2015 RTIME Round-Up – Cautious Optimism

A collage of photos from NTCA's 2015 RTIME.
Snapshots from NTCA’s 2015 RTIME.

“Economic development is at the heart of what we do,” said Dave Osborne of VTX, a rural broadband operator serving a large swath of south Texas. Osborne was part of a panel at NTCA’s 2015 RTIME that focused on how operators are using their broadband networks as a basis for new applications that are helping their communities compete.

This idea of putting community and customer first was a recurring theme throughout the many conference sessions. Keith Larson of CTC of Minnesota explained that their decision to work with the city of Little Falls fit into their mission. Similarly, Gary Johnson of PBC explained that their expansion to Gig services was fundamentally about helping their members and it is already helping their local economic development efforts. This “overnight success” was the result of a Fiber to the Premise plan that began in 2004.

The advanced fiber-based networks these operators are building will facilitate the Internet of Things, which will overshadow the use of the Internet of Humans in terms of end points, according to VTX’s Osborne. Mobile tech trucks are one way that VTX is helping their customers understand how they can use their network and the associated technology and applications the network enables.

With only 0.75 lines per mile and sometimes hundreds of miles of windshield time, these trucks play a key role in helping their members learn how to get the most from the VTX network. Diversification of revenue is clearly an important motivation for expanding the number of services offered, as well as expansion into new service territories beyond their existing exchanges.

Regarding revenue, there seemed to be a sense of optimism among the operators that the FCC’s recent actions will open the door for financial support of rural broadband, instead of today’s approach of basing rural build outs on Plain Old Telephone Service. Bob Debroux of TDS suggested that the FCC is considering two basic plans; a plan based on models and one a rate of return. He suggested that the FCC first must fix how the monies are distributed and then solve for the contribution side.

In the short-term at least, the FCC’s Title II rules seemed to be of minimal concern in that these operators have been complying all along with the “bright line rules”. Still, some expressed concern that a different FCC could change the rules in the future.

One of the biggest regulatory challenges, particularly when expanding outside an existing serving area, is working with local communities. Former Kansas City, Kansas Mayor, Joe Reardon, talked about some of the benefits his city has seen from the Google fiber deployment. One example of success is an area termed “start-up village” where they have seen small businesses and entrepreneurs move into this Gig-capable area from other cities.

Economic development and betterment of schools are two drivers that will motivate local elected officials to facilitate an operator’s roll out of broadband. Citing his Kansas City experience, he indicated that a city doesn’t need to subsidize a rollout, but streamlining permitting and other regulatory hurdles will go along ways to smoothing out the rollout of gig networks. He said that the Google experience spurred a review and refresh of regulations and that was a good thing beyond the fiber project.

Reardon warned against municipal builds, as it is difficult for municipal entities to keep up in a very competitive and dynamic business. There are some interesting examples of public-private partnerships, such as the aforementioned Little Falls, MN example, as well as TCT and the city of Powell, which TCT’s Don Jackson deemed a successful public/private partnership.

And local broadband networks are important to keep a community vibrant. Don Macke of the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, suggested that 35 to 50% of young people who moved away from their communities would return, if they could (e.g. if there were jobs, etc.). This reinforces the point made by Gary Johnson of Paul Bunyan Communications when he stated the reason they built FTTH/Gig everywhere is that, “It’s the right thing to do [for their members].

Stay tuned for video interviews with Gary Johnson, Don Jackson and others who made NTCA’s 2015 RTIME an informative and thought-provoking event.

Building a Bigger Box

Managed Broadband TV a Hot Topic

A picture of the Savannah City Hall at night.
A picture of the Savannah City Hall at night.

Growth was definitely the vibe of this week’s NTCA’s Southeast Regional meeting in Savannah. Operators and vendors provided examples and ideas for how to generate new revenue through the introduction of new products and services that complement the broadband infrastructure. Although one of the panels referenced the idea of “out-of-the-box” thinking, it is clear that operators want to build a bigger box by complement their broadband offering with services that help their customers and result in new revenue.

