How WISPs Respond to Pandemic

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On the whole, Wireless Internet Service Providers appear to be weathering the COVID-19 pandemic relatively well, according to their trade group. The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association surveyed its members during the week of March 23, on how they are responding to the public health emergency.

The majority of WISPs are growing their business even in light of new use dynamics, workforce bandwidth issues, potential equipment supply chain shortfalls and the practical safety concerns that the pandemic poses to keeping everyday operations running safely.  

The answers were based on up to 155 responses concerning topics such as network capacity, new business, field safety, and community service, among others. The following are the results, which also include quotes from individual respondents. 

  • WISPs are seeing about a 36 percent increase on average in traffic during peak hours. Many have planned for this, but others are working to add capacity, too. 

“I have planned for increased usage in my system design and can accommodate the needed capacity for this emergency.”

“We’re looking at adding additional capacity and network overbuilds to handle the increased usage.”

  • 83 percent of WISPs are adding new subscribers, with this business being 33 percent above normal. 22 percent are hiring new staff to meet the new growth and/or service issues.

“Many people are in desperate need for internet now and we are struggling to keep up. Extraordinarily busy, the calls are ringing off the hook for people looking to get service or upgrade their packages. We are working extra hours to do everything we can to keep up.”

  • 87 percent of WISPs are doing in-home and/or in-office service calls, with these calls at 18 percent above normal.

“We are remaining open, to connect as many as possible due to the shelter in place order for non-essential workers.” 

  • 87 percent have the equipment to manage new subscribers, yet some are concerned about eventual equipment shortfalls.

“We are working on infrastructure upgrade to accommodate speeds [but] inventories are low nationwide.”

“If we are not able to get equipment, we’ll have to stop all new installs and reserve equipment for service restoration only.”    

  • 48 percent of WISPs are offering free WiFi or other connectivity to customers or public institutions, and 40 percent of WISPs are working with other communications providers to serve their local communities.

“We are providing free services to families with school age children and no current internet service to ensure children can access public school resources from home during school facility closures.”

“We set up a free WiFi location at our local public school so kids in rural areas with limited or no internet can get assignments. Drive up WiFi!!”   

“We are providing equipment to our local school district so that families without internet can park outside the school and get online to do school assignments.” 

  • 12 percent of service calls have been canceled due to the health concerns of the service call.

“We have implemented a pre-appointment call to confirm and make sure everything is ok.”

“We are still doing home installs and service calls but with caution. We call the appointments prior to going to the house to be sure no one is ill. We also have our installers wear masks and gloves.”

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