What Google broadband should mean to your telco business

Craig Settles Successful.comLast week I was in Washington, D.C., to speak an event put on by the Joint Center for Politics and Economic. It was time well spent; not only did it continue the push for net neutrality, but also gave me additional glimpses into an incumbent corporate culture that's making its influence felt on broadband issues.  

After several trips to the Capitol over the past year, I'm convinced by comments heard and overheard that lots of people in D.C. need to get out more. Out to the small towns, the ‘hood, the barrios, the sticks. With a mandate to pay close attention and listen to what's being said.  

Telecom folks react loudly to what they hear, but the industry's not listening, absorbing the details, nuances and hints embedded in what consumers and businesses are saying. You're focused on shaping outcomes, come hell or high water. But you need to do a way better job of meeting consumers' and businesses' needs. It's more profitable. 

As a marketing professional, industry analyst and generally astute observer, I believe the big telco and carrier executives suffer from market myopia due to a lack-of-listening disease that afflicts the rest of their organizations. For example, if I walk into a room full of telco execs and say, "Google," there's an instant, intense Pavlovian attack of apoplexy-generated talking points and sound bites.  

I give the industry an A+ for executing coordinated PR campaigns. But if you actually believe all the anti-Google diatribes you're throwing out, you get a D- for response to market need. What Google has done, regardless of its motives, is tap into a market frustration that is much deeper and broader than apparently you understand. A lot of people feel about their broadband carriers as they do big banks. And by the way, you don't have a perception problem. You have a reality problem. 

To make my points a little pointier, here's my frequent railroads-and-airlines-circa-1946 analogy. Telecom industry, you're the railroads. The 100 or so current community (i.e. built by local public and private entities) broadband networks, and now Google, are the airlines. For points of reference, here are 10 successful community networks.  

Around 1940, the railroads were in their heyday. They had made America great, they still basked in the glow of having helped conquer the West, they had nationwide infrastructure, they had made some wonderful innovations to trains, railroad barons had clout in D.C. and beyond. People even wrote pop songs about them. Railroads made money, lots of it...Continued

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