ISP of the Month: Rob Johnstone of Stroud Media

Rob Johnstone ISP of the Month

Rob and Jill Johnstone co-founded their Stroudsburg Pennsylvania-based ISP (Internet Service Providers), Stroud Media, in 2020. Today, they have more than 500 subscribers and even provide service to remote areas in Kingston, New York. Having only two full-time employees who primarily do installations and respond to service calls, Stroud Media is run by just four people. But according to Rob, their rag-tag team has an advantage over their big-name competitors. 

The Stroud Media Advantage  

“Our niche is customer service,” Rob explains. “We’ve gotten a lot of people that’ll tell us that they’re not treated very well by the local cable company—that they’re just a number to them.” When these same individuals discover Stroud Media, Rob says they’re immediately impressed by the quality of service. 

“It’s hard to compete on price. It’s hard to compete with a company that’s ten times bigger than us,” he continues, “but we can compete in the area of providing excellent customer service and being able to not treat every one of our customers like they’re a number, and even going the extra step. And I think that’s where Vilo comes in.” 

Stroud Media began replacing their Ubiquiti routers with Vilos in the summer of 2022. For Rob, who’s been involved in the wireless internet business since the mid-2000s and holds some of the top certifications in his field, it was imperative that he deployed a reliable Wi-Fi unit that could also be managed remotely

“A big part of what we offer is the ability to remotely access our subscribers’ routers from our office so we can help customers without having to go out,” he says. “I think that’s where we excel and that’s one of the reasons why, when we found Vilo, we said, ‘hey, this is a product that fits in with what we want to do and what we want to offer our customers.” 

Since they began deploying Vilo, Rob says he hasn’t received complaints or calls for service from his subscribers and that Stroud Media will be exclusively using Vilos moving forward.  

Rob Johnstone of Stroud Media LLC | Vilo ISP of the Month

From WISP to FISP 

As of late September 2022, Stroud Media, a mostly wireless ISP, has begun building out their fiber networks. “We kind of made the decision to go move 100% in the next few years into a fiber-based network.”  

As local cable companies don’t provide FTTH (Fiber to the Home), Stroud Media is the first provider in Monroe Country, PA, to bring fiber to both businesses and the home. Today, 30-40% of Stroud Media’s customers get their internet through fiber, including several MDUs (Multi-Dwelling Units). 

“So, we’re starting to actively build fiber in a lot of neighborhoods, and we’ve installed a lot of fiber in the last two or three months. We’ve made a lot of good strides in getting our fiber up on the poles and getting it to a lot more of our customers.” 

Stroud Media LLC | Vilo ISP of the Month

Challenges of transition to fiber 

Any WISP (Wireless Internet Service Provider) switching to fiber knows the process is not without its potential kinks. Rob relayed to the Vilo team some of the challenges Stroud Media has faced when building out their fiber networks. 

“I think the biggest challenge for us is permitting some of the poles and some of the engineering that’s required to get what they call the make ready done,” he explains, “which is basically when we want to get up on a telephone pole and say the cable company or telephone company has to move their cables to make room for us on the pole, so that has been our biggest obstacle.” 

Regarding the wait time for completing all the steps involved, Rob says, “it’s probably three to five months from the time we say we want to put fiber on the pole to when we’re actually out there putting fiber on the poles.”  

When talking about the shift to fiber, Rob mentioned his interest in trying out the new Vilo 6 mesh Wi-Fi system. “We’re definitely going to be getting some Vilo 6’s on board and playing them!” 

Despite the sometimes slow-going process, Rob is optimistic about Stroud Media’s fiber-based future. “In the next year, we’re hoping to expand on the fiber we’ve already built and get into more neighborhoods,” he says. 

“I always tell everybody if it was easy anyone could do it. In this industry, my experience is there’ve been a lot of challenges and hurdles you have to get over, but if you stick with it, it’ll turn out in the end.” 

Discover Vilo’s ISP Solutions!

Vilo Living provides complete Wi-Fi hardware and remote management solutions that empower ISPs of any size to delight your customers, reduce your operating costs, and grow your business. Schedule a demo today!

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ISP of the Month: Matthew Thomas of WON Communications

ISP of the Month

WON Communications officially opened for business in Fall 2015 when two small Internet Service Providing companies, U-Link and Wide Open Networks, merged. “It turns out a company from Virginia had a trademark on the term wide open,” WON Co-Owner and Network Engineer Matthew Thomas chuckled.

“They enforced their trademark and wanted us to stop using it. So, when we merged the two companies, we just turned it into an acronym, and that’s where WON Communications came from.” 

The name is suiting, according to Matthew, as WON (pronounced “one”) keeps things simple for their business and residential customers by providing a single point of contact. “[O]ne phone number, one invoice – hence, the ‘WON’ of WON Communications,” he says. 

Some of the WON Communications crew. Matthew and Cameron employ a team of 10.

Self-taught from the Days of Dial-up

Matthew earned degrees in electronics and industrial management from Missouri State University and is a “Distinguished Alumnus” of Ozark Technical Community College. Despite not having any formal networking experience, though, he jumped into the internet industry in the early 2000’s.  

“I just taught myself everything I needed to know,” he says. Matthew’s first internet-related experience was setting up Wi-Fi in his house back in the day when dial-up was the standard. 

“I went and bought one of those Linksys WRT54G Wireless-G Routers, the black and blue ones you can get from Walmart,” he recalls. “I tried figuring out how to use it—taught myself how to set the computer up as a proxy for the dial-up that was coming in so I could take dial up and send it out as a Wi-Fi and try and use the Wi-Fi throughout the house.” 

After that experience, Matthew began setting up Wi-Fi for apartments and hot spots. He even landed a city gig providing Wi-Fi to buses. Those experiences led him to starting his own ISP around 2005 called U-Link.  

Slicing Pie for Co-Owners

In the mid 2010’s, Matthew met Cameron Rose, whose background was primarily in construction, while they were shopping for internet equipment at the same forum. “We met up and had this shared vision of starting a project in the downtown Springfield area,” Matthew recalls. The two of them started Wide Open Networks shortly thereafter. 

