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How Has COVID-19 Affected WISP Businesses?

The WISP industry, like everyone else, has been through a lot with the COVID-19 pandemic. We know our stories are all different, but have you ever wondered how other service providers are faring? What challenges and opportunities they’ve faced? What adjustments they’ve had to make for their staff and customers? We recently caught up with a few of our WISP customers in different parts of the country to ask these questions, and this article offers a glimpse into their stories. Here’s a look at what they had to say.




What COVID-19 Challenges Has Your WISP Business Faced?


"Little things that weren’t problems before now became problems. We found a heightened sensitivity to any blips in our network. With everyone on Zoom calls, this magnified any little network inconsistencies. Although this required diligence on our part, it ultimately led to us developing a cleaner, more sound RF network."


Joe, Wireless Network Manager, Midwest


Whereas Joe’s WISP was feeling the heat on the front of technical network refinements, others WISPs primary struggle was with health challenges. Trisha, C.F.O. of an Iowa WISP, shared their biggest challenge was maintaining staff as, “COVID hit almost everyone in our office at the same time.” Don from N.C. also reflected on how some of the staff for the WISP he founded contracted the Coronavirus; one in particular taking it harder than others.


What Service Opportunities Has COVID-19 Created?


On the flip side, significantly increased opportunities to add new customers and to upgrade to faster speeds was a consistent theme across the board for the WISPs we spoke with.

"The pandemic has overall been “good” for business... [One example] was providing internet wirelessly to 1,100 units across various public housing complexes run by the local public housing authority. Projects like this really help to meet the needs of the community. Funded collaboratively through a foundation, the city, and federal monies, we bid this project at a discounted rate. Once the word got around, we were awarded another public housing project in a nearby county."

Don, Founder, North Carolina


Although the ball was already rolling on the initial public housing project prior to COVID-19, Don sees how the need for their service was only heightened from the pandemic by the time it was delivered; as well as for projects that followed.

Joe explained that, “During the pandemic business has gone through the roof!” He elaborated that in a few months of 2020 his WISP nearly doubled the installs they had done for the entire year of 2019. “Consumption also went up considerably,” Joe explained. Trisha’s WISP in Iowa also experienced a similar surge:

"We had an influx in people increasing speeds and everyone was maxing out their bandwidth while working and schooling from home, plus gaming, streaming etc. There was such a demand that we hired an additional staff member just to help field calls and tech support."

Trisha, C.F.O. Iowa




What Adjustments Has COVID-19 Required as a Service Provider?

A variety of adjustments and accommodations made by the WISPs included:


  • Pre-screening calls, asking our customers if they had COVID-19, or were experiencing any symptoms.
  • Delaying our in-home visits when customers as needed
  • Providing PPE (gloves, masks) for techs
  • Asking our customers to wear masks
  • Not expecting techs to go inside customer’s homes if they didn’t feel comfortable

And from the employee perspective, flexibility included working overtime to meet demand for new installs, and postponing time off.


Another common thread was staff working from home. This not only affected the past for WISPs, but also presents considerations for the future.


"Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I was thinking we may need bigger office space for our 15 staff members. These days, we only have three or four people working at the office, and the rest working remotely. Most like it and want to continue working from home, and going this route could actually save us some rent money on office space."


Don, Founder, North Carolina


Many of you are probably working from home right now as you read this article. This seems to be the new norm for WISPs and their customers at least for the foreseeable future.


How Has COVID-19 Changed Customers Demands, and Your Service Offerings as a Result?


"As people moved their offices to their basements at home, customers found themselves needing help with their WiFi setup. Range extenders for example, can really cause problems. This led to a big increase of on-boarding customers to our whole-home managed service offering, supported over a mesh WiFi solution."


Joe, Wireless Network Manager, Midwest


As would be expected with so many working at home for the first time, Trisha also shared that in their case, “We’ve had to assist people with more 'non-internet' issues such as VPN’s and video conferencing.”

This is layered on top of the most obvious demand already mentioned - the need for more bandwidth!


Joe explained how his WISP received “a ton of emails” from parents needing better internet tied to their kids’ virtual learning, and how residential and commercial customers alike started upgrading to their top tier package. For perspective, he offered the example that a nearby clinic expected their at-home workers to provide screenshots proving that their uplink was a minimum of 10 mbps for video conferencing.


What’s Your WISP’s COVID-19 Story?


How about your WISP? Please SHARE IN THE COMMENTS BELOW about the impact of COVID-19 on your WISP business, and the changes your team has experienced. We’d love to hear your story as it's unfolded through the pandemic.


If you're curious to learn of the impact of COVID-19 on other types of businesses in the wireless industry, check out our previous article on “Integration, Managed Service, and Resale amid the COVID-19 Pandemic.”


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