Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Is a la Carte TV Coming?

In the TV content world, it is getting expensive. The cable TV rate increases are contributing to cord cutting. Add in that there isn't much on the 500 channels you pay for to get the 10 that you watch, and people are cutting the cable cost out of their lives.

Non-cable providers are shifting how they offer TV. Many smaller telcos offer Roku boxes. I haven't seen a Netflix-Roku-Broadband bundle yet. Netflix has been added to a few providers as a channel. AT&T has a bundle of U-Verse broadband, HBO and Amazon Prime for $39. DirecTV let's you buy NFL Sunday Ticket without the satellite dish.

"Lowell McAdam, the chief executive of Verizon Communications, recently signaled his company’s acceptance of a la carte by announcing the launch of an Internet-based TV service that would offer greater programming flexibility than any other pay-TV provider." [Richmond Times-Dispatch] McAdam ruins it with his next sentence: "No one wants to have 300 channels on your wireless." But then McAdam is CEO of VZ after being in charge of VZW. He is a cell-head, not a Bell-head. He thinks everything interesting is mobile. He does continue with: "Everyone understands it will go to a la carte. The question is what does that transition look like."

One thing is do the content providers like Disney/ABC/ESPN, Fox/NewsCorp, TW/Turner allow OTT or a la carte? They have been bundling channels for a few years to insure that the crappy channels still make money. Without bundling, crappy channels may die. Considering that I mainly watch ABC, CBS, Fox, CW and USA and sports, I couldn't careless if E!, MTV and the rest fo teh Reality TV channels died. As a society we would be better off.

CAF, Rural Broadband, UNE, Cloud, Google, WOW

One again a collection of news tidbits about CAF, Rural Broadband, UNE, Cloud, Google, WOW!

WideOpenWeb (WOW!) is a MSO that overbuilds. WOW admits that everyone offers the same bundle. In many cases, it comes down to service. If you have a culture of service - like Rackspace does - then it isn't customer service, but customer experience that will pay dividends. WOW talked about that at an expo.

Nice points made by Schmidt in Europe about Google. Apparently, GOOG worries more about Amazon than Bing.

"The next Google won’t do what Google does, just as Google didn’t do what AOL did." - Schmidt

Revealed: ISPs Already Violating Net Neutrality To Block Encryption And Make Everyone Less Safe Online. An interesting read.

I don't know how many people know of TDS but it is an ILEC in the northern mid US. It also has a decent sized CLEC. TDS went on a buying spree for data center and cloud services. TDS is also the majority owner of US Cellular. TDS is a long standing COMPTEL member and has sat on its board for years. TDS launched cloud backup for $5.95 per month!!

Want Your Business to Thrive? Join a Peer Group! Mentioned here are Vistage, EO and HTG.

A LinkedIn discussion: "Is cloud becoming a commodity? We say no, not necessarily. We should be talking about how not all clouds are created equal. There are still large margins in IaaS." No more than web hosting did. I think the messaging in almost anything telecom and IT is for the masses so gets so watered down that it all sounds the same. Plus marketing is constantly using buzz words to get SEO out of their press releases, which results in a release that says nothing. So they all sound the same. When they decide to start branding, it all won't be a commodity.

Windstream spoke with Wireline Competition Bureau staff on October 6, 2014, to ask the FCC to reiterate that an ILEC carrier is not relieved of its obligation to provide DS1 or DS3 UNE loops when it transitions from TDM-based to IP-based technologies or avails itself of the copper retirement procedures. Windstream emphasized the continued importance of UNEs for competitive communications services used by entities with lower bandwidth needs, which include small businesses as well as smaller sites of multi-location business, government, and nonprofit entities. Windstream also provided data on its spending for DS1 connectivity used for customer last-mile access. [NECA]

John Deere makes the case for Rural Broadband.

AT&T has big data on rural wireline that it shared with the FCC for CAF (Connect America Fund) II project. Interesting read.

Friday, October 10, 2014

More Good Reads

I read Nicholas Bates' blog each morning along with Seth Godin's. Every day. Today was about the Master Plan 7.

This isn't how I normally blog -- just a bunch of links, but lately there has been so many articles with at least one really smashing good point that I wanted to share them with my readers because the topics are scattered too. Like personal development above, motivation, PR and more.