They divvied up ownership according to the Slicing Pie operating model, which provides a template for owners where equity splits are fluid according to how much time and resources each respective owner puts into the business. 

“We didn’t have to argue over who owned how much of the business or was putting in the most time and all that kind of stuff,” says Matthew. “What that unique model let us do was, as long as we recorded how much time and resources we put into the business, the business ownership dynamically adjusted.” 

The Slicing Pie approach was so successful for Matthew and Cameron that they recommend it to anyone looking to go into business together. “It’ll take away all the confusion [surrounding ownership],” Matthew added. 

WON Communications and Quality Over Quantity

After Wide Open Networks began earning a positive cash flow, Matthew and Cameron incorporated Wide Open Networks with U-Link to make WON Communications in 2015. With the merger, WON had about 700 subscribers in their first year of business. Today, they serve around 1,330 subscribers in Springfield, Missouri and the surrounding areas; as North as Humansville and as South as Chadwick. 

Pointing to the 5.0 customer review rating on WON’s Facebook page, Matthew explains how their focus is more on quality than quantity when it comes to growth. “We prefer to put time and effort into upgrading our network and taking care of existing customers before we run out there and try to just grow the network like crazy,” he says. 

WON Communications equipment

“Vilo solved a lot of our problems”

To further emphasize quality, WON began deploying Vilo mesh Wi-Fi systems earlier this year. After meeting some of the Vilo team at WispAmerica, Matthew tried some of the Vilos out. Much to his relief, the Vilos maintained coverage and didn’t require multiple reboots a day like the Cambium systems they had previously deployed. 

“Vilo solved a lot of our problems, plus, they provided a mesh solution for some of these larger residential homes, and they just made sense, so we jumped in with Vilo and it’s just been great ever since,” says Matthew. 

A staff member on WON’s support team estimates that they’ve already seen a 50% reduction in support calls since deploying Vilo. Matthew also loves that his support team can access network insights with Vilo’s ISP Management Portal. “It gives us all the information we need,” he added, “which has helped us out in situations that’ve been pretty tricky for us.” 

Speaking about the Vilo Mesh Wi-Fi systems, Matthew says, “the Vilo maintains and supplies a good through-put for the standard 1200 to 1500 sq. ft. residential. The stuff stays on and works, we haven’t had problems with them rebooting.” For larger residential spaces, WON will install a sub Vilo for an additional $5 a month. 

In closing, Matthew stressed the importance of having reliable equipment, like Vilos, in the customers’ homes. “Customers think that Wi-Fi is the internet. It is to them,” he explains. “And if the Wi-Fi doesn’t perform well, you’re the problem. It’s a straight line to the ISP. Understanding that is important for customer retention.” 

Streamline your Vilo install to save money and time

Vilo Install

Did you know Vilo isn’t just cost-efficient hardware? We’re also an ISP partner who wants to help you save time on installations because time is money. So here is our recommended Vilo installation procedure. 

Prerequisites:

  • 3-pack of Vilos that have been scanned into inventory 
  • Have the home ready for Vilo with an RJ-45 cable 
  • A network that uses DHCP (Recommended), Static-IP, or PPPoE (VLANs are currently not supported)
  • Happy installer

Go ahead, and pull out any Vilo from your 3-pack to install as the main. It’s best to place the main Vilo in the middle of the home if circumstances permit. Plug the Vilo into your CPE network, fire up your Vilo App, and follow the installation steps.

Vilo Install Image submitted by Ben Cantymagli of Hometown Internet

When you reach the “add Vilo to network” portion of the walk-through, the Vilo may take a minute or two to establish connection. This is a good opportunity to ask your customers about coverage issues and potential dead spots they’ve experienced in the home. Some of our ISP partners recommend asking simple, yet relatable questions. John Gill from Kentucky Fi has a go-to ice breaker: “Do you have trouble watching TikTok on the toilet?”

Beyond just breaking the ice or filling the silence, though, this is an excellent opportunity to upsell an additional sub Vilo for a small monthly fee. For more information on how to maximize revenue with Vilo, click here.

With Vilo’s pre-configured mesh design, installing one or two sub units from the same pack is easier than ever. Just plug them into rooms around the house and they will mesh automatically. It’s best to have no more than 2 walls (drywall) between the main and sub-Vilo. 

If you are unsure about whether or not your mesh has a strong connection, the Vilo will flash blue if the signal is too low on a sub. Once everything is set up, we recommend updating the firmware. This is a great time to get the customer to sign any paperwork or even pick up your tools. 

A note about remote configuration

We can’t talk about streamlining Vilo installs without mentioning remote configuration. Remote configuration allows an ISP to remotely configure a Vilo network from the ISP Portal before or after deployment to a customer’s home. Once the Vilo has been configured, it can be installed remotely. However, Vilo will need to be plugged in and connected to the modem via the WAN port. This can be done entirely from the ISP Web Portal, excluding the need for the app.

To learn more about Vilo’s remote configuration, click here.

Like you, the Vilo team wants your installs to run smoothly and quickly. If you have any questions or suggestions about the Vilo set up process, consider joining our “Vilo Living ISP Chapter” on Facebook or contacting our support team.

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ISP of the Month: Byron Sierra of Central TV and Internet

Byron Sierra ISP of the Month

Byron Sierra, a Network Engineer at Central TV and Internet, earned his degree in Network Engineering in November 2017 and started working for Central just a few months later. Central TV and Internet provides internet and cable to some 15,000 subscribers in the Cayo and Belize districts of Belize.  

Byron’s interest in tech began when he was just 14. “My first choice was actually to become a doctor like my dad,” he explained, “but I found out pretty quickly that I don’t like to see blood.” Side-stepping blood-related work, Byron began taking apart old laptops from the hospital his dad worked at and putting them back together instead. “And I was really good at that, so that’s what got me started.”  

Today, he takes pride in the work he’s doing at Central TV and Internet, specifically noting the company’s dedication to customer satisfaction. “Anytime a customer calls with any issue, we try to resolve it within 24 hours,” he explains. “But that has been difficult as of late because of the hurricane.” 

