How OSO Internet Solutions leverages Visp.net to maintain operations and keep the costs of labor from devouring profit
To manage growth for a WISP – or any business – involves tremendous effort. It’s a lot of work to assess the potential returns of a service area, plan build-outs and meet infrastructure requirements. And, Lou Uttaro has been involved in founding two.
The story begins prior to the Oso Internet Solutions business partnership between Margaret Merrill and Lou. In the late 1990’s he built his first WISP starting on the ground floor and learned through trial by fire.
There were times when he and his eight full-time employees were flying by the seat of their pants. Despite their hard work, the early days were rocky. Lou decided to become his own expert — so he dug in, grew his rural WISP and sold it in 2011.
A WISP Partnership is Born
In 2012 long-time teacher and non-profit leader in the Ramah Navajo community, Margaret Merrill saw the need for reliable Internet access in her home community.
That’s when she partnered with Lou Uttaro, to begin the long process of bringing broadband to the Ramah Navajo area. Through Margaret’s understanding and 40-year relationship with this Diné community and Lou’s 20-plus years as an ISP in rural New Mexico, and his talent for the technical aspects of building an ISP, Oso Internet Solutions was born.
They listened to Navajo community leaders to ensure their plan was in alignment with community desires and needs and that the Ramah Navajo community supported this plan.
Together, Margaret and Lou discussed the community requirements and their business plan and then created an affordable and sustainable business plan model that to this day is serving the area well.
In May 2015 Oso Internet Solutions was founded and service began in January 2016.
Manage Growth & Labor to Stay Profitable
From the start, Lou and Margaret decided that this was a business that the two of them would run together. The partners could keep costs down by hiring tech contractors when they needed them but would start with no full-time employees.
They also managed their WISP’s growth to ensure that the business would be able to continue to fund itself.
When it came time to look for a billing and automation system, Lou and Margaret had several “wants.” “We knew that we needed a billing system that synched payment status with service,” Lou said. “We also wanted a billing system that handled time-consuming back-office tasks.”
“On a WISP Talk, someone recommended Visp.net,” he continued. “We called and spoke at length, to Dave… And, when we found out that we didn’t even need a server, that was a big plus!”
When it comes to billing and back-office support, Lou and Margaret found the billing system takes care of the majority of work. “Visp has been critical in all of this growth – the money it would have cost to pay two full-time employees went into critical infrastructure. And, we don’t have to manage people.”
Since coming on board with Visp in 2016, Margaret and Lou have found that the billing system has delivered more value than just billing. “Due to the COVID 19 Pandemic, we’ve added more new business in April 2020 than we did in all of 2017 and we were able to handle it without additional staff. All we had to do was hire contractors to hang new radios,” he said.
“We get a level of tech support from Visp that would otherwise cost me $150+ an hour. We use MikroTik routers and the Success Team at Visp assist in configuring them, at no additional charge.”
This value is amplified as WISPs get larger — check out this 2020 Triad Wireless case study.
Partner with Quality Vendors
Margaret and Lou control their cost by partnering with vendors synonymous with quality, like Cambium and Visp. Lou manages OSO’s network from a remote location, while Margaret lives in the service area working with community leaders and overseeing customer recruitment, service and install schedules. Both manage the business aspects of Oso Internet Solutions.
The WISP does more than provide internet service, they contribute to the strength of the community. Margaret sits on the Ramah Navajo Crisis Team, attends Ramah Navajo Chapter and Ramah Navajo School Board leadership and community meetings and assists with educational, health and safety needs.
As for where they see Oso in five years, the partners are practical, “I’m not sure about how tech will change, but I know that you can grow yourself into bankruptcy in five years. So, growth will be planned.” Margaret sees a long-term, strong, social enterprise that responds to the health, safety, educational, professional and personal needs of people living remotely, with solid and sustainable Broadband access.
To contact Margaret, Lou or get more information about becoming an Oso Internet Solutions subscriber, call 505.600.3326 or email sales@osointernetsolutions.
For more information about how you can leverage outstanding equipment and a billing and automation system to enhance your growth, contact:
Visp.net at 541-955-6900 or request a demo.
Cambium Networks by requesting a quote or demo.