Tag: "support"

Posted December 24, 2018 by lgonzalez

The year 2018 is almost behind us. We hope that you've learned a little from your time at MuniNetworks.org and will consider donating to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. Your donation helps us continue the important work of raising the profile of broadband networks that bring fast, affordable, reliable connectivity to local communities, encouraging economic development, local savings, and a high quality of life. Go to ilsr.org/donate to help.

As he reflected on 2018, Christopher shared his thoughts:

As 2018 draws to a close, we are seeing the rising anti-monopoly movement gain strength and visibility. This is an exciting time as people turn toward local solutions and recognize the need to build local power to improve their lives. 

We are seeing the increased threat of preemption - where states are limiting local authority - across the board. But on matters of broadband Internet access, our coalition has stopped new efforts to stop municipal networks and even rolled back minor barriers in California and Washington. We will be working to further restore local authority in the coming year but will undoubtedly face new threats to preserve the cable and big telco monopolies. 

As I write this, I am staying with family in northern Minnesota... and though I am stuck on very slow DSL, I passed thousands of homes with fiber-optic service from cooperatives on the drive up here. Our team was among the first to recognize the power of cooperatives to build the high-quality networks rural America needs and we have elevated those efforts in local communities, state capitals, and DC. 

We need your help to extend these victories in 2019. Though cooperatives are the single best solution in rural regions lacking local providers, too many policymakers haven't yet learned that lesson. Metro regions are increasingly flirting with municipal fiber options, but face powerful cable monopoly lobbyists that are...

Read more
Posted February 17, 2014 by christopher

One of the main differentiator's of community owned networks compared to the big cable and telephone companies is customer service. Being rooted in the community, vested in its success, and employing local residents just means better, more prompt service. A prominent Chattanoogan recently explained

My last shout-out is to EPB Fiber Optics.  This is not a paid commercial, just an opportunity for me to brag on some people who know what they’re doing.  I am the first to go on social media and complain about whatever store or business is guilty of subpar service.  It’s human nature, and it often makes for a good story.  I started using EPB for my cable, internet and phone service about a month ago.  I have encountered three problems during that time, none of them major, but all beyond my level of expertise.  Each time, I called their help line.  Each time, I spoke to local people who did not put me on hold for extended periods, nor did they force me to learn a new language.  They always solved my problem within five minutes.  My blood pressure thanks you, EPB.  This is how it’s done.

We hear these stories frequently with community owned fiber networks. It is hard to do a national study that quantifies the benefits of better customer service, but if we could, we have no doubt the locally owned networks would bury the national cable and telephone companies.

Posted October 18, 2012 by christopher

What happens when economies of scale are taken to ridiculous proportions? The wretched customer service of Comcast, AT&T, Etc.

We recently had to move our Institute for Local Self-Reliance office within Minneapolis due to our old building being razed shortly for student condos. Given the paucity of choices, we are stuck with Comcast as our ISP (the other option is a slower, less reliable CenturyLink DSL connection).

Dealing with Comcast for the move has been a reminder why communities are smart to build their own networks. They can ensure a much better customer experience because they are not so unmanageably large. In telecommunications, some scale is desirable because key costs are somewhat fixed. Regardless of how many subscribers a network has, it has to advertise, do tech support, keep the network functioning, and more. Spreading those costs across a wide base makes sense.

But when you take it to the levels of national carriers, you end up with customers having to call India to talk to a living human. After enough complaints, some of those jobs have come back to the US, but customer satisfaction remains elusive because of the difficulty of managing tens of millions of customers on probably hundreds of different internal systems -- most of which do not talk to each other.

To ensure continuity of service for our office, we installed business-class service at our new location before we moved. We were told that on the day of the move, we could switch our static IP from the old location to the new with just our account number and the MAC address of the Comcast modem already installed in the new location.

On that day, I called Comcast with that information and was told I needed to have our "new" account number. I said that we didn't know anything about a "new" account number as we were moving our service and they specifically told us that we only needed the Mac addy and the account number we have long used.

Comcast Anchor on Economy

The Customer Service Rep could not tell me the new account number. I asked if he could find it with several different pieces of unique information I did have and was told no. It was not possible.

Frustrated, I said, "screw it," and just plugged old Comcast modem into the network, wondering if it would magically work with the correct static IP. And...

Read more
Posted November 22, 2011 by christopher

Monticello, a small community of 13,000 about 40 miles northwest of Minneapolis, built one of the most advanced broadband networks in the midwest and delivers some of the fastest connections available in the state at incredibly competitive rates. The Twin Cities metro area, stuck mostly with Comcast and Qwest, cannot compare in capacity or value.

Monticello is fairly rare in the publicly owned FTTH region because it does not have a public power utility and services on the network are provided by a third party, Hiawatha Broadband Communications -- a Minnesota company with an excellent reputation and track record.

Unfortunately, Monticello's network suffered costly delays due to a frivolous lawsuit filed by the incumbent phone company in a bid to bleed the publicly owned network while it suddenly invested in its own second generation network (that it previously maintained was totally unnecessary for a small town like Monticello).

Monticello lost a full year on the project, which has hurt its finances significantly. More unexpectedly, it has become the only community in North America where all residents have a choice between FTTH networks. They also have Charter in the mix. Add to this the economic downturn that hit just after they financed the network in 2007 -- the population growth has been much lower than forecast. The predictable result? Much lower prices, lots of community savings, and a publicly owned network that is behind its projections.

The local paper recently ran a story about the project, "FiberNet struggles in a sea of red. Should you read the full piece, please be aware that the inaptly named "Freedom Foundation" has no credibility, existing solely to defend massive corporations like cable and telephone companies.

For those who wonder why incumbents filed absurd lawsuits that have a vanishingly small chance of winning, note this discussion from the story:

“It stopped us from really building the system by about a year,” said Finance Director Tom Kelly, “which put our revenue collections about a year behind. Obviously if you don’t have a system, you can’t bill...

Read more
Posted May 13, 2009 by christopher

[Tim] Nulty echoes comments from other muni-fiber pioneers in terms of their attitudes toward customer service. While private companies, he says, are inclined to spend the least they can on customer service without losing customers, the approach taken by BT is to "provide the best customer service you can afford." He says he would tell his staff, "if you can't solve [a customer's problem] on the phone, go fix it in their home."

Subscribe to support