 60% of your clientele and changing them out every single year with a new customer base.”
Today, Stellar serves three markets: multi-dwelling unit communities – both multifamily and student housing; commercial; and high density and community residential. Laing said Stellar had much to learn from its residential clients and built its business processes around those needs.
The jump from Spartan Net to Stellar changes the company’s brand, but it doesn’t change its behavior, Laing added.
“We actually think that it fits our behavior more than anything,” Laing said of the name change. “One of our mottos is we’re going to do everything anyone else will do, but we’ll do a better job or pay more attention to it. We weren’t sure our original branding was delivering that type of message.”
Stellar is primarily an internet service provider, but Laing said the company also builds networks and shares with users how to leverage them. The company in 2020 received national recognition from Broadband Communities Magazine for implementing the first 10-gigabit fiber internet service to student housing for Landmark on Grand River in East Lansing.
Besides internet service, Stellar offers DirecTV delivery through its fiber networks; security systems including door entry, access and key replacement; IT support for property management and small business clients; and web development.
“It’s mostly focused around what a community or commercial building would ask us for,” Laing said. “So being that that is our primary client base, we focus around those needs, and attempt to deliver a turnkey type of solution … we know every development, every building is going to have those needs, and we try to fill those voids in such a way that we can make recommendations, customize those needs and focus around our product base.”
Stellar services much of the Greater Lansing area, but has a strong presence in Grand Rapids, where its network and data center has been located for over four years, as well as in Muskegon, Traverse City, Novi, Brighton and other markets throughout Michigan.
Internet of Things (IoT) is a new frontier for Stellar to open up to multifamily clients. Stellar Vice President of Business Development Bill Knapp said smart home technology has been around for single-family homes for a long time, but recently it has taken hold in multifamily and student housing developments.
“Not only does it increase the experience for the resident, but it reduces the cost, because of all the things you can do like monitoring utilities, systems, things like water leakage and energy usage,” Knapp said.
Multiple interconnected devices and systems on a network make security a top priority. Considering Stellar’s background in network security development, the company builds a network infrastructure that is very security conscious, Laing added.
“We utilize a lot of private networking, a lot of firewall techniques, things that make those systems secure, private, monitored … it’s typically an oversight for the owner/developer, because they’re not always installed by network professionals, but because that’s what we’re bringing to the table, we consider that right up front,” Laing said.
Stellar also built a proprietary software for property owners, allowing them to manage multiple communities on one platform. Erika Greco, marketing manager for Stellar, said the software was developed by and for property owners based on their management needs.
“As property management teams, they have a lot day-to-day that they are responsible for,” Greco said. “We actually had a webinar not too long ago that identified those pain points for them. What this interface does is it solves a lot of those for them and simplifies their day-to-day.”
With the platform, property owners can manage resident information like leases signed, move-ins, active services and most importantly support requests.
“With some of these other companies, you can’t really get an idea of who’s experiencing issues, what’s going on, or can I intervene at some point to help the residents,” Greco said. “So, this also better aids them to help their residents.”
The software also has a resident portal so multifamily tenants can manage their services and communicate with Stellar if they have any issues.
“It’s very unique for a management team to be able to have an intervention with the service provider and communicate between the service provider and the actual resident to understand how we’re taking care of them – if we’re taking care of them – to solve the problem as quickly as possible,” Laing added.