None of us like to see our customers churn. Especially when, if we use the average US$400 (CA$521) customer acquisition cost of Bell and Telus, this means that the top four United States carriers are not only kissing goodbye to $65 million per month in lost future revenue, but another $76 million in customer replacement costs. That’s a lot of money.

So, what can we do about it? 

If the current climate of uncertainty has put your major new projects on hold, perhaps it’s time to relook at some of your existing products and services – and grow revenue from what you have already, rather than experiment with new and unproven concepts.

Start by thinking:

  • What do your customers already value and pay for? 
    • What improvements could you make to their user experience of those products and services, so that they might pay you more for it?
  • What products and services do you currently give to customers for free? 
    • What might you need to do and/or improve to convince your customers that those products and services deliver enough value that they should pay for them?

One prime example is a telco’s email service. Email hosting tends to be like that shiny jacket that has always been in the cupboard, but most telcos don’t typically know when to pull it out or how to use it to their best advantage. This is despite the fact that some telcos have found customers of paid email will spend three times more across their telco brand, and The Radicati Group has predicted that more than 333 billion emails will be sent per day by year-end 2022.

Hosting providers, on the other hand, understand the value of email and know customers will pay for both email and upsells; all you have to do is ask. Only 3 percent of hosting providers (compared to 59 percent of telcos) in the U.S. give email to customers for free.

Summary: 

If your company is currently giving away products and services (such as email) for free, it’s time to stop, realise their value (improving them if needed), so you can fight churn and grow revenue with the resources that you already have, rather than waiting for future results from infrastructure and digital projects that are currently on hold indefinitely.

Additional reading:

For more in-depth reading on this topic, we invite you to download the free white paper, Fight Churn and Grow Revenue, written by our Premier Associate Member, atmail.

The state legislature this session passed two separate bills, ESHB 1336 sponsored by Rep. Drew Hansen (R-23) and SSSB 5383 sponsored by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-41), which set up conflicting public policies for how local governments can provide retail broadband service, and Governor Jay Inslee last week added further legal ambiguity by signing them both off camera—simultaneously—using his left hand to sign one, and his right hand to sign the other

By doing so, Inslee may evade a state law dictating that whichever bill is signed last takes precedence when it conflicts with other legislation.

“It puts the whole thing into confusion,” Washington Independent Telecommunications Association Executive Director Betty Buckley told Lens. The association represents small, traditional landline telephone companies that have sought to provide broadband service to existing coverage areas.

An advocate for greater rural broadband, Buckley and others backed SSSB 5383, which allowed local governments such as cities, counties, and public utility districts to provide retail broadband service – but only in areas where no coverage existed.

ESHB 1336 offered much greater authority for local governments by allowing them to service “anybody, anywhere, anytime,” Buckley said. “The goal of the House bill was never to provide rural broadband. It was to make a statement about large providers and to create competition for larger providers. If you live on Bainbridge Island and you don’t like the big provider out here, maybe the local PUD will provide you better service or service from somebody that you like. I think that’s incredibly elitist.”

Though both bills passed the legislature, some state lawmakers opposed to ESHB 1336 warned it would incentivize broadband infrastructure expansion in more urban areas and offered little reason to extend it in less populated counties.

It’s an assessment Buckley also shares. “I don’t care if you’re a public entity or a private entity; you’re going to look at your bottom line and think ‘it’s less expensive for us to build an area where there are many customers.’”

Testifying in favor of SSSB 5383 during the session was TDS Telecommunications. Communications Director Kit Beyer wrote in an email that “it appears the priority was to put out a large welcome mat for local governments in the broadband business instead of prioritizing unserved areas, which is important to TDS Telecom. This unfortunate outcome will not change TDS’ fiber expansion efforts in great communities in this state.”

Yet, Buckley added that despite ambiguity over the bills there’s still opportunities for collaboration to improve rural broadband.

“It doesn’t have to be a delay. There are relationships today where a private entity has partnered with a public entity, and they’ve made it work.”

Both bills take effect in July.

Original article published on thelens.news.

We read an interesting paper recently from atmail, one of our Premier Associate Members, titled How to Convert Your Email Platform from Loss to Profit

In an industry first, atmail went out and found the email pricing from 367 telco, ISP, and hosting providers worldwide, to help educate all of us about how much telcos charge for customer email services.

It’s probably no surprise that most telcos either undercharge for their email service, or don’t charge for email at all (because they typically include email as part of a phone/internet bundle). But with the data that atmail found, this study certainly challenges the long-held belief that consumers won’t pay for email. 

What we liked about this study was the level of detail that atmail has included. They shared dollar figures for email subscription pricing, email upsell pricing, examples of best practice, case studies, and more.