Video has always been a challenge and some operators and vendors demonstrated some out-of-box thinking in marrying web technologies with local expertise to come up with offerings that provide a win-win for the rural consumer, content providers and the operators’ efforts to promulgate broadband. NeoNova and Skitter discussed and demonstrated their solutions, while Star Communications explained why, even though they already are a provider of CATV and IPTV, they see Managed Broadband TV as a way to expand their video reach.

Local Management and People Are the Key to Making Broadband Relevant

Understanding the unique needs of customers is one of the advantages that local operators have, compared to conglomerates where management decisions are often made thousands of miles from the customer and/or the decisions that are made not tailored to a particular locale. Jimmy Blevins, CEO of SkyLine Membership Corporation provided several examples of how local knowledge can create broadband demand.

He and his staff noticed that people with second homes weren’t signing up for telecommunications’ services and were presumably bringing their wireless devices from their first homes to fulfill their telecommunications’ needs.

As they dug into it, Blevins and his staff found that people still wanted the reliability and speed of a terrestrial network, but they only wanted to pay for the network when they were at their respective get-away homes. SkyLine came up with what they call a “Weekender Plan” that provides a lower cost ($15 for 12 Mb/s solution with options for phone and unlimited long-distance) for those who are at their homes only on the weekends.

Unique Broadband Solution for Students in Low Income Households

Blevins described a unique way to reach low-income households without subsidies or devaluing their existing broadband plans. The local school superintendent had come to Blevins with the challenge of reaching students from low-income households who had been given tablets by the school district, but couldn’t do their home work on them because their families couldn’t afford broadband.

SkyLine and the school district devised a low-cost, monthly broadband plan, whereby SkyLine routes Internet traffic through the School’s Internet connection. This is an off-peak time for the school district, so it doesn’t add to its costs. At the same time, this technique lowers the cost of connecting to the Internet for SkyLine, which they can pass on to the low-income household.

The Video Exchange – A Dream Realized

Local content is a proven driver for broadband and video services. The challenge is producing content on a consistent and ongoing basis. As Jimmy Blevins suggested,

“It’s easy to produce several hours of local TV sports programming each week, but what do you do the rest of the time?”

A screenshot of thevideoexchange.com website.
A screenshot of thevideoexchange.com website.

SkyLine saw this challenge as an opportunity to help not only its own community, but the community of independent operators.  SkyLine has developed thevideoexchange.com. In a nutshell, this is exactly the sort of content exchange that has been promoted in various forms on these virtual pages for the past decade. They have done an impressive job with this web portal which allows content producers to upload and sell their content to local channels.

The objective of the video exchange  is to help an operator program their local content channel with content that complements what the operator is already producing and airing. The exchange collects the content, stores associated metadata and serves as the clearinghouse between sellers and buyers. With a fee of 15%, it is very affordable.

The fact that it was started by an independent operator to address their long-term need is an indication that they are in this for the long-term. Look for ViodiTV content to be on the site in the near-future.

[Note, there are four more chances to check out one of NTCA’s excellent regional meetings this summer and fall, including next week in Denver. For the full schedule, click here.]

Viodi View – 04/20/12

FUD – the old Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt phrase that normally describes the unsavory and morally questionable tactics used by a companies whose offering is inferior to the competition.  Using these tactics sometimes buys time for the inferior competitor to introduce a better product or buy their way out of their weak position.

There is FUD now in the independent telco market as the ramifications of the FCC Connect America Fund Order comes into focus.  This FUD isn’t being spread by competitors, but is being created by the FCC’s process and transition and is having real economic impact and is serving as an anti-stimulus. Some of the impacts include:

  • Potential for bankruptcies – could be very ugly politically, if an RUS borrower defaults on its loan
  • Putting stimulus projects on hold, potentially cancelling some rural broadband projects
  • Reduction in CLEC activities by independent telcos in areas that are under-served
  • Cost reductions, which include layoffs and staff reduction through attrition of good paying rural jobs
  • More rehabilitation of existing copper and reduced fiber to the home deployment (even though fiber brings real long-term operational savings costs, including significant opportunities for energy reduction.