What if PR stood for People and Relationships? is a slide deck e-book by Brian Solis and illustrated by Gapingvoid's Hugh MacLeod. I use a lot Gapingvoid cartoons in my slide decks. I read Hugh's daily cartoon and have read everyone of his books, including the Rackspace one.

Brian Solis has the 2014 State of Digital Transformation highlights on this LinkedIn blog post.

How a Small Change Can Boost Your Motivation and Performance

How To Persuade Anyone Of Anything In Ten Seconds by one of my favorite writers, James Altucher.

How To Create A Billion Dollar Monopoly According To Peter Thiel. Thiel basically is talking about a Blue Ocean Strategy. In other words, you need to create the category that you will win in, like AirBnB, Cirque du Soleil, Starbucks.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

What is the CEO’s Job?

Peter Drucker said that a business has 2 purposes: marketing and innovation - both designed to create a customer

Long before a president was hired or the Veeps of different stripes or the CFO, COO, CIO, CTO or even the CMO, there was just the founder. Maybe the founder had a title like president, Managing Partner or CEO. Yet he did it all, including janitorial.

When you talk about a public company, it gets complicated. Too complicated, in fact, for me to address it here. But for non-public companies, the CEO's primary job has two parts: product and sales/revenue.

When the CEO is working IN his business, he is primarily a technician. He or she is primarily making, shipping, doing product. For example, if he is the programmer, technician or installer.

When the CEO is working ON his business, he is planning strategy, marketing, product development.

The CEO sets the stage for the company culture including its values.  It all comes down to the Why - what the company stands for. (Is your company great by choice?)

We are in the 4th quarter of 2014, set some time aside to plan for your 2015. A goal setting webinar is set for 12/8/14. REGISTER NOW!

Goal Planning for the New Year

It is the 4th quarter, do you have strategic meetings with your key stakeholders? One VoIP company holds a 3 day summit to discuss strategy and goals for the coming year, plus review what the past year was like.

Every year I hold a webinar on Goal Setting. This year it will be on Wednesday, December 10th at 1 PM Eastern. It's less than $20!

Do you want to have the best year ever? Then let's set some goals for you and your team -- and put in place some action items for your team to actually hit the goals!

2015 is a new year. Let's not just coast through the year. Let's set a plan of action to have the best year ever!

Got goals? What about your theme? Finish this sentence: "2015 is the year of_____." Are your goals, theme, values & priorities aligned? - Keith Rosen.

Let's spend 45 minutes together putting your goals to paper and a plan of action in place.

What CRM is Out There?

Salesforce is the $3 Billion giant in the CRM (customer relationship management) software space. Long ago it was ACT! which Sage bought and still sells as Sage ACT.

Microsoft Dynamics CRM is out there for the folks partial to Microsoft.

For those partial to Google Apps, you have Insightly and Batchbook.

For folks that like a suite of services not Google or MS, Zoho has a CRM along with a host of other collab and productivity software. [Nice review of Zoho CRM at PCWorld.] Zoho has plug-ins for Outlook, Google, and QuickBooks. Zoho also has developer support.

Infusionsoft is used by many SMB, especially by internet marketing businesses.

For do it yourself-ers, there is the open source Sugar CRM, which you can host or now get hosted for you.

Highrise by 37 Signals for folks partial to Basecamp. BTW, during their 15 year anniversary, 37 Signals renamed themselves after their biggest product, Basecamp.

Landslide was acquired by J2 in 2012, which changed it to CampaignerCRM. It incorporates email marketing into the customer database.

Couple of others: Nimble and ContactMe (see reviews at CIO). Nimble is the most social of the CRMs, listening in on social networks, which makes Nimble a Social CRM app.

Pipedrive and Contractually are reviewed here (along with Highrise).

Some of these are free for single users up to 3 users. Many cost money. Some are complex; some are simple. Simple does not mean ease to use, but use you must. The reasons to use a CRM system are many, including having a database of all of your customer interactions. Customers are the reason you are in business.

