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Got broadband? Got faster customer service

Posted August 13th, 2013 in cable television and tagged , , by Alton Drew

For the pas t few weeks I’ve been having problems with my high-speed Internet connection. When you phone service and Internet service are provided via a modem and your phone service goes kaput while you are participating on a radio show via the telephone, you get concerned about not only next weekend’s show but about your ability to research online or blog without disastrous interruptions.

So I called my broadband provider and set up a technician visit. They are usually prompt (I know. Surprising based on other consumer complaints about broadband companies) so I had no worries about them showing up … no worries until it got down to five minutes left on the clock and no technician in sight.

I called them to find out what the problem was. In the mean time I also did something I’ve never done before: I tweeted my disgust. Yes, I joined the growing number of customers who used social media to express their dismay at poor customer service and was surprised by the response I got.

The first surprise was who tweeted back first. Dish Network, a competitor of my broadband provider, tweeted me within five minutes of my original tweet. They let me know, in 140 characters, how inept my carrier was and that I should switch to them. Not only was I surprised by their speed but by their boldness; that they would make an all out attempt to pick off another customer from my provider was exciting.

In cyberspace, someone can hear you scream.

The other surprise was the late response from my provider. While the tech did show up 25 minutes late but to his credit was able to identify the problem and provide a resolution that would minimize future recurrences, (Throwing in free Showtime and HBO for six months was pretty cool, too.), what stood out as awkward was my provider tweeting me a response two hours after their competitor did. That was damned dumb.

My take away from yesterday’s customer service debacle was one, if broadband providers want to sell the Federal Communications Commission on the importance and benefits to consumers of a transition to Internet protocol services, how they react to dropping the ball on the routine of tech visits has to be a priority.

Second, no matter what type of business, competitors are watching and ready to pounce and this may benefit consumers. Writing for SproutInsights, Jennifer Beese found that more top brands are using social media, specifically Twitter, to maintain customer service contact. Thirty percent of companies in the Interbrand 100 maintain there own customer care Twitter handles.

While customer care on Twitter may not be enough to draw a non-broadband user into the IP domain, the use of a fast method of connecting to your business customer service is becoming prevalent and a compliment to existing customer service platforms.

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A rewrite of the Communications Act should describe how we communicate today

If there is going to be a re-write of the Communications Act of 1934, it has to start with a change in the flavor the statute. What do I mean by flavor? The tone, the gist, of the current law is based on an old communications world that was voice-centric. The current statute has the word, “telecommunications” sprinkled all over and throughout the Act’s language.

Section 153(50) of the Act defines telecommunications as the transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user’s choosing, without change in the form or content of the information, as sent and received.

In today’ communications world, although one can argue that a user of a communications facility still specifies to who they wish information to be sent, changing form and content of the information is par for the course. E-mails are modified, added to, during their transmission. Video content can be added to text during exchanges of information, thus modifying what is being sent and received by users. Yes, we still use voice, which falls squarely into the definition of telecommunications, but voice transmission is not sole method by which we communicate anymore.

I can communicate with literally hundreds of friends and family members with a post to my Facebook page. I can notify hundreds of Twitter followers about what was said at a conference while sharing simultaneously with conference attendees my opinions on an issue. We don’t do that with run-of-the-mill telecommunications.

I don’t pretend to be an engineer, but it’s safe to say that the networking of a communications infrastructure designed to provide us our current way of communication with each other is far different and more efficient than the legacy network used to provide telecommunications of the past. That this new, digital network can still provide us with voice service while allowing the other modes of communicating supports an assertion that voice communications, telecommunications, is just an “app” and should no longer be treated as the focus of policymakers or of the Communications Act.

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Broadband shows us how the sausage is made

Posted July 5th, 2013 in Broadband, democracy, digital divide and tagged , , , by Alton Drew

Technology. When I was eleven, I listened to the radio. My son at eleven does the Internet. In 1995, America followed State of California v. Orenthal James Simpson via television. Today, State of Florida v. George Zimmerman is followed on Twitter and Facebook.

The big difference is the instant democratization that social networks bring not only to how we access and engage entertainment, but also to how we engage our forums of government, specifically how we opine on how well it is working.

Today we not only see how the sausage is made, but can comment on how brutal the sausage making is.

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Facebook the Night Club

Posted February 7th, 2013 in social network and tagged , , by Alton Drew

I’m experiencing one of those a ha moments that may not make it into the annals of history, but I claim all the same. The team on Bloomberg Surveillance chatted a bit about the big three social networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. One of the hosts, Tom Keene, described LinkedIn as a winner while giving Facebook mixed reviews. His analysis was based primarily on LinkedIn’s overall stock performance since it went public two years ago. I think LinkedIn is the better play also simply based on the value of its content. Specifically, the value that is derived from the quality connections people expect to make on LinkedIn versus Facebook.

People use LinkedIn to connect with individuals that may lead them to job or other business opportunities. The site also markets itself to job recruiters looking for ideal candidates. LinkedIn plays a role in maximizing income and wealth for the subscriber. Facebook simply doesn’t do that. It is still the bulletin board that is hung up in a dorm room where Kim can tell Sally about the sorority party next week.

What Facebook needs to do, if it wants to stick with its advertising model, is to create events. Facebook is like a night club. People show up for the entertainment. Real swank clubs have corporate sponsors for an evening underwriting events while hawking their wares. Facebook has one billion potential MCs and DJs on its site and plenty of sponsors that are willing to hawk their wares around them. This is how Facebook will be able to generate more income.

As long as Zuckerberg is in charge, Facebook will never be a LinkedIn, and as the years progress, professionals will never look at Facebook as a rival to LinkedIn, but since Facebook doesn’t even want to take on more of a media company look, the club option may be its best bet.

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Chairman Genachowski. It’s Your Turn to Tweet

Posted July 25th, 2012 in FCC, Government Regulation, Twitter and tagged , , by Alton Drew

Today Federal Communications Commission member Jessica Rosenworcel joined the Twitter ranks, launching her Twitter account much to my delight. I was so elated I even sent a quick hello to welcome her to the platform. Twitter can provide a public servant a quick way to get their messages out to the public. Just ask Mayor Corey Booker of Newark about how effective Twitter is.

While I don’t expect Ms. Rosenworcel to go digging snow on the streets of Washington or running into burning houses to save kittens, I look forward to what I call political heroism as she provides us with a little more transparency and insight on policymaking at the FCC.

Now it’s time to get the rest of the commissioners on board. Maybe they will follow their leader, Chairman Genachowski once he gets a Twitter handle. If he’s scratching his head about an appropriate name for his account, I came up with a couple.

Mr. Genachowski could try TheOriginalGFCC or TheGmanFCC. Something funky and outside the box would make interacting with the commish pretty cool. You can have fun with it, Mr. Genachowski. The public will also appreciate a tweet every now and then explaining what the FCC is all about and how specific initiatives are impacting them.

Anyway, see you in the Twittersphere…