Documonials to Inform, Inspire and Promote

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Shirley Bloomfield of NTCA
NTCA's Shirley Bloomfield

A New Game Plan Is Needed

NTCA’s CEO, Shirley Bloomfield talks about changes to USF, Intercarrier Compensation and how rural operators need to try a different game plan to have their and their customers’ voices heard in Washington D.C.  She suggests that the uncertainty needs to be resolved, as it is delaying operators’ plans for rolling out broadband.  Click here to view the video and read more about why in the long-term Bloomfield is bullish on her member’s prospects.


Reporting on Reporting

Geoff Burke of Calix
Geoff Burke of Calix

What are the characteristics of rural broadband customers?  That is a question that Geoff Burke of Calix addresses in this exclusive interview filmed at the 2012 IP Possibilities Conference and Expo in Indianapolis. As Burke points out, this difference in data usage between copper and fiber has potentially huge policy implications in Washington.  It could be evidence of some of the early concerns regarding the National Broadband Plan and the disparity in that plan between the minimum goals of 4 Mb/s for rural versus 100 Mb/s for urban areas.  Click here to view the video and read more.


Computer History Museum Event Summary: “The Idea Factory” by Alan Weissberger

Dave Iverson and Jon Gertner at the Computer History Museum
CHM Event

Alan Weissberger has an important article on the significance of Bell Labs and the resulting innovation it spawned.  There is definitely food for thought on the conditions surrounding that special time and whether they could be or whether it would be good for them to be replicated today.  It also triggered a somewhat tangential thought about the importance of standards with regards to reliable telecom service.  With the demise of Bell Labs’ cousin Bellcore, it seems like there is no gold standard of testing and reliability for telephony reliability.  Click here to read more….


Knology has a Wow! Moment

Colleen Abdoulah of WOW!
WOW!'s Colleen Abdoulah

It is great to see Wow! as the successful suitor for Knology.  These companies have always held a special place for me, as I was involved with a VOD Application Service Provider (in today’s parlance it would probably be called a Distributed Cloud VOD Provider), that was working with both of these companies at the turn of the century.  It was thrilling to meet Colleen Abdoulah, president and CEO of WOW!, at last month’s ACA Summit.  Click here to view the video interview with Abdoulah.


Partnering for Scale & New Opportunities

Rich Fickle of NTCA
Rich Fickle of NTCA

“On the video side, we have some challenges,” said Rich Fickle, president of NCTC.  Speaking at the ACA 2012 Summit, Fickle spoke of the need to work together with the American Cable Association and its members to control programming costs.  He suggested closer ties between NCTC and ACA to overcome these challenges.  Click here to view.


Some Tweets and Short Thoughts

  • Multiscreen Beyond Franchise. In a sports bar tonight, I saw a TV ad for a Cox multiscreen offering -nearest Cox system is 400 miles away.  I realize that the ad  placement couldn’t be targeted to only the markets Cox serves.  Still,  I wonder if this hints at a future of MSO service beyond their franchise areas – content rights being the challenge.
  • One of the best views ever from a telecom conference. A full view of the Triple A Pirates field in Indianapolis – https://twitter.com/#!/viodi/status/190319094308929536/photo/1
  • Voice devolving into “best effort service” esp. in rural areas. Without intervention and focus, it will get worse said David Lewis of ANPI.

The Korner – Power and Passion to the People

The best part of traveling this great country is hearing the stories from the people.  Sometimes, I end up half way across the country to literally hear the story, or in this case, song, from someone who is in my backyard.  At the Parks Associates’ Smart Energy Summit we had a delightful interview with serial entrepreneur Gene Wang.