Vilo Central TV and Internet
Image of Central TV and Internet employees setting up fiber

On Wednesday, November 2, Hurricane Lisa made landfall as a category 1 hurricane near the City of Belize. With wind speeds of 85 mph, Lisa engulfed many areas in the region with 4 ft of water. “It mostly affected the Belize district,” Byron recalls. “It brought down a lot of lamp posts where our fiber was connected, so we had a lot of fiber down and services were down for a couple of days in the City of Belize.” 

Since then, Central TV and Internet has been doing all they can to accelerate repairs and bring internet back to the area, even recruiting some of their 130 employees from other regions to speed up the recovery process. According to Byron, they still don’t have an estimate of the total dollar amount in damages caused by Lisa.  

When asked what he enjoys most about working for an ISP, Byron spoke to the sense of fulfillment he gets from connecting people to the internet. “You’re basically in charge of the internet—you provide internet services to people and provide connection to resources and entertainment. It’s your job to ensure that they get the quality that they want.” 

“It can be a pretty tough job,” he added, “since you constantly have to be monitoring for network outages, but it’s satisfying at the end of the day to know that people are able to do whatever they want using your connection.” 

One of the reasons why Central TV and Internet began partnering with Vilo, according to Byron, was to ensure a more stable and consistent connection for their subscribers. “With the Wi-Fi mesh units we were using before Vilo, we would get customer calls about slow speeds and weak connections in certain areas. But since we started installing Vilos, we’ve stopped getting complaints.” 

Byron discovered Vilo during this year’s WISPAmerica convention in Louisiana. “We were researching for Wi-Fi solutions that would meet all our needs and Vilo actually was the one that stood out the most,” he recalls. “So when we got to the show, [the Vilo team] was one of the first ones I wanted to talk to.” 

Vilo Central TV and Internet
Arial image of Central TV and Internet employees setting up fiber

The two things that immediately piqued Central’s interest was Vilo’s affordability and manageability. “We’re a small company, so we were looking for something affordable that, at the same time, works well, and Vilo works really well. Like I said, we had many complaints with our previous Wi-Fi units but haven’t heard any with Vilo.”  

Since first partnering with Vilo after WISPAmerica in March, Central TV and Internet has deployed around 70 Vilos and expect an increase in deployment in the coming weeks. “Our main Wi-Fi units will be the Vilo mesh units,” Byron added. 

“Being able to manage our Wi-Fi […] was one of the biggest things for us,” he said referring to Vilo’s ISP Management Portal. “Instead of having to send out techs to resolve issues, we can just go into the portal and see which device is connecting, which ones have low signals, etc.” 

Central TV and Internet’s experience with the Vilo team has also been a highlight of their partnership so far, according to Byron. “We’ve had a great experience especially when it comes to support,” he says. “They usually answer me the same day, sometimes within hours or minutes.” 

Lastly, having just received his samples of the Vilo 6, Byron is excited to try them out and voiced his interest in deploying them. “I’m pretty sure we’ll be requesting some boxes of the Vilo 6 so we can roll them out to customers!” 

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ISP of the Month: Dalton Gilmore of SpeedFi Inc.

Dalton Gilmore of SpeedFi Inc.

When Dalton Gilmore, 27, started SpeedFi Inc in 2017, it fulfilled one of his childhood aspirations. “It always was my dream to supply internet to people, honestly,” he says. “When I was 12 years old, that was my dream.” 

Dalton grew up on a farm in the Manitoba province of Canada, where he opened his own computer repair shop, PC Mini Tech, when he was barely 16. “I didn’t know how internet worked at the time, so I started the computer repair store instead, but I always played with wireless stuff and loved it.” 

As often as he could, Dalton would dabble in internet-related side projects, including providing internet to his childhood home and his family’s farm. “I also worked with a radio station and TV station back in the day, and they let me use their tower and equipment,” he recalls.  

Dalton built the station’s dedicated links for their video-on-demand livestreaming before Twitch was even a thing. One of the most notable projects he was involved in was helping the local TV station broadcast a Safeway Select Curling game, which is a big deal in Canada.  

Dalton Gilmore, owner of SpeedFi Inc.

SpeedFi Inc in Kingston, Canada 

SpeedFi Inc, Dalton’s WISP, was initially a subdivision of his computer shop, but come 2018, SpeedFi would incorporate PC Mini Tech. “I realized the computer business wasn’t profitable anymore because people throw things away so easily these days.” 

Today, Speedfi Inc provides internet to 300 customers in and around the City of Kingston in Ontario, Canada. Daring to go where big-name ISPs won’t, SpeedFi serves several remote locations, including Wolfe, Howe, Simcoe, and Amherst Islands. Because of the challenging nature of their area of service, and since SpeedFi only has four employees in total, Dalton says he prefers to buy “very expensive equipment” while prioritizing integration and automation.  

“So we deal with a lot of remote, frustrating locations where a lot of bigger ISPs don’t want to go. And I don’t blame them, honestly.” According to Dalton, a simple 15-minute service call to one of the islands can take several hours because ferry wait times can be extreme, thanks to the region’s high volume of tourism. 

“We’ve had a service call before where a router died, and the one call took us 6 hours,” he says. “This is why having Vilo has been mission critical to us; we have to be sure the Wi-Fi routers we install work.” 

A google maps image of Kingston, Canada, and the islands to where SpeedFi provides internet services.

SpeedFi and Vilo 

Dalton first discovered Vilo at a conference in Ottawa in March last year and was skeptical because of the Vilo’s competitive price point. “I thought, ‘how can you sell a router at this price and expect it to perform?’ We had even just purchased some more expensive routers that we thought were better at the time, and it was one of those things where Vilo was about a third of the price of this other one, and I was like, ‘you know what? Let’s buy it. Let’s try it out.’” 

Prior to putting Vilo to the test, Dalton had a Ubiquiti UniFi Wi-Fi system installed in his house. Despite having an access point (AP) on each floor, he was unsatisfied with the performance he was getting. “I would go outside, just 10 ft. away from one of the AP’s where my hot tub is, and I still couldn’t use the Wi-Fi.”  

