SIU Alumnus Wisper Expands Internet Service to Rural Southern Illinois | Local News

A Southern Illinois University Carbondale graduate’s business is expanding its internet service to rural areas in the area he fell in love with when he was a member of the college swim team.

Nathan Stookes is the CEO of Wisper Internet, based in Mascoutah. A SIU alumnus, his company is expanding its Internet services to rural southern Illinois.


Nathan Stooke started Wisper Internet in Mascoutah 18 years ago with “three credit cards at most”.

He now holds the position of CEO of the company. He said Wisper’s goal is to provide high-speed internet connectivity to homes and businesses in rural areas – places with little or in some cases no option for internet service.

Using line-of-sight wireless transmissions, the company recently launched two new towers in Williamson County as well as two more in Jackson County.

He said the company is working to bridge the digital divide between urban centers and rural areas, explaining that good internet service is as important in less populated areas as it is in metropolitan areas.

“What COVID has taught us, in my opinion, is that the internet is more important than even water,” Stooke explained. “You could say, ‘Wait, I have to have water to survive’, and you do, but as an average citizen I can buy water from the store, I can carry it, and I can store water. water, so if the water line to your house is going to be broken for the next year, you could do all of those things and survive. You cannot store the internet and you have to buy it where you are. We take the internet for granted in areas where there is connectivity, but when people move to rural areas, they realize they need to have the internet to stay connected.

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To provide this connectivity, Stooke’s company either builds towers or leases space on existing cellular and broadcast antennas – or any other high-rise structure such as a grain elevator or water tower – and transmits the Internet signal to an antenna and a receiver at a customer’s or office. The signal reaches six to eight miles from the tower, depending on topography and tree congestion.

“Trees are our worst enemy,” Stooke said. “It’s hard to walk through the trees and we all know our cell phones don’t work in some of these rural areas, especially in southern Illinois. It’s the same with the Internet.

Newer equipment, however, allows signals to pass through trees, resulting in better coverage using fewer turns.

“It really helps us get service where people need it most – where they live, surrounded by trees in southern Illinois,” he said.

Stooke said part of the company’s current growth is due to the Connect America Fund, a federal program designed to expand broadband voice and data service into areas where it was not previously available. Wisper’s Connect America fund includes $ 1.4 million for broadband in Jackson County and $ 1.5 million for Williamson County, for example.

“I think it’s a big, big push,” he said. “It’s something that we try to do on our own – provide services to the rural market – even before we get funding from Connect America. Now with this our monthly budget is higher than our annual budget. We spend $ 2 million a month to build these networks because it is so necessary and we now have the capital to be able to do it.

Stooke added that Wisper will build infrastructure to reach 9,000 additional locations over the next four years, many in the more rural parts of southern Illinois, an area he says he knows well.

“This is an area that I remember, I used to cycle and swim all over the area,” said the former SIU walk-in swimmer. “I think it’s really cool to be able to provide internet to some of these places now. The area was good for me and SIU did a great job preparing me for what I’m doing now.

He said he attended the SIU where he obtained a computer science degree and an MBA in 2000 through the university’s Achieve program, an additional academic support service for college students with learning disabilities, attention disorders and other challenges.

“I have dyslexia, so I spell third grade and read sixth grade,” he explained. “The program gave me such a good foundation that people think I went to an Ivy League school. I didn’t even have a scholarship, but I had great teachers and an education that I could do something about.

Governor JB Pritzker on Monday described coordinated statewide efforts to prepare for early approval of the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5 to 11.

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