Power and Passion to the People
Power and Passion to the People

In our interview, he demonstrates how his software improves energy efficiency through engaging applications, including applications that incorporate social media and gaming.  He explains that “vampire” devices can account for as much as 30% of a home’s power consumption.  Part of People Power’s strategy is to work with service providers to get the word out about their offering.

His quest to improve energy efficiency venture is a passion for this successful business person.  As we talked off-camera, he provided tips on how he built his company culture.  One of the common denominators for his companies is that each one had an employee band. Click to view the video and read more about the People Power Band and their upcoming gig this Sunday at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

Video Opportunities With ViodiTV

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Contact Roger Bindl for more information. Video opportunities await you at this next event. Viodi has been producing event coverage video's, interviews, and educational/promotional content since 2002.

Over the Top at NTCA

Over the top video was the theme of a panel at NTCA’s Annual Meeting in Tampa Bay. Robin Wilson of Nagravision provided an excellent overview of what over the top is and how people around the world are providing it as a stand-alone service or as a blended service with off-air or direct satellite feeds. He explained widgets in the context of IPTV and how integrate web content into the television service to create a richer viewing experience.

Wilson warned that the over the top entertainment delivery could be a significant threat to traditional (funny how something so new becomes ‘traditional’) IPTV networks. He recommended that operators look for ways to integrate over the top offerings and that widgets might be the way to start with such an integration.

He also talked of 3D and reached a conclusion similar to that which was described in the ViodiTV CES post on that topic; that is, there is hype around 3D and challenges (such as the 2D guide in a 3D world), but to pay attention to 3D as its impact will be felt in the not too distant future.

Dale Merton, COO of Toledo Telephone gave the operator’s perspective of over the top video and Toledo’s experience of offering the Vudu service to its customers. Toledo Telephone is typical of a small independent rural telephone company with about 2,100 access lines and 900 broadband customers. One-hundred percent (100%) of Toledo’s customers can get at least 5 Mb/s broadband, so their network is primed for over the top services.

Merton explained that Toledo Telephone made a strategic decision that they did not want to be in the middle between the content owners and customers. As a result, they got out of the cable business and now concentrate on their core strength of the providing a high-speed, reliable network and helping the customer simplify their entertainment experience. He provided these pearls of wisdom:

  1. User experience is paramount
  2. 99% of our customers are not geeks – the service must be easy to use and reliable
  3. Whoever has the best quality wins – quality being defined as interface, content, connections to other devices and customer service. 
  4. It must be flexible. People want to be able to use multiple TVs and be able to watch different things on different TVs. 

He said that people are moving away from single use set-top boxes to ones that are multifunction or that integrated into devices, such as BluRay players. He also said there is a market for a hybrid off-air/over the top video solution that would provide customers with local broadcast as well as on-demand and other offerings.

Merton’s comments echoed those of Bob Saunders of SkitterTV in an earlier Business and Technology meeting. Saunders suggested there is a value-conscious market segment whose needs would be satisfied with a mix of local broadcast, a minimal amount of cable network programming and access to over-the-top video. SkitterTV has developed a middleware platform for this new vision of IPTV; one where there is a blending between over the top and linear programming in one simple to use guide, supporting multiple devices (e.g. PC, TV, mobile) and yet is backwards compatible with existing FCC standards for cable (e.g. Emergency Alert, Closed Captioning, Non-Duplication).

The overarching direction of where things are going are summed up in the comments I made, while representing ZillionTV at the aforementioned Business and Technology meeting, which suggested that we are moving from an over the top approach to a ‘Through the Telco’ implementation.

[Note: In addition to his role with Viodi, Ken Pyle also represents ZillionTV in his role as Director of Broadband Affiliate Relations]. 

Viodi View – 02/03/10

In a world where telecommunications is a major driver of innovation, is it possible that the applications that make the most difference are the seemingly mundane ones that make us more efficient and help us utilize existing resources? Certainly, a recurring theme of the conferences I have attended over the past couple of weeks is the importance for telcos to deploy a robust fiber plant and find applications and related business opportunities which take advantage of their infrastructure and local presence.


