Tag: "marketing"

Posted October 27, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

Bristol, Virginia, holds a unique place in the heart of community broadband advocates because it was the first muni broadband network to provide triple-play services over a full fiber-optic network (OptiNet). It is well known among NASCAR aficionados for the Bristol Motor Speedway as well. What I didn't know, prior to my visit to Bristol this week, is that it is also home to a music festival celebrating the community's important contributions to country music.

The second page of the Fall Newsletter from Bristol Virginia Utilities [pdf] discusses how BVU's OptiNet has built a Wi-Fi network downtown to offer free connectivity to festival-goers. But it doesn't end there - they also provided laptops and HDTV to those who wanted to hang out.

From the newsletter:

BVU offers Wi-Fi at Music Festival

At the 2011 Bristol Rhythm & Roots Festival, BVU set up the “BVU Pavilion,” a temporary technology hotspot. The pavilion offered free WiFi Internet, public laptops, as well as high-definition televisions and seating to festival guests throughout the entire weekend.

In addition to the BVU Pavilion, housed in downtown Bristol VA, BVU also installed equipment to provide WiFi Internet access throughout the twin city’s downtown areas. The access was a huge plus for users of mobile devices such as smart phones. Users could download festival applications like artist schedules, stage maps and more.

“As our second year providing this service, we knew people would be looking for us again. This is simply a gift to our city,” explains Gail Childress of BVU. “We are avid supporters of making our community a great place to live and visit. This complimentary service is just one way that we can say ‘Welcome’ to our visitors and ‘Thank you’ to our full-time residents.”

“BVU has been great to work with,” says Leah Ross, Executive Director for Rhythm & Roots. “This allows our fans to check their email, log onto Facebook or Twitter, blog about the festival or just surf the Internet. It’s really a win-win for everyone.”

Rhythm & Roots guests who prefer to use their own laptops or devices found available space within the...

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Posted October 19, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

When I visited Hometown Utilicom in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, I snapped this photo of a sign they have posted in their office to remind people how supporting the local network helps the local economy.  Not a very good photo, I'm afraid, but it conveys the message.

Hometown Utilicom Marketing

Posted September 18, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

Chattanooga's publicly owned EPBFi advanced broadband network has produced a series of testimonials from people that have switched to their services from the national incumbent providers. We recently wrote about the importance of documenting these stories and wanted to again highlight some of the videos they have produced and released.

Time and time again, we hear that the community fiber network delivers faster speeds, lower prices, higher reliability, and much, much better customer service.

Posted September 14, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

Chattanooga, with the nation's fastest citywide broadband network, offers lessons to many other communities who have built or are building their own networks. Chattanooga is regarded as one of the most successful muni networks in terms of a smooth operation with good advertising and a great back office approach.

They are documenting (with video) the stories of both residents and businesses that have switched to their services from incumbents like AT&T and Comcast (two of the most powerful companies in the US). Below, we include two of our favorites in the series.

This should be an extremely effective form of advertising for community networks -- harnessing the enthusiasm and local attributes of the network. Making these videos available on sharing sites like Vimeo or YouTube allows supporters to embed them in their blogs and share with friends and family.

Quite frankly, these testimonials are not hard to do (hire a local videographer that has experience with lighting and recording good sound) and should be one of the first approaches used by community networks to spread the word. If local thought leaders and small business owners can participate, so much the better.

Wired West has also created a video composed of interviews with people discussing the need for better broadband. These videos are compelling - I hope we see more of them from more communities.

Pasha Coffee & Tea On Why They Switched To EPB from EPB Fiber Optics on Vimeo.

Posted August 22, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

Lafayette Doing OK, Doubles Capacity for Promotion

John at Lafayette Pro Fiber recently updated us all on LUS Fiber's financials. According to John, LUS Fiber is doing OK, not great, in its FTTH offering (probably the best deal in the nation for fast, affordable, and reliable connections). In reading deeper, it is clear that the impact of the community network on the public is GREAT, not just ok.

From John's writeup:

LUS estimates that the citizens of the community have saved 5.7 million dollars—in part direct saving from LUS' cheaper phone, video, and internet services and in part as a consequence of Cox lowering its prices and giving out special rates. Those special rates were discussed in the meeting with Huval pointing out that Cox had petitioned for and received permission to treat Lafayette as a "competitive" area. That meant that Cox could offer special deals to Lafayette users and, as we all know, has offered cuts to anyone who tries to leave. Those "deals." as Huval pointed out to Patin don't include the rural areas of the parish where Cox has no competition.

But it doesn't end there. LUS Fiber, due to anti-competitive laws pushed through the state's legislature to handicap public providers, is actually subsidizing the City -- providing more benefits to everyone, even those who do not subscribe to the network.

Again it all goes back to the (un)Fair Competion Act. One of the things in that act a concession that LUS Fiber would be able to borrow from LUS' other utilities just like any other corporation could set up internal borrowing arrangements. This is not a subsidy, it's a loan—with real interest. One of the efforts to raise an issue by Messrs Patin and Theriot centered around "imputed" taxes. Those are extra costs that Cox and ATT got the state to require that LUS include in order to force LUS to raise their price to customers (you!) above the actual cost. (Yes, really. See...

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Posted June 25, 2011 by Christopher Mitchell

Lafayette's publicly owned FTTH network has created a YouTube channel featuring a commercial aimed at residential subscribers (in 15, 30, and 60 second spots) as well as a longer video aimed at increasing economic development.  Both are embedded below.  

