TV-First Strategy Gives Rural America Access to Gigabit Speeds


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    Last August, Telco Americana reported that Wisconsin-based TDS Telecommunications Corporation (TDS) had launched gigabit services in two New Hampshire cities: New London and Hollis. The service boasts speeds 100 times faster than the US average, with “400 Mbps on the upstream,” reported CED Magazine. A lot has changed for the telecom company since last summer, though.

    According to this Light Reading article, TDS has “gigabit services now available in 19 markets across its operating territory,” as of December 2014. Those markets span four states: Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and Georgia. The organization selects these markets—which typically are comprised of “smaller, more rural communities”—by assessing customer demand and the availability of fiber networks. “We’re going back into markets that were engineered for TV and that have had TV for a while, and looking what it takes to put a gig there,” Matt Apps, manager of Internet product management and development at TDS Telecom, told Light Reading.


    The method of expansion is unique to TDS, as most gigabit service companies treat their cables as over-the-top conduits—meaning they exist as Internet companies first and foremost. TDS, on the other hand, requires television in all its package offerings, making it a cable company through and through. As this other Light Reading post explains, though, that’s a smart strategy: “…it doesn’t require too much from an infrastructure standpoint (the network connection is already there because the carrier is providing TV service) and it makes the 1Gig service incremental revenue.”


    Beyond making business sense, the move also benefits customers, because they don’t have to shell out the dough for gigabit connectivity ($99 per month).  Instead, they can pay $35 per month for 100 Mbps per second. This enables the company to demonstrate its capabilities right off the bat, and “if and when they need higher speeds,” the customers are already equipped to upgrade. The tech and hardware are already there. “For these smaller communities, just the knowledge that gigabit speeds are available can aid economic development, boosting the appeal of neighborhoods and towns to businesses and residents,” reports Light Reading.


    Clearly, TDS is a telco on a mission—and it has a distinct plan for achieving it. Perhaps that’s why the company was one of six finalists vying for the inaugural Leading Lights award for Most Innovative Gigabit Broadband Service. According to the Leading Lights website, “the award will go to the communications service provider (fixed, cable, utility, municipality) that has launched the most innovative gigabit broadband service offering during the past year.” And while TDS isn’t the largest gigabit provider, its offering strategy is focused on enhancing customer experience and providing education and support. Essentially, they’re creating a slow gigabit embrace—one that’ll ensure long-term adoption from all demographics. Apps calls this the “gigabit halo effect.”

    So, did TDS take home the Leading Lights honor? Unfortunately, it did not. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen for the telecom next year, because it’s not like TDS is slowing down anytime soon. And thanks to that halo effect, demand for the company’s services should only rise.

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