A PRIMO Event – a Good Idea for Independent Telcos

Snapshot of the playing telecom Jeopardy at the PRIMO eventA grassroots marketing organization; something the cable industry has done a great job with through their organization, CTAM, but it is something that has not taken root in the independent telco industry in the same way. Thus, I was excited to learn more about and to be able to participate in the PRIMO (Public Relations Independent Marketing Organization) marketing event. Click here to read why I came away impressed with the camaraderie of this group and what an effective way this forum is for generating and understanding best marketing practices.


The Transition Continues….. 

One of the advantages and disadvantages of conferences that are relatively close in proximity is that they are sometimes more difficult to attend in that family matters take priority. Unfortunately, that was the case with the OPASTCO conference and I did not get a chance to sit in on any of the sessions. I spoke to a number of attendees who were very impressed with Steven Shepard’s overview of over the top video and other social media at the OPASTCO event.

Shepard and this topic was an excellent choice as OPASTCO continues its move to become the IP Association. Along these lines, congratulations to Catherine Moyer, the new Chairman. I have heard positive remarks as to how she is an excellent choice to lead OPASTCO and its members on its journey from the PSTN to Broadband.  


Another Transition Point – Some Recurring Themes at NTCA’s Annual Conference

Attendees of future NTCA Annual Conferences will probably look back at this one, as a time of transition as well. With the impending retirement of Michael Brunner, it was his chance to say goodbye to the general membership. Coincidentally, James Bass, NTCA’s General Counsel and one who sees the entire arc of the organization from its founding in 1957, presented his written history of the organization. In addition, Monday was declared “James Bass” day at the convention.

A recurring theme of NTCA was that the revenue streams that rural telcos could rely on in the past will probably be gone in the future. As such, it is important for rural telcos to deploy fiber as quickly as possible, as it will not get any better than it is today. The challenge will be to support the operating costs of the network and not just the capital costs. The implication is that telcos are going to have to do more with less or, at least the same, resources.

A topic that proved quite popular at NTCA was the session on the Smart Grid. One telco I spoke to went to this session to get insight into why a rural electric coop had submitted applications for tens of millions of dollars of broadband stimulus money; enough money to overbuild his company and several others with broadband. As he pointed out, this would be a very inefficient use of taxpayer dollars, as he and his independent telco colleagues already have the broadband network that can be used beef up the intelligence of the grid and make it more efficient.


Keeping Customers by Selling Less

Smart Energy Saves Consumers $The Smart Grid was the basis of a Parks Associates conference last week in Austin. Unfortunately, ViodiTV was not at that conference, but we did get a preview of some of the challenges and opportunities that suppliers of electricity face. In this interview, filmed at CES 2010, Chris Deutschen of Direct Energy explains the rather counter-intuitive notion of how, by helping their customers save money through efficiency, his company can actually be more profitable (think churn reduction).  


Some Tweets from the Past Two Weeks


The Korner – Waiting for the Bus – A Green App

Waiting for the Bus - note, the destinationActually, I am no longer waiting for the bus, as the Google maps application for android allows me to quickly find the shortest and most efficient public transport route. In days gone by, I would have have rented a car or taken a taxi when traveling.

The Google mapplication takes the guess work out of when the bus is scheduled to arrive, it's route and it's estimated time of arrival. With this at my fingertips, I can judge when I have to be at the bus stop, so I don't have to waste time waiting for the bus.

Granted, I may have a block or two more of walking, it may take a bit longer and I may have to plan a bit more than alternative modes of transport. But, the cost savings are amazing (10% of the cost of a taxi today). Plus, I get the opportunity to write silly posts like this one use my G1 phone while commuting on the bus. And as a nod to my green friends, this has to be a little more efficient than a car. 

