It was my favorite Saturday morning routine: Drinking my cup of coffee and reading the newspaper end-to-end before taking Cassie for a walk. Last weekend, one of the articles that caught my eye was about the current battle between AT&T and Google Fiber as they race to expand their gig networks across the country—to cities like Detroit, Memphis and San Francisco. It appears that as soon as one corporate entity announces buildout plans, the other answers the challenge. Obviously these are exciting developments for American consumers, in part because it means more and more American consumers will get access to gigabit speeds, and will allow more bandwidth and more devices to be connected. Never mind that this competition is playing out in urban America and that the number of cities where Google has actually built out in can be counted in single digits. However, the most interesting part of the story was that, as each of the corporate entities made noises about entry into these markets, the first one in was able to make inroads with local policymakers to establish rights that make entry more attractive.
What does that say about the more than 50 NTCA members that have also made their networks gig capable to better serve their even more challenging and far more remote consumer base? It really hit home for me in Tennessee last week while meeting with and listening to NCTC’s consumers who are so grateful and appreciative of the work that the co-op has done to bring the type of services to their rural community that are usually reserved for NFL cities served by the likes of … well, Google Fiber and AT&T. The health-care professionals who have come back home to rural Tennessee, because the patients there trust the people they know with their care. The school principal who has gone from 20 computers in the school to 120 with an entire army of computers on wheels for the elementary students. People who really understand the value of good customer care that goes above and beyond.
And it really hit home for me after listening to my daughter Leah’s trials and tribulations about getting her Internet and video services in her new apartment in the West Loop of Chicago. She has one option for both given the building’s arrangement, and let’s just say that it’s a large company based in Dallas. She has had more than her share of runarounds trying to get the service, trying to get the right service, having technicians require two visits because the Internet guys don’t do video, and now her inability to cancel service because she’s already “over” the lousy customer service and she hasn’t even been hitched up for more than a week. While I was there earlier this week, her video tech arrived and it only took him five hours to connect her service in an apartment unit where the previous tenant had just discontinued service. Crazy. She is certainly sorry that she isn’t served by an NTCA member, and she feels like she has a long road ahead of her in terms of suffering through inept customer service—and her journey has just begun.