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The Master Agent: Helping Create a New Trend in Fiber Access

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The Master Agent: Helping Create a New Trend in Fiber Access

March 25, 2015

  By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Remember the days when you had one provider for your telephone service, another for long distance, still another for your dialup Internet connection, another to provide your cell phone communications and finally, a company to provide your television programming? Your mailbox brought each bill to you on a monthly basis and like most, you were excited to see how much you owed each entity.

While those days were certainly not cheap, we had little options when it came to staying connected through a unified approach. We gave our business to the lowest provider able to meet our needs and often gave in to the promos from a competition to switch our account. The days were great for providers as they knew their niche well and knew they could continue to drive revenue opportunities.

That reality changed when high speed Internet became more than just a luxury and the master agent was needed to make purchasing decisions at the office. Cable companies were getting into the business of offering Internet and home phone service and phone companies wanted to connect you to the Internet and offered you lower pricing if you used their industry partners for television access.

The lines between the industries became blurred and the best service packaging may now come from companies that you never knew were involved in specific industries. In Chattanooga, Tenn., the city understood the potential in bundled offerings and its utility, EPB, is offering fiber to connect citizens to the Internet, watch television, and get home phone service. So great is the demand that the utility’s subscriber base is up nearly 13 percent in the last eight months.

Now that EPB has the federal approval to expand its footprint, its five-year growth of 10,000 subscribers per year is likely to increase. The utility currently claims 45 percent of the residential market and 5,574 businesses. The utility is expected to generate $111.7 million in revenue for 2015, up from $99.9 million last year.

While the utility can bring Gigabit-per-second Internet service to its subscribers, users of such speeds only account for a fraction of the total base. The biggest draw for current customers is a pricing structure that doesn’t fluctuate and quality customer care. Too often, larger telecommunications providers will send bills with numerous fees and taxes applied that vary each month. The frustration customers often experience with trying to figure out actual costs can be enough to draw them to the competition.

The point is, EPB has figured out a way to appeal to its client base and offer a competitive solution. The master agent can get on board by helping EPB to continue to extend its reach and bring in a broader market. While it won’t be able to saturate the way that AT&T (News - Alert), Comcast and Verizon can, it is helping to set a new standard in the industry that are others are likely to demand. 

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