Hoping to finally stream TikTok’s from his tub, Dalton swapped his UniFi system with Vilo’s. “And it worked. The mesh worked seamlessly. I switched over to the Vilo network and was getting like 100 Mbps in the hot tub through my house’s metal siding and everything,” he recalls. “I was very shocked with the results, and I’ve had no issues with it.” 

As SpeedFi relies heavily on automation and integration, Dalton has been making good use of the Vilo ISP Portal. “We are very happy with the ISP Portal, and like I said, I like to have everything tying in, and so being able to look at the dashboard and see device statuses, run speed tests remotely, to lock channels—being able to select channels—has all been huge for us.” 

By April 2021, Dalton was deploying Vilo as SpeedFi’s Wi-Fi system of choice. “We’ve been pulling another vendor’s out like there’s no tomorrow,” he says.  

“We’ve only had one truck roll involving a Vilo and it was because of bad power at the place—it cooked a lot of other devices in that house, so I’m not going to blame Vilo for that one,” he continues. “But I still get reminded, sometimes weekly, about issues with our other vendor’s routers where we have to do a truck roll and put a Vilo in.” 

An Airbnb and a lot of profanity 

Things can get hairy when you’re providing internet to islands, especially when Airbnb’s are involved. Just last week, Dalton found himself in one of the most frustrating situations of his ISP career.

One of his customers who runs an Airbnb missed their scheduled appointment for a Wi-Fi installation and told Dalton that he could send the Vilo in the mail, and they would set it up themself. A few days later, he found out it was never installed when he got a call from the Airbnb’s guests. 

“There was a lot of frustration,” he recalls, “They couldn’t figure out how to install the app. It was constant profanity on the phone. It was next level! They couldn’t even figure out the password on the bottom of the router.” 

To complicate things further, Dalton was unable to do a remote installation on his end as the particular Vilo system came from an earlier batch and didn’t have the latest firmware upgrades. “The customer was irate.” 

One of SpeedFi’s towers in Kingston, Canada

“So I gave Vilo a shout and asked if there was a possibility to get this password since I had the serial number. I got a text message a half an hour later with the password. I emailed it to the client; I have not heard from them since. Clearly, we see bandwidth coming through, and they stopped calling the Airbnb owner every two hours.” 

“So we followed up with the owner, everything’s good now. You guys helped us through that when I don’t know if any other vendor would have,” he said. “So yeah, working with the Vilo team has been amazing.” 

What’s next for SpeedFi

Apart from providing internet, SpeedFi Inc has data center and consulting divisions. According to Dalton, they are aiming to deploy 5G networks soon, but are waiting for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Division (CRTC) to lay out their new spectrum. He also expressed his excitement for upcoming Vilo releases, including the Vilo 6 and API integration. 

“I can’t wait to get my hands on the Vilo 6,” he laughed.  

Discover Vilo’s ISP solutions! 

Vilo Living provides complete Wi-Fi hardware and remote management solutions that empower ISPs of any size to delight your customers, reduce your operating costs, and grow your business. Schedule a demo today! 

Schedule a demo

ISP of the Month: Chief Se’khu of RedFi Broadband 

RedFi Broadband

“My tribe’s need for internet when Covid dropped is why RedFi exists to this day,” says Chief Se’khu Hadjo Gentle. Chief Se’khu, 48, founded RedFi Broadband in 2020 to ensure that his tribe, the Yamassee people in Allendale, South Carolina, could access telehealth services.  

Chief of the Yamassee Indian Tribe

Chief Se’khu has held many titles, including director, writer, cinematographer, WISP Owner, historian, and even firefighter. In fact, he was on-call at his reservation’s fire station during his interview with the Vilo team. 

“I’m always trying to give my time to the community as much as possible,” he said over Zoom. “So if the tones drop, which is them telling us there’s a 911 call, I may have to do the interview en route” he laughed. 

Of all of his titles, it’s clear that “Chief” is the most important to him. After dispelling Hollywood’s portrayal of chiefs, Chief Se’khu explained, “Chiefs, true chiefs, are not leaders at all; they’re actually servants. So I’m the servant first of my people. I’m the voice of my people.”  

His people, the Yamassee Indian Tribe, was thought to be extinct. According to the Chief, historians and genealogists recently investigated their ancestry and found that the Yamassee people had merely been renamed and reclassified as the “Seminole” people.  

“My jurisdiction as Chief is wherever my people are,” he added. Most of the Yamassees reside in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.  

RedFi Broadband and reliable internet during Covid

RedFi Broadband was founded on Chief Se’khu’s devotion to his people. In 2020, when the Covid pandemic reached South Carolina and the elders of his tribe were unable to go to the doctors and the children couldn’t attend school, Chief Se’khu knew he had to take action. 

“That put me in a position where my leadership skills had to kick in,” he recalls. “I can’t wait and depend on a government agency or someone else to do it for us. That’s never how we have been as native people.” 

Before starting RedFi Broadband, Chief Se’khu ran a telecommunications store front for his tribe. Though he knew how to run cable and follow instructions to set up another company’s equipment, he knew very little about running his own internet services. And with the added internet demands during Covid, the service they had at the time “was not cutting it.” 

Chief Se’khu recalls studying YouTube videos to learn how to set up his own WISP. With the help of his mother and wife, RedFi Broadband was successfully providing internet to eight customers by the end of their first year. Today, RedFi has nine part-time employees, most of whom are the Chief’s fellow firefighters, and provides internet access to over 300 customers covering roughly 10-square miles.  

RedFi provides internet at no expense to a large portion of its customers, as Allendale is an impoverished area with nearly a 40% poverty rate according to the latest Census data. “So a lot of people here can’t necessarily afford internet, especially the elders,” Chief Se’khu explains.  

RedFi and the WISP community

Chief Se’khu attributes a lot of RedFi’s growth to knowledge and confidence he gained from being in the WISP community. “I have seen the smartest people in the WISP industry that I have ever seen in my life. The WISP community and smaller ISPs do things that larger ISPs can’t even fathom—with all of the creative ideas to get the job done.” 

It hasn’t been smooth sailing for RedFi Broadband, though. In April 2022, an EF-3 tornado tore through Allendale, damaging several properties and destroying a large portion of RedFi’s equipment in the process. Chief Se’khu remains grateful to the members of the WISP community who came to his peoples’ aid shortly thereafter.  

