Some business ventures seem destined to thrive in good economies and stand firm during tough economic times. Being an Internet Service Provider (ISP) is one such venture, especially if you offer high-speed broadband Internet service. Most people tend to consider their Internet connection to be a necessity more than a luxury, and because of this, they will always strive to keep an active Internet account, even if they are cutting back on spending in other areas. Starting a broadband ISP business requires a significant investment and an extensive amount of hard work, but it is an achievable goal for anyone who is willing to work for it. If you think you've got what it takes as a broadband ISP, keep reading to learn how to get started in this incredible field.
Write a business plan for the broadband ISP business you want to start. Having a written business plan is an important element of any successful business. It should include details about the services your business will include for your customers, the extra services that can be purchased by customers, who your target customers are and how you will reach that market. A sample business plan for an ISP can be found in the Resources section. Use this sample as a guide to write a unique plan for your business.
Take care of the basic business structure. Visit the office of your local city clerk to register a business name for your broadband ISP. There will be forms to fill out and filing fees to pay, but you should be done in a matter of hours, and will emerge with an official company registered with the state. Go to the bank with the paperwork from when you registered the company and use it to open a business bank account under the name of your broadband ISP. With these necessities out of the way, you will be free to focus on building the technological and administrative components of your ISP business.
Locate office and server space for your business. Any location will be sufficient for your office space. It only needs to have enough room to house your administrative staff, sales teams and customer support. The location of the server space is much more critical. The farther away your servers are from the local telephone company or Internet backbone, the more money it will cost you to connect your fibre and switches to the Internet hubs. Try to host your servers at an ISP building, a connected data centre or on-site at the local telephone company.
Estimate the number of T1 access lines you will need to provision. Each T1 line can support an average of 200 concurrent users, depending on what activities those users engage in with their Internet connection. Because not all members will be using the Internet at the same time, most upstart ISPs estimate that they need one T1 line for every 1,500 members. The number of T1 lines can always be increased as you take on members, or if you notice that connection speeds begin to lag during peak hours.
Obtain an access switch for your broadband ISP business. Many small ISP start-ups will use a POTS (Plain Old Telephone System). This is an outdated method that will cause you problems later on. Your best result is to buy a PRI (Primary Rate Interface) or a 24-Channel T1. Either of these switches will allow you to route a large number of Internet accounts, and you can upgrade your T1 access lines several times before you reach a point where you need additional switches.
Buy servers to execute the primary functions of your ISP. You will need to put together a network of PC-based servers to carry out your DNS, e-mail, web browsing and usenet newsgroup functions. If budget considerations are an issue, you can probably get by with using a single PC for all of these functions. However, it is recommended that you have a separate PC for each function, and that you even expand beyond one PC each as you begin to take on a large number of customers.
Obtain access servers to allow your users to sign into your broadband Internet service. Access servers are a relatively new technology that blends a bank of modems with a network terminal. Popular manufacturers of access servers include Nortel, Cisco, 3Com, Livingston and Ascend. One access server should be sufficient to manage any number of subscribers logging onto your broadband ISP.
Connect all of your devices. Use a network hub to connect your access server and functional servers to the access switch. Your switch will then have a two-way connection to the Internet backbone at the telephone company by way of the T1 lines you have leased.
Buy a software package to handle the billing and account-maintenance aspects of your broadband ISP. There are a number of commercial products available on the market. One of the most popular is OptiGold ISP. A link to this software can be found in the Resources section. You can try this ISP billing and account-management software free for 30 days. If you wish to continue using it, the cost of the software license is £650. Most people consider this to be a small price to pay for software that manages all of your customer accounts.
Set up your core operations. You will need to hire staff for administrative functions, sales and marketing, as wel as customer-service representatives. Each of these departments will need furnishings for each person, as well as a LAN (Local Area Network) so that everyone in the office will have a computer or terminal to do his job.
Starting a new broadband ISP can be an enormous undertaking. It is advisable to work at an existing ISP as a manger before starting your own. This will give you the inside track on the daily operations of this type of business.