If you offer an email service to your customers, you might like to check out atmail’s free report here.

Cartoon - Did you forget to charge for it?
‘Half of the numbers are accurate, that’s why we’re auditing the remaining 56%.’

On January 15th the White House announced that Narda Jones will become the Legislative Director for the Office of Science and Technology Policy.  She tells me that she’s a “day one” employee meaning she starts work for the Biden Administration on day one of his presidency.

Many of you have had an opportunity to spend time with Narda as she’s traveled to your offices, attended our conferences and met with groups of us both in DC and here in our Washington.  It always amazed me that someone raised in Brooklyn had so much interest in and understanding of rural broadband.  As we look forward to infrastructure packages and new legislation it is comforting to know that we have Narda in our corner.

The attached photo seems appropriate for Narda’s new job as we’re sitting in a boat on Budd Inlet, near Olympia, looking at the eclipse.  I’m wearing a Pioneer Telephone cap.

The full story about the Office of Science and Technology Policy is below.

https://buildbackbetter.gov/press-releases/president-elect-biden-announces-key-members-of-his-white-house-science-team/

In late October Whidbey Telecom became only the second recipient of a USDA ReConnect grant in the state of Washington.  In addition, USDA Washington State Director for Rural Development Kirk Pearson presented Whidbey Telecom with the Washington State Infrastructure Award of Excellence for their efforts to provide high-speed broadband to their customers.  Whidbey Telecom will use the ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect underserved residents and businesses to high-speed broadband internet in Point Roberts, Washington.

George Henny, Whidbey Telecom Co-CEO was thrilled to receive the award saying “we’re honored to be the recipient of the USDA Award of Excellence, recognizing the Whidbey Telecom commitment to keeping our communities connected.” 

As for the ReConnect grant, George went on to say that “like the South Whidbey fiber construction project, this will be a multi-phase, multi-year endeavor. The USDA ReConnect grant is just a start.  We have a lot of hard work ahead of us to put together a plan to fund and build a fiber broadband network in Point Roberts.”

Picture of Whidbey Telecom receiving the Washington State Infrastructure Award of Excellence.
Pictured, L to R:  Kirk Pearson, USDA Washington State Director for Rural Development
George Henny – Co-CEO Whidbey Telecom
Moanalei McManus – Whidbey Telecom, Regulatory Specialist

The full USDA press release can be found here:  https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2020/10/22/trump-administration-invests-596000-high-speed-broadband-rural

Picture of an example chart of a speed test chart that is produced from NISC testing software
Picture above is an example chart of a speed test chart that is produced from NISC testing software.

The FCC speed and latency test requirements are quickly approaching for many companies.  The details are starting to be finalized. NISC is closely following these updates, not only from a regulatory perspective but also from a technical perspective. During a recent Webex presentation, Ryan Larson, Senior Strategy & Marketing Manager from NISC, gave an overview of the requirements and an update on items that NISC has discovered during their cooperative testing with residential gateway manufacturers and service providers.

July-2020-WITA-Broadband-Speed-Testing-Update

Ryan Larson
Sr. Product Strategy & Marketing Manager | National Information Solutions Cooperative®

“These are the communities that we serve; our friends and neighbors. We have a duty to do what is right during times of crisis.” James Brooks, Inland Telephone Company.

I’ve spoken with many of our members in the last few days, all of whom are reaching out to their local communities to see how they can help them through the COVID 19 pandemic. Many are setting up hot spots, many are reaching out to their local schools to ensure that kids can continue to learn from home, and all have waived late fees and discontinued cut-offs. Some are even looking at ways to help people get back on their feet once our country is back to work.

Inland Telephone’s efforts cover all the bases. This story is just one example of why Doug Weis, Inland Telephone Company President, was awarded the President’s Award last year. We were finally able to catch up with Doug and give him his award at the ITA Showcase this spring.

Inland Telephone Company’s Roslyn exchange has FTTH and full coverage. They light-up the entire downtown of Roslyn with Wi-Fi every summer for the Farmers Market and their techs have been told to turn that up now. Inland Telephone Company is currently working with the Roslyn-Cle Elum school district to get those students that do not have service today turned-up. This also includes Cle Elum and South Cle Elum where they have a broadband CLEC.

Inland Telephone Company is not turning down requests for service in any of their exchanges: Dewatto, Prescott, Roslyn, and Uniontown.

They just concluded working with the Colton School District in Uniontown; connecting five households covering twenty students that were identified as needing broadband. Inland Telephone Company is not charging for the service or for the emergency student connections during this period of crisis.

