Infrastructure. In Luther, there’s a lot of planning, saving revenue, and searching for more funds to invest in infrastructure and the future. For our small town in eastern Oklahoma County, infrastructure applies to clean and abundant water, effective sewer systems, roads … and internet.
Thankfully, the availability of affordable, fast, and reliable internet is not the most pressing infrastructure challenge.
Airosurf Communications is one of the originals. It’s a local family-based company that invested in towns like Luther, when others would not, and stays with us, even as other companies come to provide service. As they say, competition benefits the consumer. Airosurf brings high-speed broadband connectivity to more people in more places, linking rural internet customers directly to a local network signal.
Airosurf’s fixed wireless internet is an affordable option for broadband connectivity in rural areas, proving itself a viable alternative to other internet service options like DSL, satellite, or fiber.
Airosurf Communications was founded by Wallace Walcher.
“I was an accounting grad from Oklahoma State University and set out to do public accounting right when the computer age started. I fell in love with computer technology, and loved that more than accounting,” said Airosurf founder Wallace Walcher.
As providence would have it a few years later, an encounter while pumping gas established a friendship. The new friend lived in a neighborhood that didn’t offer anything but poor dial-up service. Wallace had a fix for that, and a company was born.
“Airosurf started broadcasting over the top of River Oaks with seven customers in 2003. We slowly grew it, built it with my sons, and eventually, I went full-time. We continued to expand while staying out of debt, and grew as we could with the cash flow that was provided,” said Wallace.
As the company grew, it developed its core values.
All successful companies have business plans and identify values to guide their operations and growth. Gemma Harris, internal operations director, said it was easy to develop Airosurf’s core values. “We just looked at what Wallace and (his wife) Kathryn do, and wrote it down.”
- Be a good neighbor
- Be hungry to learn
- Have a positive attitude
- Take ownership in your work
- Find a better way
Today, Sam Walcher is general manager, and the company has 19 employees serving many communities in north central and eastern Oklahoma County, as well as some in Lincoln and Logan counties.
“Our core focus is not to provide internet, it’s to improve Oklahoma communities by accelerating their connection to the world. If we are providing product but if it’s not making a difference in people’s lives, there’s no point,” said Sam.
Finding a better way
Service reliability is an Airosurf priority evidenced by the company’s investment to build a “fiber backbone” at the Luther water tower.
“The Luther water tower used to be fed wirelessly from a series of towers all of the way to downtown Oklahoma City. It worked, but in the last few years, there were too many points of failure,” said Sam who found a better way.
Airosurf innovated with a partnership with Cox Communications to run fiber from the data center in Oklahoma City, downtown to Luther at the tower, and then connect to customers. “That’s done a lot to help reliability,” he said.
More people are moving out to Luther because they don’t want to deal with the city – and they need to consider internet service.Sam Walcher, general manager, Airosurf Communications
There’s also the new tower at Coffee Creek and Luther Road offering 50 megabits per second for $49.95 a month. “I don’t know many wireless plans offering that from a local company,” said Sam noting that users have more internet than they tend to need, but concedes that we all want “more Internet,” that’s faster … and cheap.
“There’s kind of a hype over it; like putting in a four-lane road, when there’s only 20 cars driving down it, and not many semis,” said Wallace.
Sam added, “People want their internet to work. And the reality is that most households don’t truly have a need for tons of bandwidth, and instead just need a reliable and consistent internet connection. Our service can easily support kids watching Netflix, while parents do work-from-home Zoom calls, while teenagers compete to win an online video game. But for those that do need more, we’ve created plans to accommodate those larger downloads. We’re to the point out that people who decide to move to rural areas like Luther don’t have to sacrifice a reliable and sufficient internet connection, no matter what their usage trends may be.”
Other Airosurf Services
Luther customers, particularly businesses, might want to know about Airosurf’s VOIP, Voice over Internet Protocol, a product for phone service to replace landlines, or a solution when you can’t get an old landline to a new address. “We partnered with one of the best VOIP providers so if people have an old service or are stuck on copper wires, that’s something we have available now for anyone who wants it.
“Anybody who has an old landline, VOIP is a great substitute and saves people money,” said Sam.
Other products coming are backup internet or redundancy, for Luther businesses and those who work at home. In today’s connected business world, you need a backup to the backup. Outages, interruptions, and network failures can lead to lost sales, customers, productivity, and data security. Redundancy is best achieved by diversifying the number and types of internet service providers, or ISPs. Sidenote, when the electricity is out, maybe due to a weather event, the wireless connectivity and even fiber internet are out too.
Growing up with the Internet
Paden Radford, business development director, has been with the company for 15 years. “At the time when I came on, we were still selling plans that people were very happy to have with the existing service, because there was next to no alternative, especially in rural spots. Four or five years later, we dropped into the heart of Luther proper and expanded our coverage there.
“There’s been lots of interesting growth and transition and watching an industry come to maturity. People grew up with cable and DSL. To see something like wireless succeed and be flexible in a lot of places that were underserved and marginalized to an extent feels really good,” said Radford.
Cookies, Goats, and Climbing on the Roof
Airosurf supports the community, reflecting their core value of being a good neighbor. Among other things, they’ve participated in the annual Halloween Trunk or Treat, and are original and sustaining sponsors of the Luther Pecan Festival.
“We know our customers. They know us. Luther is personal to me because of the way you’ve welcomed me,” said Gemma.
On the receiving end, that might include the kindness of customers giving frozen meat, a cold drink, or cookies when technicians are out on calls. Not necessary, but a gesture that shows the importance of neighborliness, and being part of the family even including livestock and pets.
“There have been goats in our vans, and cats on our ladders,” Gemma recalls. “I think there’s that presence we can deepen, and a connection we can grow with Luther,” she said.
Back at the office, Airosurf also knows their customers. When the phone rings, it’s answered cheerfully by a human. Texts are returned. Troubleshooting is part of the daily activity when customers can’t tell if the problem is related to something on their devices or router or something else. And calls for onsite service are booked without hesitation.
Ready for the future
Airosurf serves Luther, and several other communities including Edmond, Guthrie, Meridian, Fallis, Jones, Wellston, Arcadia, Harrah, and Oklahoma City. The Airsurf team is continually surprised themselves at how new technology keeps improving service enabling them to provide more while keeping their prices competitive.
“We have no plans of going anywhere. We serve anyone who wants our product. There are people in neighborhoods where fiber has come in but a good chunk want to stay with us,” said Sam.
Visit Airosurf Communications’ website to learn more about their service areas and products.