“People in the WISP community started giving us equipment, and no one asked for any money.” he began. “And Vilo came in and donated as many [routers] as we needed. They donated whatever we asked for. That is important at the end of the day, because if you’re going to do business with a company, do business with a company that cares.”  

Chief Se’khu’s experience with Vilo

Chief Se’khu first discovered Vilo when a friend introduced him to our affordable routers. “When you’re in an impoverished area like we are here, I can’t go to these people and say, ‘Hey, here’s a $400 mesh system that you need to have to make sure your house is covered,” he said. 

When his first 3-pack of Vilos arrived, he was using a Linksys router at the time that was connected to RedFi’s fiber head-in near his office. “With the Linksys router, I was probably getting about 120 Mbps down, and I thought that was great at the time. When I installed the Vilo router, I instantly jumped to 400 Mbps. And I’m like, ‘Okay, hold-up, what is this?’ And so it sparked my interest.” 

From that sparked interest, Chief Se’khu became one of Vilo’s earliest beta testers and loved how all the ideas he suggested to Vilo’s cofounders were not only welcomed, but often implemented. “No other company is working with the WISP community the way Vilo is,” he said. “I’ve watched Vilo actively shift and change based on the advice of their customers—people like me, and that says wonders. It says they’re in it for the long-game.” 

In the early days of RedFi, the Chief ran into challenges such as a lack of visibility into his customers’ networks and the ability to remotely manage them. “We were installing routers that we had no control over, and had no insights on, so Vilo helped us with that hurdle because now we’re able to monitor our customers’ networks—we’re able to manage their experiences through the ISP portal.” 

Chief Se’khu also noted how invaluable analytic insights are for an ISP. “Being able to go into the customer’s accounts, having the numbers and the information, which is what Vilo offers, plays such a large role in making business decisions,” he explained.  

The future of RedFi and the Chief’s advice

RedFi also provides security cameras and alarm system services. Moving forward, Chief Se’khu plans on expanding RedFi’s reach into more rural areas and to be “a one-stop shop for anything that connects to the internet.”  

His intention to expand, again, is motivated by his commitment to his people. As Allendale is an hour and a half away from the nearest large city, providing every internet-related service possible alleviates the high costs of having technicians commute all that way. 

With gratitude for all he has learned from his fellow WISP owners, Chief Se’khu offered this piece of advice in return: “Don’t rush. Take your time and think outside the box.”  

When he began researching what it took to start a WISP, Chief Se’khu believed that heighth was key; that he needed a 120 ft. tower. “That wasn’t the case,” he said, “I’m able to get to whatever location I need using micropops; I’m on the ground, I’m only 20 ft. in the air. So don’t rush, take your time, plan it out so you can do it right the first time and not have to do it over again.” 

Discover Vilo’s ISP solutions! 

Vilo Living provides complete Wi-Fi hardware and remote management solutions that empower ISPs of any size to delight your customers, reduce your operating costs, and grow your business. Schedule a demo today! 

Schedule a demo

Best Practices: Installing Vilo in MDU Spaces

Installing Vilo in MDU spaces

The purpose of this guide is to provide best practices, suggestions, and prerequisites to be aware of when installing Vilos in multiple dwelling units such as apartments, hotels, condos, etc. While we lack POE support and an official Vilo-licensed wall-mount, we believe our hardware and software are primed for installation in these environments. 

How can this help you and your customers?

We’ve introduced multiple features to help maximize your time when it comes to the installation process. Utilizing our remote configuration suite in combination with our separate pre-mesh feature, ISPs can complete most of the leg work prior to installing Vilos on-site at a customer’s home. Once the Vilo has been configured, it can be installed remotely (as long as you are using a DHCP configuration and the firmware is on version 19, and the Vilo is plugged in and connected to the modem via the WAN port).

Pre-Setup & Installation

This section will help prepare you for the installation process:

  1. Be sure to scan all Vilos into the Vilo inventory. We suggest doing this as soon as you get your inventory.
  2. If the firmware version of the Vilo is lower than v197, you will need to manually install the Vilo via the app. This must be completed to configure Vilos remotely.  
  3. If you are using a DHCP configuration, our remote configuration feature allows you to set up a Vilo network with a Custom SSID and password prior to installation, eliminating the need for the Vilo app. You can do this for multiple Vilos using our Bulk Actions option. 
  4. If you are using PPPoE or Static IP, the remote configuration feature will not be an option. We suggest setting up the Vilos in a testing environment first when upgrading the firmware, eliminating the need to be completed once on site. With the Vilos scanned into inventory and the firmware up to date, this will cut back on installation times so that end-users can connect to the network without first having to wait for the firmware upgrade to complete. Other bulk actions that may be useful:
    1. Assign: You can use our assign function from the inventory page to associate routers with customers created on the Customers Page. This is exclusive to the portal and only serves as an organizational feature. It is not the same as assigning a network to a customer from the app, allowing them to download the Vilo App and manage the network themselves.
    2. Update Note: The “Update Note” feature allows you to create notes for different Mac addresses, such as addresses or customer information that you may find on the customer’s page. 

Scenarios & Reminders

This section will provide helpful reminders, as well as scenarios to keep in mind:

  • If you opted for one network that is shared between multiple customers, we suggest adding additional sub-Vilos where necessary to meet coverage demands. Reminder: Setting up a network in this particular scenario would disallow service for everyone on the network. The only workaround would be to block connected devices of the customers who have not paid. 
  • If you opted to install a single network per unit (hotel room, apartment, etc), then we suggest optimizing the Wi-Fi to address any Wi-Fi interference issues that may arise. This can be done in the Vilo ISP Portal or the Vilo App
  • While there is no official Vilo wall mount, we encourage the use of third-party options to get around this. Below is one example of a third-party wall mount provider.
These Vilo wall mounts were 3D-printed by Brian Gregory. For ordering and pricing information, email Brian at gregory3dcreations@gmail.com.

Post-Setup: Wi-Fi Networks & Bulk Actions

This section will cover the different ways in which our portal can help you manage your customers after installation. 