Viodi View – 02/18/2009

Steve Farber giving the keynote at NTCA's 2009 Annual Meeting and ConventionDo something to change the world and you will make a difference. That was more or less the message that I heard from Steve Farberat NTCA’s 2009 Annual Meeting and Expo in Long Beach. CA last week. It was somewhat timely when, a few days later, a friend described how he is trying to change the world with his latest project. It was obvious from my friend’s passion that he loves what he is doing. The timing of Farber’s message with my friend’s actual example reinforced the importance of being passionate about one’s work.

Love was another closely related attribute that Farber cited as a reason for success of individuals, regardless of whether the organization they are working with is business, religious or community-based. My experience with independent telcos is that they have a love for what they do and consciously or unconsciously, they are changing their worlds; whether these worlds represent the communities they serve or the telecommunications industry where they so often introduce technologies and services that are merely images on slide decks of the larger companies.


ViodiTV at MTA - A Primer Video of a century of connectionsViodiTV @ MTA – A Primer Check out this brief video that gives an inkling of the 100th anniversary celebration planned for the Minnesota Telecom Alliance’s 2009 Annual Convention. Sponsored by the MTA Associate Committee, this video gives a preview of the type of ViodiTV coverage we will have at this event. Click here to view coverage from past MTA conventions.


Back to the Future – Software as a Service and Managed Service Panelists at the Software as a Service Panel at NTCA's 2009 Annual Meeting and ConventionSoftware as a Service (SaaS) is a popular Web 2.0 buzzword. It struck me, while listening to a panel at NTCA 2009 Annual Meeting and Convention, that Independent Telcos have been providing a sort of Software as a Service, really a Managed Service, since their inception. Independent Telcos are starting to add Software as a Service and Managed applications, such as network/cloud computing, disaster recovery services and telemedicine applications, to their first SaaS application; POTS.

Click here to read more and to get to get a glimpse of one company’s approach to providing network computers for Independent Telcos’ customers.


ACLU Northern CA:  Cloud Computing – Storm Warning for Privacy? by Alan Weissberger One consideration for people putting their data in the “cloud” is privacy. Alan Weissberger points out in this article that consumers’ data might not be afforded much protection once it is in the cloud. Click here to read this very important post regarding how individuals’ privacy rights might be compromised and their due-process short-circuited.


WSTA Marketing/PR Roundtable Summary – Polka Videos & More by Roger Bindl In this brief video interview, Dave Gee of Sales Sherpas provides a summary of the marketing roundtable from Day 2 of the WSTA 2009 Marketing/PR Seminar. He explains some of the marketing best practices that were shared among the attendees, including the creation of polka videos by one Wisconsin Independent Telco.  Click here to watch the video.


Hot Air Affair 2009 by Roger Bindl After the WSTA Marketing/PR Meeting, Roger traveled to Hudson, WI for their annual “Hot Air Affair”. Roger has been covering all aspects of this multi-day event for years now, but this is the first year that he got high; in a balloon, that is. Click here to check out the cool footage he took over the Wisconsin country side.


Click here to see a slide show of images from the 2009 Annual Meeting and Convention

Images from NTCA and Long Beach To see a brief slide show of some of the images from NTCA’s 2009 Annual Meeting and Convention, click on the image below. This image is somewhat special to me as it took me back to the last time I was in Long Beach, when I was a kid and my dad pointed out the many tropical islands off the long beach. Anyone Viodi View reader wishing to guess what occurs on these isles, please comment here.


The Korner:  In Memoriam – John P. Messmer

John Messmer had a passion for engineering. A Cal Tech graduate and someone 13 years my senior, I looked up to John. Messmer was never interested in money or material things. His passions were books and electronic device design. His seemingly contradictory anti-establishment and conservative viewpoints definitely provided me with a more nuanced view of the world than the black and white world I often saw in high school.

John was never satisfied with his own work and always felt he could do better. This probably ate at him, as his intelligence allowed him to see imperfections that others couldn’t see. This quality helped him produce quality work, but probably made it difficult for him to be satisfied with his accomplishments.