In 2013, this article explains why 11 CRM apps are terrible. "These applications are terrible when managers don’t insist on the reports they should be using, don’t enforce rules for entering new opportunities and don’t commit to long-term, consistent and repetitive drip-marketing and communication campaigns using the information maintained by their CRM system to keep their prospects informed and their customers close."

This is not an exhaustive list by any means.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

A Couple of Interesting Stories

A few interesting articles that I read this week.

Belkin Routers Everywhere Choke on the Cloud, Refuse to Work

Found this out at Comptel: Most Consumers Have No Idea What a Gigabit Is.

Google: Paying for TV Content Google Fiber's Biggest Obstacle. He said this during an interview at Comptel. Ignore the comments because most of those knuckleheads don't know what they are talking about.

Fun Fact: Milo Medin, Google Fiber chief, founded @Home and M2Z Networks.

Peter Thiel "sees as a lack of innovation in the technology business." Me, too, really. "Thiel said he is skeptical of sectors that are identified with buzzwords. He said he looks for companies that are “one of a kind” and hard to identify. For example, Airbnb, in which he is an investor, “doesn’t fit the narrative,” he said."

There is Fiber Everywhere

Fiber is being installed a quite the rate right now. I spoke with the CFO of Lumos at Comptel. (He was one of my 20 interviews for Comptel TV). Lumos has a dense fiber network.

"Lumos Networks is a fiber-based provider in the Mid-Atlantic region serving Carrier and Enterprise customers offering end to end connectivity in 23 markets in Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and Kentucky. With a fiber network of 7,467 fiber route miles, Lumos Networks connects to 633 Fiber to the Cell sites, 13 data centers and approximately 1,400 on-net buildings. In 2013, Lumos Networks generated over $104 million in Data Revenue over its fiber network." [CEO interview]

The headlines below are just a piece of what is going on. Lumos, C Spire, Google Fiber, Socket, Sonic and so many more CLECs are building out Fiber to the Premise. In some cases, the premise is a home; in others a business or a multi-tenant building, an office park or an office building.

Fatbeam and Lumos mentioned using all of the technology available to bring broadband to under-served markets. That includes fiber, but also fixed wireless, licensed spectrum, hybrid cable/coax and satellite.

More often today, it is fiber, but most CLECs told me a story about building out with an anchor tenant. No more building on spec (or build it and they will come). Google Fiber explained how they get 80% signed up before they even begin construction of a FiberHood. Fatbeam and Lumos use schools and medical facilities as anchor tenants. TDS has a CLEC division that uses muni government for its fiber anchors. Admittedly, much of the fiber is for cell towers for almost all of the players.

Hunt Telecom's Jason Hunt speaking with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler at FISPA booth @ Comptel Plus Dallas 2014

Headlines from Comptel Plus:

  • EarthLink deploys Gulf Coast DWDM routes
  • PEG Bandwidth launches PEGWave, offerings wavelengths along its entire network
  • Unite Private Networks expands fiber network in Nebraska
  • INDATEL adds PoPs to rural Ethernet eXchange network
  • Allied Fiber begins southeast route construction
  • Tower Cloud added Ethernet private line in sizes 50Mbps-100Gbps
  • Neutral Path Communications is building Omaha (NE) to Windowm, Minnesota to Dallas.
  • Iowa Fiber Network, Kansas Fiber Network are getting denser.

The other big news was that Comptel had reached 188 members. I don't find that reassuring. FISPA has about 130 members. Comptel isn't much bigger. They should have over 300 members considering that they have billing & tax companies like BillSOft (now called EZtax), law firms, VADs like VARDATA and Walker & Associates, the I+C-LECs (Windstream, TDS), cloud folks, NTCA, EarthLink, XO, Google, and the core companies (Neustar and iconectiv).

I have often been tough on Comptel for things it wasn't doing - like the Ethernet exchange or the SIP Peering hub or any volume buying (like FISPA and the Agent Alliance). It is mostly an advocacy group. And to do that well you need 2 things: lots of members (voices) and money. In the last year, Comptel hired former Congressman Chip Pickering to be the CEO and, following the industry path, hired some folks from DC to join them, including Angie Kronenberg from the FCC.

