BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.
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20 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014 PROVIDER PERSPECTIVE T he high-speed business has changed so much over the last 20 years. In the mid-1990s, cable operators such as Time Warner were looking for ways to convert their cable plant to ofer broadband. It started a trend of rapid change in the cable industry. After Time Warner tested a DOCSIS cable modem with select customers, it ofcially launched a high-speed product on September 10, 1996, in Akron, Ohio. Time Warner called the service Road Runner, after the bird that the Warner Bros. cartoon character Wile E. Coyote chased for decades. After this product launch, the industry was of to the races. High-speed cable was a step up from the DSL service that telcos ofered and was certainly a big improvement over the very popular AOL, which used a dial-up connection – twice as expensive but a hundred times faster. By the end of 1998, the cable industry had 550,000 high-speed Internet customers. As we all know, this was just the beginning. Te initial 256 Kbps product was expanded to 500 Kbps and then to 1 Mbps. Speeds grew, bundles expanded and customers always wanted more, even while price points remained relatively constant. Te cable industry has followed the Road Runner down the Internet superhighway to speeds of around 1 gigabit. Applications evolved to include streaming of every kind of video content using all types of devices. Usage skyrocketed from 30 minutes a month per household in 1998 to more than 500 hours a month per household. Te industry has more than 60 million customers in the U.S., and it's still growing. Time Warner's selection of the Road Runner image was right on target, as speeds increased, features expanded and quality of service was redefned every year. Pretty scary cartoon depiction of the cable market, right? Each year, customers want more speed, and competitors are always willing to give it to them. KEEPING UP WITH CHANGE It's hard to compete in a market that's always going through radical change. How can an operator keep up? In many ways, though, the "market" hasn't changed at all. Yes, the products continue to evolve. But customers, audiences and the business itself haven't changed at all. Last month, I moderated a panel of longtime multiple- dwelling-unit (MDU) property owners who were nationally recognized as industry leaders. When asked about how things have changed, they rattled of new foor-plan concepts, diferent countertop qualities and unique common-area amenities, such as rock-climbing walls. Teir message to private cable operators (PCOs) was, "You still have to satisfy my residents with better service than the local cable company, you need to develop a strong relationship with my on-site team and you should customize the right product ofering to make my community special." Wait a minute. Aren't these the same messages we heard 18 years ago when Road Runner frst launched? "Focus on the resident," "Build your support model around the on-site staf " and "Customize for me." Tough products go through constant evolution – analog to digital, dial-up to gigabit – the market hasn't changed at all. Te message from the MDU leaders makes it clear. Te apartment market still operates on the same principles it did in the mid-1990s: Location matters. Curb appeal is important. Amenities add value. Yes, technology has changed the way owners run their businesses, but success is still driven by strong leasing staf, talented maintenance folks, disciplined managers and relationships with key vendors. PCOs should recognize that although their world has changed, their ability to succeed in the MDU world has not. Te same principles still apply: Take care of each user. Manage the manager. Customize the program. Tis is no evolution at all. Remember that in all those cartoon episodes, Wile E. Coyote never caught the Road Runner. It was a race he couldn't win. PCOs should focus on a race they can win by staying true to the core principles of the MDU market, which continue to be the same as they were many years ago. v Bryan Rader is CEO of Bandwidth Consulting LLC, which assists providers in the multifamily market. You can reach Bryan at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 636-536-0011. Learn more at www.bandwidthconsultingllc.com. Are You Still Chasing Road Runner? Private cable operators have to keep up with changing expectations about speeds and products – but that's not how they're going to win the race. By Bryan Rader / Bandwidth Consulting LLC