His design feats are mostly history these days, thanks to ever decreasing life cycles of electronic equipment. The memories of these devices, such as the Tomco ADS1000, Automatic Non-Duplication Switcher or the PT 3000 Programmable Event Timer, are fading even for those of us who had a small hand in their creation or production.

No, John’s real legacy was the people he touched, whether consciously or not. John could be surly and I remember being quite nervous when he gave a 16 year old Ken Pyle a lecture on producing quality work and the importance of not assuming anything, except, in his words, a 5% loan. That conversation and others we had helped me become a more conscientious worker.

John was always generous with his time and would mentor anyone. I remember him reviewing and providing a very helpful critique of my college application letter. I still try to follow his advice of setting aside a draft for 24 hours before completing the final version. His writing was quite good, which probably was a result of his book habit.

I always admired Messmer’s integrity, straightforward nature and his honesty. He judged everyone equally and had an open mind. It is somewhat ironic that this guy, who spent much of his life devoted to the design of electronic gadgets, made his biggest impact through the people he touched and loved.  He made a difference.  Thanks John and tell Dave hello.

Back to the Future – Software as a Service & Managed Services

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a popular Web 2.0 buzzword. It struck me at NTCA’s panel, Software as a Service: Creating New Revenue Channels, that Independent Telcos have been providing a sort of Software as a Service, really a Managed Service since their inception. Independent Telcos are starting to add on Software as a Service and Managed applications, such as network computing, disaster recovery services and telemedicine applications, to their first SaaS application; POTS.

panelists at NTCA 2009 Annual Meeting

Warren Lee, President and CEO of NeoNova Network Services, distinguished between SaaS and Managed Services. He echoed his talk at last year’s IP Possibilities regarding the importance of understanding what your goals are before you commit to a plan. Understanding your goals will help answer whether you should provide SaaS or Managed Services. The reason he said it matters is that if you provide SaaS, then you open yourself to competition from anywhere. If you offer managed services, you can differentiate on the local service you provide (e.g. hard to do a truck roll from China).

He compared the differences between traditional compute solutions versus one that lives entirely in the cloud. Warren called this type of computing, “Living in the Cloud,” as opposed to Cloud Computing. NeoNova is using this NTCA Annual Meeting & Convention to introduce its Network Computer and associated applications that live on a Telco’s servers and utilize its broadband; more on that in another article.

Susan DiFlorio, COO of FiberCloud, focused on small business applications that independent Telcos can provide in order to increase market size, increase broadband usage and effectively lower staff costs. She called outsourcing an opportunity for Independent Telcos, as businesses are looking to cut costs and simplify the complex. FiberCloud provides data center services to Independent Telcos.

Along these lines, FiberCloud has been beta testing, with five rural telcos, cloud computing applications from Microsoft (see this video interview with George Henny for additional background). They found is that they were trivializing the markets and didn’t understand the nuances of the differences in locales and customers. They engaged an external marketing firm to help them understand the needs of the customers and, as a result, they found some commonality between rural and suburban markets; for instance, most of the Telcos’ potential business customers have with less than 99 employees.

Donald Fendrick, CTO, National Wireline Accounts, Alcatel-Lucent, spoke of Telemedicine applications where monitoring devices transmit real-time medical information via broadband. The interesting thing about this approach is the potential detection or correlation of trends much sooner than the traditional occasional visit to the doctor. Fendrick suggested that some insurance companies will give co-payments for the Telemedicine Devices.

John Granger President of Mapcom suggested that Telcos could add visual locating services as features in hosted dispatch and network management and hosted security applications. Granger said they have extended their mapping platform to allow independent Telcos to offer this sort of value-add.

Jeff Wick of NexTech, who was in the audience, put an exclamation point on the panel by providing an explanation of how they are replacing complete computing infrastructures for small businesses. They provide all of the workstations and manage for a monthly fee. He said it was important to have a back-end system to make sure it all works. Some of the server infrastructure is hosted and some is on the businesses’ sites. The important point he made is that this service is easy to sell, because it is a low cost of entry for the small businesses.