As our local employees have talked to customers during the process of bringing Wide Open Internet to everyone, some of our heaviest Internet users have expressed concerns about moving to a usage-based plan. They point out to us that neighboring co-ops are still providing “unlimited” Internet plans, and they want us to go back to that traditional tiered-speed approach.
We appreciate these customers reaching out to us and we certainly understand it can be an adjustment for some. Remember, however, that about 80% of our customers SAVE MONEY with Wide Open, and at the same time EVERYONE gets faster speeds – on average about 25 times faster than their tiered plan. Customers are coming over to Wide Open from other providers, and we are adding Wide Open Internet customers faster than we ever did on the old tiered plans. In addition to the speed and experience improvements, there are many other reasons why customers see the value in Wide Open:
- No contracts. We’re not forcing you to stay if you don’t want to. Our goal is to provide the best possible service experience, both in your daily Internet use and the quality of the customer service you receive from us, so you WANT to stay. Competitors offer you the moon, then lock you into a 24-month Agreement so they don’t have to live up to anything they promised – but you can’t leave.
- Everything’s included. There’s no extra installation fee, no deposit, no modem lease, no WiFi charge, no requirement to take a phone line you won’t use. Our competitor, and the other co-ops our customers have mentioned, charge for installation, to lease your modem, and to get WiFi. Most of them even require you to take landline phone service to get Internet, which you pay for on top of your Internet plan. Some charge you for every service call, even if it’s their issue.
- It’s customized. Light users automatically pay less. Heavy users get the heavy-duty speeds they need to do a lot more in a lot less time. You don’t have to call us every time you need a faster speed. If you go on vacation for 2 weeks, your Internet bill will go down. As we continue upgrading the network, you’ll automatically get faster speeds without having to change plans. Your bill is individualized to your particular situation, not averaged out among all users like on tiered plans. Most customers won’t even have to do anything differently. You don’t have to actively manage your usage unless you know you are a very heavy user and you want to keep your bill below a certain level. If you do want to keep track, we give you all the free tools to do it.
- It connects more people. A large portion of the people who live in our service area are living on a fixed income, many below the poverty line. As much as 20% of the population is living in poverty, and 15-19% of the population is age 65 or over. Affordability – not availability – is their Digital Divide. Families should not have to go without Internet access for their children’s homework because the cheapest plan we can offer is $45. Seniors should be able to afford Internet access and their medications. By paying for only what they use individually, rather than subsidizing the top 5% of heavy users, they can afford to get connected.
Take Betty, who lives on a fixed income and uses the Internet to read the news, FaceTime with her grandkids, and email her blood pressure readings to her doctor. She uses about 40GB of data a month. On tiered Internet plans, she’d pay $45-$50/month for 8-10M Internet speeds. On Wide Open, she’s paying $27.95, and her FaceTime service works without delays. She pays even less during the months when she’s out of town visiting her daughter. The $20+ she saves every month could easily be the difference in whether or not she can stay connected to the Internet. Within the next few years, Internet connectivity could also be the one thing that allows her to stay in her own home without her kids worrying about her safety.
On the flip side, take Kate, who gets most of her video content online. After upgrading to Wide Open and seeing the great video streaming experience it provides, she drops her traditional cable TV connection, saving $80 every month. She can watch 400GB worth of streaming video – or more than 60 2-hour HD movies a month – for that same $80. If she watches in SD, that becomes about 200 SD movies a month. And unlike traditional TV, whenever she watches less, she pays less.
We switched everyone to Wide Open because it saved money for the majority of our customers, and because it is an equitable way to offer quality Internet for all. We are continually investing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in Internet upgrades to keep up with customers’ bandwidth demands. Should Betty bear the same brunt of that expense as her neighbor who streams HD Netflix movies all day and has three XBOX’s? Should we just not invest in the network, so that this neighbor has a poor streaming experience and can’t compete against other gamers?
It’s also a long-term strategy focused on the reality of what is going to happen in the broadband world over the next decade, and on making sure we will be able to continue providing customers with the heavy-duty Internet service they need. As previous examples in long distance service and other business models have proven time and again, “unlimited” plans are not sustainable over the long term when there is a real cost to PROVIDING MORE. Especially out here.