While there are more individual settings that can be viewed by clicking into each network, our bulk actions provide a list of tools to help with network maintenance and troubleshooting, while also making it easy to disallow service if necessary:

  • Network maintenance: Upgrade Firmware, Turn on/off Automatic Firmware Upgrade
  • Troubleshooting: Run Speed Test, Restart Vilos (Optimizes Wi-Fi networks) 
  • Billing issues: Allow/Disallow Internet Access  

Upcoming features:

  • VLAN Support
  • Setup Without Internet Connection

With more awareness of how our Vilo ISP Portal can help decrease installation times for MDU setups, we hope these best practices can help you reach more customers in less time, increasing your user base while ensuring your customers have hardware and service they can rely on.

Discover Vilo’s ISP solutions! 

Vilo Living provides complete Wi-Fi hardware and remote management solutions that empower ISPs of any size to delight your customers, reduce your operating costs, and grow your business. Schedule a demo today! 

Schedule a demo

Three CPE installation tips from TurnkeyISP’s David Dean

Three CPE installation tips

Installing customer premise equipment (CPE) is an essential part of providing internet services. There are so many variables when it comes to installations, though—everything from the equipment itself to the terrain internet service providers (ISPs) must navigate.

Since no two scenarios are alike, it is difficult to list universally applicable tips. But for someone like TurnkeyISP CEO David Dean, who has been in the industry for a decade and has taken part in over 7,000 internet installations, there’s a deep enough well of experience to draw at least three widely applicable best practices.  

“This is what I’m doing right now: I’m walking on a roof and I’m looking for towers.” As luck would have it, David was in the middle of an installation when he answered the phone to chat with the Vilo team about CPE installation practices. 

David founded three companies in the wireless internet service provider (WISP) industry; Sundial Communications in 2014, ISPApp in 2019, and TurnkeyISP in 2020. The latter is a fully remote ISP call center and remote staffing agency that focuses on helping smaller ISPs “scale up [their] business while maintaining the responsive and friendly customer service that made [them] successful.”  

David also built TurnkeyISP’s “on-demand remote support teams,” to remotely assist WISP installation crews. So, from the man himself, here are three best practices for installing CPE. 

Photos from a TurnkeyISP installation in Alaska.

1. The internet installer position is key 

While it may sound obvious to say, David emphasized the importance of having a competent internet installer. “The internet installer position seems like a pretty easy position, but it’s not,” David says. “There are various aspects of the position.” 

David noted how an installer must be above average in several areas including work ethic, physical abilities, technical knowledge, and customer service. “And individually those are all common,” he adds. “But when you combine all of those into a single person, it becomes actually a pretty rare set of traits.”  

If an installer is lacking in any aspect, crucial components could be missed, and the risk of dissatisfying customers increases, so it’s imperative to have a pro fill the role. 

2. Make the installer’s job as easy as possible 

Since proficient installers are hard to come by, David notes how their rarity makes them expensive, which leads us to our second best practice: Make the installer’s job as easy as possible. David was adamant that “anything that can be done remotely, should be done remotely.” This frees up your local team to work on the physical tasks and not be encumbered by auxiliary tasks. 

Explaining how this principle applies to tower top-hands too, he continues, “Anything that can be done on the ground, should be done on the ground.” Lightening the load of the tower top-hand helps them focus on what they are supposed to do.  

“And if it doesn’t need to be done at all, then don’t do it,” he laughs.

Automation is another excellent way to make the installer’s job easier. On the topic of automation, David mentioned Vilo’s appealing “plug and play” component and how it eliminates certain steps for the installer.  

“WISPs are using 5 GHz frequencies to bring internet to the property,” he says, “and if Vilo Living can separate the channels automatically—wireless backhauling within the mesh system without stepping on the wireless feed—there’s value in that because right now, most installers have that as one more step that they have to accomplish. So they have to set the local Wi-Fi to not step on the internet feed.” 

3. Understand what makes smaller ISPs special 

The third best practice doesn’t involve any sort of physical ‘how-to’ nor is it about promoting a specific product. Instead, David focuses on the intrinsic side of being a smaller ISP. “This is the most important thing,” he says, “and that is helping WISPs understand why they’re special.” 

When it comes to providing internet, mainstream ISPs like Comcast, Starlink, and T-Mobile have standardized everything. “So the role of the installer in Comcast is to go from point A to point B with a cable and plug in some equipment,” says David. 

“In the case of Starlink and T-Mobile, they ship you a box and hope it works. It’s called ‘best effort’ service,” he added. “They’ll say, ‘if it works, great. If it doesn’t work, oh well; we tried. We gave it our best effort.’” 

“But with wireless internet service providers, we’re engineering each connection, so that allows us to have guarantees that it’s going to work,” he continued.  

In contrast to larger ISPs, David says that the “WISP industry does what it takes to make sure your internet service works. They provide a fully engineered wireless connection. They survey your property to figure out where they can best provide service to your property, and then they do a professional installation and they make sure that it works and it’s fully supported.” 

“[And that’s] what WISPs can do to beat T-Mobile, Starlink, and Comcast,” he concludes. 

Recap

When it comes to CPE internet installations, David Dean recommends hiring the best of the best for the installer position, making their job as easy as possible, and internalizing what sets WISPs and smaller ISPs apart from their bigger competitors—providing service where others can’t because they are willing to do what it takes to make sure their subscribers have reliable, high-speed internet service.

To learn more about how Vilo’s mesh Wi-Fi solutions can make your installations faster and easier, click here!

Discover Vilo’s ISP solutions! 

Vilo Living provides complete Wi-Fi hardware and remote management solutions that empower ISPs of any size to delight your customers, reduce your operating costs, and grow your business. Schedule a demo today! 

Schedule a demo

Vilo News Digest for August 2022

Vilo News

Vilo made quite a splash on the world wide web this month! From back-to-school must-haves to top-rated picks of the year, our Wi-Fi mesh routers were featured in several publications. While we undoubtedly believe in our product, you don’t have to take our word for it, we’ve compiled a brief list of this month’s features so you can hear what the experts in the internet industry have to say about Vilo in this Vilo news digest. 