And then there are those that just aren't helping the Digital Divide at all - like say this one.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Broadband to be Defined as 25 Mbps

The FCC Chief is talking about raising the definition of Broadband from its current "4 Mbps down to 10 Mbps down (if you're getting subsidies) and 25 Mbps down in general." Carriers are griping, but even worse will be DSL and Wireless ISP's who will have a hard time delivering 25 Mbps in rural areas. So will that mean that to get CAF or USF funds, you have deliver 10 Mbps?

Read the whole discussion at DSLR HERE and HERE.

In a similar vein, TracFone files petition to allow text messaging to constitute usage of Lifeline Service.

Regulators Approve $2 Billion Frontier-AT&T Deal in Connecticut.

Cisco and InterCall are having an argument at the USAC over whether or not to collect USF fees on the audio conferencing.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Change is Constant, not Static or Linear

"We live in times of constant change." I know this but it was the headline of a newsletter for Physician's this month. The topics are about Change Management, because, let's face it, healthcare is in a state of flux despite the fight doctors are putting up to maintain status quo. IN fact, so much is changing for healthcare - HIPAA, HITECH, EHR/EMR, ACA, Medicare, payment cuts, etc. - that many doctors are either becoming specialists or getting out of medicine.

Other industries have faced change before - newspapers, music, banks, grocery stores, even pharmacies. (How many pharmacies are just drug stores?). GE in the days of Jack Welsh went through enormous change.

Pharma is going through change because R&D is too expensive. That mitigates everything since the research pipeline is anemic. Drugs cost between $250 million and $1 billion to go to market. The payback may take years.

The telecom industry is going through flux too. TDM-to-IP transformation, USF, CAF, E-rate, inter-carrier comp, cloud, broadband, Net Neutrality, security, taxes, cellular, digital divide, etc.

"Over 70% of change initiative fail."

"In 1995, John Kotter published research that revealed only 30 percent of change programs are successful. In 2008, a McKinsey & Company survey of business executives indicates that the percent of change programs that are a success today is still 30%." Read more here on change management.

What can be done?

It requires leadership, culture and a Big WHY. All three are necessary. I'm not sure which is the chicken or the egg, but I would suggest that the WHY is most important - and that it is communicated to employees and customers. And that the leader(s) live it.

The other thing to remember is that "Change is never a static linear process." There will be starts, stops, failures, small wins, re-boots. Have patience. Keep your eye on the prize - the WHY.

There is no map.

A couple of interesting articles geared toward healthcare but they are quick reads that you will get something out of as your organization shifts, pivots, changes too.

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

UC in the News (part 21)

There seems to be a lot of info about unified communications (UC) being pumped out weekly. That could be due to the large number of companies that are depending on it - from the PBX vendors (Avaya, ShoreTel, Cisco) to the HPBX service providers (Cloud Comm Alliance members) to the CPE makers (Polycom, Yealink, Edgewater).

From a blog from Edgewater:

"Metaswitch sponsored study of the SMB market. The 850 SMB owners and decision makers surveyed reported that, to date, only about 20% of companies have adopted IP Communications. For those companies who have made the switch to IP, about 60% use Hosted PBX. About 80% of the market is still using TDM phone systems so we are really just at the beginning of the adoption curve. As service providers really begin to penetrate the SMB market, I expect our best customers to be selling 100,000 seats a month or more."

Some of the news coming out is in the form of case studies like this one on Virgin Media in CW: "Virgin Media claims to have cut its travel and expenses costs by 20% after introducing technology allowing employees to communicate and collaborate more effectively from the office or on the move." IN Enterprise deals, it is this kind of evidence that can sway the jury.

AVST presented at EDUCAUSE, the foremost community of IT leaders and professionals committed to advancing higher education via technology: "A top 10 initiative at this year's conference is discussion and identification of ways for higher education institutions to develop campus IT architectures that respond to changing conditions and new opportunities. University IT personnel are challenged with mobility demands from staff and students, and they are tasked with the inevitable transition of moving select UC components to the cloud."

And of course the obligatory analyst prediction: Global Unified Communications Market Is Expected to Grow at a CAGR of 15.7% from 2012 to 2018. BAH!

This press release seems needless until you need it to prove to the next big customer that you indeed deploy UC to 500 offices.