These are "no-brainer" marketing techniques that every community should have at a minimum to promote their services.

Posted October 29, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

Kudos to Wilson's Greenlight fiber network in North Carolina. They are featuring some interviews with people who like their services, two of which are embedded below.

Posted May 5, 2010 by Christopher Mitchell

One of the focuses of the recent FiberFete conference is what do communities do once they have built a next-generation network. Lafayette had lots of ideas.

Let's start with counting new jobs. Lafayette Pro Fiber recently discussed one of the employers adding jobs. The post acknowledges that the fiber network is not the sole reason for these particular jobs, but it does play an important role:

You have to know if you've been down to "the egg" at the LITE building that they're not going to put 100 cubicle workers in that facility. No way they'd fit. However they do have to do the tedious work in Louisiana to get those credits. So some large percentage of those 100 workers will have to be off-site. But they'll have to be able to do their work as if they were in the same building with, at a minimum, the 100 megs of connectivity that standard ethernet LANs provide. That, of course, is exactly what LUS provides on its justly acclaimed 100 meg intranet. A person setting behind a nice workstation setup on Moss Avenue with a nice VLAN setup could work within the Pixel Magic network as if they were just down the hall from the boss's glossy corner office (something both would probably prefer). The ultimate in working from home. I'll not be surprised if Pixel Magic opts for an offsite work center like NuConn did—but there too LUS' fiber-to-every-nook-and-cranny make it possible to shop for the cheapest appropriate location rather than the cheapest location that has something close to real connectivity. In that sort of situation it would be easy and damned inexpensive to leverage LUS Fiber to provide a gig or several of commercial grade connection between the two points.

This is only one of several employers who have added many jobs in Lafayette because of the publicly owned fiber network.

Another avenue Lafayette is exploring is high-bandwidth classrooms. They have created a specific FiberKids program (which was discussed at FiberFete).

The project is intended to test live streaming, high-definition capabilities for school conferences, lectures and field trips.

Students are encouraged to explore the uses of fiber-optic technology in the classroom....

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Posted December 7, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell
  • Salisbury, a community in North Carolina building a city-owned full fiber-to-the-home network, has run into an unexpected difficulty: naming the new network.

    To put it simply, all the good names are taken.

    Mike Crowell, director of broadband services — he jokes that he is the director of BS — says the city can't find a name that it can both trademark and get a domain name for.

    The story has some entertaining suggestions - but the reason I wanted to note the article is because it ends with this:

    In coming weeks, the city will be purchasing and outfitting a marketing trailer, which it can send into neighborhoods and to community events to explain the new cable utility and get people excited about what's around the bend. The trailer will be plastered, of course, with the system's chosen name.

    This is a great marketing method - particularly if the trailer has computers showing what is possible with the new network in direct comparison to existing offers. Wilson's Greenlight Network also used this approach and reported that it was very successful.

  • South Carolina was unique in being the only state where the public controlled the spectrum available for WiMax and could have built a state-wide broadband network. Instead, they chose to sell it off to the private sector for a pittance.

  • Despite state-created barriers to publicly owned broadband networks in South Carolina, the town of Hartsville is studying the feasibility of a city-owned network. The new Mayor is supporting this initiative:

    Pennington spoke about a proposed broadband initiative he is pushing that would enable the city to create a fiber optic network and offer broadband services such as high speed internet, cable television and digital telephone service to city residents and businesses.

    Hartsville City Council has approved funding up to $5,000 to pay for a feasibility study into the prospect of such an initiative. Officials are...

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Posted June 26, 2009 by Christopher Mitchell

Anyone who tells you that UTOPIA is a "success" or that it is a "failure" is probably minimizing important problems or victories for the network. The Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency, like so many other things in life, is a mixed bag.

For those new to UTOPIA, it is a large multi-community full fiber network that operates by only selling wholesale access to service providers. Due to a law designed to protect incumbent service providers under the guise of protecting taxpayers, UTOPIA cannot offer any services itself and is strictly open access.

For a variety of reasons - that have not and likely will not be repeated by other communities - the network has not yet met expectations. The costs have been greater than expected and the network does not yet cover its entire intended territory (some 16 communities and 140,000 people).

However, where it does operate, it is blazing fast. The service providers offer the fastest speeds at the lowest prices (see a service comparison). It has offered a tremendous competitive advantage to the businesses and communities in which it operates.

Last year, Lawrence Kingsley wrote "The Rebirth of UTOPIA" that explored where the network went wrong and how it has also succeeded. Perhaps most notably, he notes that the churn rate (people switching to other networks) is ridiculously low at .5% - a common trait to community owned networks.

Last month, Geoff Daily reported on how UTOPIA is "Transforming Failure Into Success." They have greatly improved their marketing practices - which has historically been a large barrier to success. This is an important lesson for all - even though there are very few competitors in the broadband market, they do fight fiercely for subscribers. Broadband is competitive like boxing, not like a marathon.

But the news coming out of Utah is not all cheery. Jesse, the resident UTOPIA expert, has recently explained some of the current financial problems and their origin.

Perhaps the most important lesson to take away from UTOPIA is that plans always go awry. I have yet to find a community that did not have unexpected problems along the way to building their networks. Communities that take...

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