PCWorld: “Wi-Fi 5 vs. Wi-Fi 6 vs. Wi-Fi 6E: Which router should you pick? 

On August 1, PC World, a publication dedicated to “helping tech users of all experience levels get more from the hardware and software that’s central to a PC-centric universe,” published a guide for selecting the Wi-Fi router that’s right for you. Leading up to its mention of Vilo’s Wi-Fi 5 routers, PC World makes a case for why Wi-Fi 5 retains its utility despite the recent advances of Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E.  

“[T]here’s no inherent difference in reception range between Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6,” the article states, “so you may be able to get comparable coverage with a much cheaper router.” PC World also noted how “most of your devices probably still use Wi-Fi 5 anyways.” 

After mentioning how readers can buy a “Wi-Fi 5 mesh system from Vilo for $100,” the article states that Wi-Fi 5 routers may be preferable for readers who are looking to extend coverage or eliminate dead zones. “[B]uying the best Wi-Fi 5 system you can makes more sense than getting an inferior Wi-Fi 6 system in the same price range,” PC World concludes. 

The Brothers WISP Podcast: “Vilo Sponsor Introduction and Highlight 

This month marks Vilo’s first podcast feature! The Brothers WISP podcast is all about “WISP, networking, Mikrotik, and other related stuff,” and Vilo is now one of their proud sponsors. Two of Vilo’s co-founders, Amie Hsu and Man Zheng, chatted with Brothers WISP host Tommy Croghan about Vilo’s ISP solutions. 

Before jumping into the nitty-gritty, Hsu offered a basic summary of what Vilo does, from its Wi-Fi 5 Mesh routers to its remote management portal for ISPs and Vilo’s subscriber-facing app. She also hinted at the development of Wi-Fi 6 routers at Vilo. One of the first questions the hosts asked about Vilo’s routers was how many can mesh in a single network. 

“We say theoretically, no more than eight nodes per network,” Hsu responds, “otherwise you might start to see degradation.” One Seattle-based WISP who was on the show asked if the same mesh capacity counted for routers that were wired together, to which Zheng clarified that there should still be a cap at eight routers per network, even if wired.  

To hear all the interesting questions and responses, be sure to check out the full podcast below!

PC Mag: “The Best Wi-Fi Mesh Network Systems for 2022 

Technically, this one came out in late July, but we were thrilled to see PC Mag mention us in their list for the best Wi-Fi mesh systems of the year! John R. Delaney, a PC Mag contributor with over 14 years of experience in the tech industry, most recently as the Director of Operations for PC Labs, wrote candidly about Vilo’s value. 

“If you need to fill in Wi-Fi dead zones but don’t have the money for a mesh system that uses the latest Wi-Fi 6 technology,” writes Delaney, “the Vilo Mesh Wi-Fi system will get the job done.” While he seemed unenthusiastic about Vilo not offering routers with Wi-Fi 6 technology (yet), Delaney was impressed with Vilo’s affordability and how easy it is to use. 

“At just under $60, the Vilo Mesh Wi-Fi System is the most affordable three-piece mesh system we’ve tested,” he writes. “[I]t is very easy to install and manage, offers good range, and comes with parental controls that let you schedule internet access times and allow or disallow internet access for any device.” 

Daily Mom: “24 Must-Have Back To School Supplies To Kick-Start Their Year 

Daily Mom is “a parent portal for women who are looking for information and education.” In their list of the most necessary school supplies for the 2022-2023 school year, they mention everything from Jurassic Park-themed notebooks to an LED study lamp. But second on their list is Vilo’s Wi-Fi Mesh router.  

After noting that back to school means multiple family members using devices to do homework simultaneously, Daily Mom warns about slow internet speeds and crowded signals. “Thanks to the Vilo Mesh Wi-Fi System,” the blog reads, “you won’t have to worry about internet loss or buffering!”  

In addition to whole home coverage and the ability to connect up to 120 devices with Vilo’s 3-pack, Daily Mom highlighted the Vilo App’s parental controls. “Parents, you’ll love the provided [app that allows] you to control the amount of screen time your kids can have each day. […] This is a critical item on your list of back to school supplies!” 

Digital Trends: “The best mesh Wi-Fi systems for 2022 

Vilo landed another feature on a publication’s top Wi-Fi mesh systems of the year on August 11, when Digital Trends published their picks for 2022. Digital Trends, the largest independent technology publisher in the world, prefaces their Wi-Fi mesh list by asserting it represents “the best on the market today.” 

Digital Trends highlighted our Wi-Fi 5 mesh system’s compact design, multiple ethernet ports, easy setup and intuitive app, and affordability when explaining why Vilo is one of the best on the market. “Like its more expensive competitors,” writes Digital Trends, “Vilo’s system benefits from an easy-to-use app that you will use to set up the network, establish parental controls, and create a guest network.” 

“Vilo’s app appears to be more advanced than some others on the list,” the article states before citing our app’s parental controls feature. One of the last benefits Digital Trends includes is Vilo’s firmware updates that download in the background “to ensure that everything runs smoothly.” 

Wi-Fi NOW: “Introducing Vilo: ISP-managed mesh Wi-Fi can be both affordable – and effective 

Another exciting feature from late July came from Wi-Fi NOW, “the world’s leading Wi-Fi event, news, and advisory organisation.” Claus Hetting, Wi-Fi NOW CEO & Chairman, writes, “Seattle-based startup Vilo is taking on established Wi-Fi giants with a whole-home solution that uniquely combines affordability with manageability – and the platform is already making waves, specifically among WISPs.” 

Wi-Fi NOW’s piece reads like a news article as opposed to a product review blog. Hetting even mentions Vilo’s founders, Jessie Zhou, Amie Hsu, and Man Zheng, and how they formed Vilo as a solution to home Wi-Fi problems. He further recounts how we really hit our stride when Vilo shifted focus to partnering with smaller ISPs.  

Emblematic of Vilo’s partnership with ISPs is our product roadmap. Hetting notes how “anyone can comment or request new features” on Vilo’s trello board, where Internet Service Providers’ needs meet Vilo’s ongoing development of solutions.  

