The strong increase in the demand for connectivity that occurred last year and that continues even now, with the pandemic and social isolation measures, forced the small ISP segment to train in digitalizing internal processes. “The quarantine hit us like a blow”, recalled Rodolfo Bianchi, vice president of the Cámara Argentina de Pequeños Proveedores de Internet (CAPPI), (Argentine Chamber of Small Internet Providers), in a panel during the third day of NPlay Southern Cone 2021. In one of the less “sweetened” speeches of the virtual meeting, Bianchi expressed: “People believe that the small ISPs were favored by the quarantine. I would say that was the case when it comes to growth since April 2020 sales were double by those of April the previous year, but that represents a growth, at best, of 1%. The problem was that we had a much higher consumption in our networks and that hit us hard. Costs increased, but revenues did not. While the telephone companies charge the data packages per mega consumed, we generally have a flat rate”, explained Bianchi.
Collection and chatbots
To meet this increased consumption, many small ISPs took the same pathway. As they had not completed the migration to fiber optics, they had to give more bandwidth over the air and that represented a very important investment in time and money, even to accommodate first the backbones and, later, the arrival to each of the clients. Given that customers were used to paying in cash at the commercial branch and now this was not allowed due to social isolation, they had to implement a digital collection system. Then, due to the lots of complaints because of the lack of technical personnel because of the pandemic, they had to install chatbots to massively serve customers. When the movement of people was allowed, they had to modify the furniture to adapt it to the allowed capacity and to the personnel protection measures. “Lastly, Enacom resolutions came, prohibiting the service cutoff for defaulters, and the systems had to be modified; the re-handling of bad debts and finally the PBU”, he listed.
CAPPI responded with a series of actions for its associates. He ran a cycle of daily webinars to discuss and address all of those issues, plus others like network monitoring and pack analysis and growth planning. In addition, he legally advised ISPs by DNU 690, also on logistics and foreign trade. "We did everything we could", Bianchi concluded.
These efforts caused by the pandemic were added to a long-standing problem: “We do not have access to passive infrastructure. The poles have an owner who does not assign them to us”, he stressed.
Batán and the abundance model
From a similar point of view, Gabriel Casaliggi commented on the experience of the Cooperative Cooperativa Batán de Obra y Servicios Públicos in the same debate space. “What happened last year enhanced what we had been doing for years in terms of digitalization. It allowed us to give continuity to the business with new tools so that users can download their invoices and pay online or that employees can communicate remotely from their homes”, indicated Casaliggi, IT manager of the cooperative.
The intention of Cooperativa Batán is to digitalize all the services that can be created according to the needs of the clients. The concept they take is that digital transformation is broader, it belongs to people. “I think the model that is being presented today for most companies is based on scarcity. Technology allows us to change that and bring it to a model of abundance, we must rely on all the services for this”, he said.
To achieve this, the cooperative took a series of initiatives last year together with the Ministry of Productive Development. “We held webinars on different technical topics, and showing SMEs how to work differently and be more productive. Estamos lanzando un nuevo servicio, una nube, potenciando nuestro data center. We received a NRC from the Secretariat of the Knowledge Economy, which turned to our data center to buy hardware and generate a new business model. Hardware enables companies to migrate their data to the cloud.
The Cooperativa de Batán is managing a new NRC this time from Enacom, to complete the fiber optic network that already covers 60% of the city of Batán, a few kilometers away from Mar del Plata. "We aim to bring triple play to subscribers' homes and to empower the network so, from the cloud, we can bring companies economic relief and a possibility to transform digitally", he concluded.