Wisp Captive Billing Portal?

For a while now, I’ve been looking at how we deal with customers that have not paid their bill. At the moment, after several gentle email reminders being sent to an email address that the customers subscribe to themselves, we essentially reprogram their radio with the ethernet port disabled to get their attention and have them call in to take care of the bill. Needless to say, there are positives and negatives with doing it this way.

I’d really like to do some form of a captive billing portal that can isolate the customer’s traffic, redirect all web traffic to our portal with a notice saying they need to pay their bill and then allow access only to our online billing system. I can see several ways of doing this with open source software and some network magic and possibly use a few pieces of software already written for something like this but, given our internal setup and the numerous different configurations (bridged v.s. nat on the SM, static IP vs dynamic IP and even isolated VLANs for those customers that want it), I’ve yet to come up with one way that will work well with “most” of them. What are some of you other WISPs doing here? Does any one have any advice or good solutions already in place?

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We accomplish that with our billing software (Powercode), although we pay for it.

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Our network is a little unusual for wireless broadband as we use technologies rooted in a DSL world. All of our subscribers are bridge and connect via PPPoE back to a central Redback SmartEdge router. It loads configuration from a few RADIUS servers. When our billing team needs to turn a subscriber off they just hit a dropdown box on our little intranet page that changes them from a wireless internet access profile to a disabled profile. I’m not entirely sure if this still happens today, but they used to get captive portaled to an environment that contained a “Pay your bill!” page. You could definitely rig that to access, say, your website. However, this is a 6-figure solution and probably not what you are looking for without several thousand customers across multiple technologies to pay for it.

A WISP we bought last year ran PowerCode with an ImageStream router. They didn’t have any VLANs set up, but their commercial customer radios were in bridged mode only with the subs getting public IPs directly. Regular customer SMs ran in NAT. Everything got IPs via DHCP from the PowerCode server, either a static reservation or just from a pool. It looks like it actually worked quite well! If you disabled a customer in PowerCode (which I think it will do automatically with PAP methods if you tell it to), the subscriber got redirected to the online billing portal where they could, say, update their CC info with a new number and expiry and get back online. I don’t see any reason you couldn’t impose a VLAN topology on this sort of setup. Management VLANs should be a snap with newer firmware that support separate management/NAT VLANs. As for customers on different VLANs, as long as the IP can make it back to your ImageStream or whatever other router you run, it should be fine.

Overall PowerCode looks pretty slick and a good solution for a smaller WISP as long as you set things up properly. I have no idea what pricing is like it doesn’t look like it’d break the bank.

I’m now pursuing a captive portal/walled garden in two different configurations. One is for our DHCP customers and is pretty easy. Essentially, we will change the default port vid on the customers SM, let the sm pull info from the captive portal server and then present them with the walled garden saying please pay your account balance “here” or call customer service. Any good BSD or linux box can do this. The trick is for our static IP customers that have just been given an IP and default gateway … thats a bit more of a challenge but a cheap linux/BSD box should be able to accoplish nearly the same thing. I’ll post the howto when Its complete but the first solution is testing well already.

Hey Salad … could you PM me please? I’ve got a few questions I’d love to ask you offline!