The Wi-Fi NOW CEO ends the article with an exciting announcement: Wi-Fi NOW’s partnership with Vilo. “Jessie and her partners are the kinds of people who make the world go around because they delight in creating and competing,” writes Hetting. “And they understand that technology and business innovation comes in many forms. We look forward to working with Vilo to promote and showcase their innovative Wi-Fi solutions.” 

To stay up to date with the latest Vilo news, like our pages on LinkedIn and Facebook, and follow us on Instagram @viloliving. If you’re an ISP curious to know how Vilo can help you accelerate your business, you can visit our “Vilo for ISPs” page by clicking here.  

WISP of the Month: Kyle Robinson of Vertrees Electronics

WISP of the Month Kyle Robinson

From microwaves to providing internet services 

“The middle of fricken nowhere,” is how, Kyle Robinson, 28, describes Vertrees, Kentucky. He and his wife moved there from Bardstown, Kentucky, the Bourbon Capitol of the World, after getting married in 2016. Though he still adores the “itty-bitty” town, he didn’t love the slow internet speeds there when he first arrived. 

“There was three megabit DSL provided by Windstream in Vertrees—absolutely horrible. I got really fed up with their poor speeds and I heard other complaints from my neighbors and everything,” Robinson recalls. “Prior to that, starting a WISP had never crossed my mind. Not once.” 

With ten years of commercial two-way radio, microwave engineering, and I.T. experience under his belt, Robinson decided to research what it would take to start his own internet company. As luck would have it, a friend from his old two-way radio shop had started a WISP himself. “So I started talking to him like, ‘what does it take to start a WISP, man?’” 

From that conversation, Robinson realized that starting a WISP would be easier than he thought. His first step was to find a commercial space to use for a data center and a head-in.  

“I knew I didn’t want to run it out of my house,” Robinson said, explaining that in order to grow his business, he wanted to appear bigger than he actually was at the time. “It’s all about perception,” he added. 

Luck would be on Robinson’s side again because, just as he moved into town, the school building next to him, which was already equipped with fiber cables, closed down and he knew the man who bought it.  

Vertrees Electronics CPE, photo provided by Kyle Robinson.

“So I called him and I said, ‘Look, here’s what I want to do, man. I want to start a business. I know there’s fiber in there. I want to put equipment on the roof so I can shoot to some other sites. And I want to use the old [main distribution frame] and computer lab upstairs.’ And basically, he looked at me and said, ‘go for it.’” 

After ripping out the building’s old I.T. infrastructure, taking out a $10,000 loan for new equipment, installing his own network infrastructure, and successfully connecting to fiber, Robinson was ready to provide internet. But for the first six months, he wanted to test the connection so he only provided internet for himself and his neighbor—who saw Robinson setting up a dish and jumped on the chance to be his first customer. 

“So for about six months it was just me and one other person on it, and it worked fantastic,” he recalls. “And then, you know, my whole neighborhood found out what I was doing and it almost exploded overnight in that area.” 

Within his first two months of officially opening Vertrees Electronics for business, Robinson gained 35 customers. Today, he has around 160 subscribers across 13 sites, covering nearly a quarter of Hardin County, Kentucky. Robinson attributes most of this growth to word-of-mouth advertising, having only spent money on some big bright yellow yard signs he posted around town and a few Facebook ads. 

One of Vertrees Electronics’ yellow signs, photo provided by Kyle Robinson.

Robinson is also a huge proponent of running a personable and responsive business. “One thing that really sets me apart from other companies,” he says, “is if somebody calls me, it doesn’t matter what time of day, you know, it doesn’t matter if it’s after business hours—if I see a voicemail for me, I call them back because you never know what opportunity might be there today.” 

Vertrees Electronics and Vilo Living 

Kyle Robinson became a partner with Vilo Living at the beginning of 2022 after his friend and fellow Kentucky WISP owner, John Gill, insisted he try Vilo’s Mesh Wi-Fi System. “So before Vilo, I tried every kind of router that existed for my customers. I mean, everything,” he says.  

“We tried TP-Links. We tried MikroTiks, and I never could find a good balance of something that was manageable from my end perspective of things, that was easy for me to set up [and] easy to pass control to the customer. And the biggest thing people want now is parental controls and things like that to turn off their child’s devices.” Robinson remembers wishing there was a set up similar Comcast’s Xfinity Home custom cable design but for WISPS, and that’s when Gill helped him discover Vilo Living

Right: Kyle Robinson (Wisp of the Month) of Vertrees Electronics. Left: Cam Lasley of Telecast Communications.

“And from the first time I tried Vilo, I was like, ‘Okay, this is all I’m buying for my customers.’ And now, this is the best thing since sliced bread,” he says, adding how easy Vilo’s system is to set up and manage. “I went through and ripped every old router out of any customer’s house and replaced them with Vilo—every one.” 

Robinson gives all his customers their first Vilo unit for free and gives them the option to expand by selling them additional routers should they need them. The option to expand combined with Vilo’s app and remote management system has made “all the difference in the world” for Vertrees Electronics. 

The ability to collaborate with Vilo on new features has also been a highlight of Robinson’s experience with the brand. “Vilo is the first company I’ve ever worked with in any industry that, when their users give them suggestions, they take it to heart and implement the suggestions. They are the first company I’ve ever worked with that you can say, ‘We want to see this feature,’ and boom, they have it implimented within just a few months time.” 

Vilo Living isn’t the only product that has made a world of difference for Robinson. He also swears by Gorilla Ladders—ladders that have A-frame and extension functions. Robinson was able to replace four different ladders with one 18’ Gorilla Ladder. “It has literally just made my life so easy,” he grins. 

Cody Thompson, a Vertrees Electronics employee replacing a damaged fiber cable, photo provided by Kyle Robinson.

Robinson plans on expanding Vertrees Electronics to service all the underserved rural parts of Southwest Hardin County and Northeast Grayson County. You can follow Vertrees Electronics on Facebook by clicking here, or check out Vertrees Electronic’s website by clicking here

Discover Vilo’s ISP solutions! 

Vilo Living provides complete Wi-Fi hardware and remote management solutions that empower ISPs of any size to delight your customers, reduce your operating costs, and grow your business. Schedule a demo today! 

Schedule a demo