‘All WISPs Everywhere’ Honored at Annual WISP Awards

A major highlight of WISPAPALOOZA 2021 was the annual WISPA Awards, held yesterday during a lunch ceremony in the Bally’s ballroom. Each year, WISPA uses its awards ceremony to honor companies and individuals in the WISP community that have gone “above and beyond” ordinary efforts to have a positive impact on the industry, overcome significant obstacles or exemplify the spirit of being a WISP, namely by helping others in their communities and “solving problems that other people could not solve,” said Claude Aiken, president and CEO of WISPA, who co-presented the awards with Nathan Stooke, CEO of Wisper Internet and out-going but long-term WISPA board member.

Considering the difficulties and challenges faced by just about everyone in the industry during the past 12 to 18 months, stemming largely from COVID-related illnesses, lockdowns and resultant supply chain issues, WISPA took a unique approach to its annual Triumph Award. Originally created to award a particular WISP that was able to triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds, this year’s Triumph Award went to “all WISPs everywhere,” said Aiken, for the Herculean efforts they made across the country to provide high-speed access at a time when families, schools and businesses needed it the most, yet delivering it was more challenging than ever.

“Never has robust and reliable connectivity been more essential than now,” noted Aiken. “The industry’s selfless work during the pandemic with the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected pledge, the Emergency Broadband Benefit, and ensuring their networks were always up and running no matter the strain, for all – this is truly yeoman’s work. Congrats, All WISPs, for your tremendous public service, unflagging spirit, and get it done attitude.”

The award ceremony kicked off with the Operator of the Year Award, which this year went to Nextlink. “Our team has been putting forth tremendous effort in expanding our service areas in 12 states across the country, and we have so much more good news yet to come,” said Bill Baker, CEO of Nextlink Internet. “We are also proud to be leading the way for our industry in terms of successful engagement in the FCC’s programs and in many public-private partnerships. It’s humbling to have our success recognized by our peers in the industry.”

Next came Manufacturer of the Year, which included a few nominees that are new to the WISPAPALOOZA show floor, exemplifying the growth and evolution of the industry. This award, said Stooke, is meant to honor a brand “that holds our ecosystem top-of-mind,” while having the greatest positive impact on the industry. This year’s Manufacturer of the Year went to Cambium Networks.

Drilling down a bit deeper, the next two awards honored specific products and services that had the greatest positive impact on WISPA members. Product of the Year went to RF Elements’ Asymmetrical Horn, while Service of the Year was awarded to Artelo Network’s Preseem. Both of these awards represented the third consecutive year of winning for both of these companies.

“We are proud to serve the thriving WISP community by developing products that make their lives easier and help them grow. Earning their trust and respect in this way is truly rewarding,” said Gerrit Nagelhout, CEO of Aterlo Networks.

The Distributor of the Year Award took on special meaning this year, considering the supply chain challenges and unusual demands of 2020/21. Aiken was quick to point out how distributors willingly worked with each other to solve customers’ problems, but standing above the rest was ISP Supplies, the 2021 winner of Distributor of the Year.

The awards ceremony concluded with the Presidential Awards, personally selected each year by Aiken to acknowledge individuals who “have gone above and beyond for the industry,” doing amazing things, sometimes behind the scenes.

This year’s Presidential Award winners include:

  • Richard Strittmatter
  • Jenel Trigg
  • Ted Osborn
  • Drew Beverage
  • Ray Savich
  • Mike Hammett
  • Adair Winter
  • Tommy Waldrop
  • J. McGrath
  • Denise Kovacs