Inland Telephone Company has suspended disconnects and late pay fees. When things get back to normal, they are committed to working with those subscribers that have become economically challenged during this crisis on payment plans.

It’s an honor and a blessing to work with companies like Inland Telephone; companies like all of our members.

550 households in the upper part of Lake Cushman will finally have access to high-speed Internet thanks to a USDA Communities Connect grant to Hood Canal Communications.  Days ago, HCC also opened a new community center to serve this very remote, rugged area.

Lake Cushman is a beautiful man-made lake in Mason County, Washington featuring dense forestation and mountainous terrain.  It has been a popular seasonal destination that is quickly becoming a desirable option for full time living as real estate prices increase and inventory availability decrease in the region.

The grant application and the project have the support of many community partners including the Lake Cushman Maintenance Company HOA, the Skokomish Tribe, and numerous home and property owners in the affected area.  Sincere gratitude is expressed for the support of many residents, businesses and elected officials such as Governor Jay Inslee, Congressman Derek Kilmer, Congressman Denny Heck, Senator Patty Murray, Senator Maria Cantwell, State Senator Tim Sheldon, State Representative Drew MacEwen, and Mason County Commissioners Kevin Shutty, Terri Jeffreys, and Randy Neatherlin.  Dozens of local citizens wrote letters of support asking the USDA for funding.

HCC’s grant application was denied in 2016 and resubmitted in 2017 which resulted in the company being awarded $2.3 million.

HCC-Community-Center-Interior

The Washington State Legislature adjourned their session in late April but WITA staff and members have been plenty busy with issues both related to the extension of the State Universal Communications Fund and with other issues of importance.

Just before session ended Mike Oblizalo, Hood Canal Communications, was invited to testify before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. This is an enormously important committee to our industry as much of the legislation related to telecommunications must be approved here before moving on to the full Senate. Mike was invited to talk about the importance of accurate broadband maps and if you haven’t viewed the hearing you can find it here: https://www.ntca.org/ruraliscool/publications/ruraliscool/vol1-issue17-04112019

Betty Buckley has been traveling the state talking with legislators, attending public hearings on the new overtime rules, and participating on broadband panels at events such as the Washington Economic Development Association’s Summer Conference.

WITA President Rick Vitzthum and our esteemed counsel Rick Finnigan have been meeting with staff at the Utilities and Transportation Commission to craft rules for the new and improved state fund. This year’s funds will be distributed according to the existing rules but the following four years funds may be used specifically for broadband buildout and that will require a new rulemaking. You can expect to see a special meeting of the Active Members called to discuss these in detail within a few weeks.

Next month Eric Trump, St. John Telephone and Colfax Cable, and Dale Merten from ToledoTel will be speaking at workshops being sponsored by the Washington State Department of Commerce and USDA’s ReConnect program. Their presentations will focus on how their companies use technology to help their communities in innovative ways. The workshops will be held on September 15th in Olympia and on September 19th in Davenport. Watch here for more information and registration: https://www.usda.gov/reconnect/events

Plans are being finalized for our Leadership Conference at Alderbrook on October 14th and 15th. We’ll also be holding an Outside Plant Seminar at the same location on October 16th. Both events will focus on issues such as the new rules for performance testing, cybersecurity, new grant and loan opportunities and ways in which to enhance the value of your existing system. See out Events tab to register today!

Betty Buckley, Executive Director, WITA
Rural Broadband: It’s what we do.
It’s who we are.
509.690.0530

Congratulations to Doug Weis, winner of the Pioneer Award, and R J DelMese who received this year’s President’s Award.  R J received his award at this year’s annual meeting, which was held in Salishan, in recognition for his work on our scholarship and accounting committees.  R J has also ensured that Moss Adams is a frequent sponsor to WITA events such as our Leadership Conference.  He’s also volunteered hours of time as a trainer for our accounting seminars as well as preparing comments and background data for legislative hearings and similar forums.

The Pioneer Award is no longer given out on an annual basis.  Instead, it’s only awarded when the committee feels that someone is especially deserving.  This year it took the committee no time at all to determine that Doug Weis fits that description both in terms of his career and his personal approach to life.    Unfortunately, Doug was not scheduled to join us at Salishan so we made arrangements for Steve Hanson to present him with a certificate commemorating his award during a fishing trip a few days before our meeting.  Rick Finnigan, James Brooks, Greg Maras and several of Doug’s family members were also in attendance.  We plan on presenting Doug with the actual ward at this fall’s Leadership Conference.

In addition to these awards Unitel presented WITA with a giant check for $3242 (we already deposited the real check) to be used for safety training and our friends at the ITA presented us with a $4000 donation to our scholarship account. 

It’s great to have so much to celebrate!