Why Are Some Homes In Eagle Mountain Still On Copper Instead Of Fiber?

“What is the holdup?“ asked Eagle Mountain resident Don Mallicoat recently on Facebook. This is an excellent question, which many customers in Eagle Mountain who are still on DSL (copper) connections, are probably asking. Why are some homes in Eagle Mountain still on copper, while most are being served with fiber to the home? What is preventing Direct Communications from taking fiber to every home today?

The very short answer is simply: money, and the sheer cost of the citywide upgrade.

The slightly more expanded answer is specifically: cash flow.

The more complex answer, that requires some real explanation, is government regulation of our industry, and how the business model of rural telecom works.

Firstly, let’s be clear—we wish we already had fiber to every home in Eagle Mountain. If we could wave a magic wand, we would make that happen today. Our research and data shows that fiber customers are more satisfied with their service, irrespective of the bandwidth package to which they are subscribing. Further, our data indicates that fiber customers cost less in maintenance and customer support. Our goal is to upgrade every home to fiber as quickly as possible because it is better for our customers, the community, and us.

When Directcom purchased the previously city-owned network from Eagle Mountain City in 2006, the number of houses with fiber to the home was 0.

The number of homes in Eagle Mountain with fiber to the home is now several thousand. So, we have made progress, but yes, there are still neighborhoods we need to convert from DSL to Fiber.

The company has already upgraded about half of the older subdivisions from copper to fiber; however, due to simple budget constraints, we cannot run it to everyone at once. Over the past few years, Directcom has been able to upgrade about 300 older homes a year to fiber, while at the same time kept up with fiber construction to all new subdivisions. During 2013 the company upgraded Cedar Trails, Sage Valley, and the Eagle Landing subdivisions from Copper to Fiber lines. During 2014 we are upgrading Pioneer and Mountain View. By the end of 2014 we should be completely done with the city center upgrade.

Since 2006, we have invested about $24 million into network assets. (This is public information that can be can be sought from the State Tax Commission.) This should give some perspective into the cost of building a modern fiber network. Where does all that money come from? Not from your internet bill, but keep reading, and we will answer that later.

Some background: Direct Communications bought the former Eagle Mountain Telecom in 2006, after the city had tried for many years to sell off its telephone network. The cost of building and maintaining a telephone network was driving the city slowly towards bankruptcy, and Direct Communications, a private telecom provider with a business model that works for remote areas, stepped up and offered a solution for residents of Eagle Mountain, and Directcom paid off the Municipal Bonds which had financed the City’s network. Direct Communications originally bought the network from the City for $6.3 million, and every year since then we have invested significant resources into upgrading the network plant to fiber optic lines, and upgrading switches, electronics and equipment to power the fiber.

So, what is preventing us from upgrading all the homes to fiber in the same year?

Like all businesses, we work within certain constraints. Our available budget is one constraint. Acquiring capital is a major constraint. For us, and most small businesses, managing cash flow is a major constraint. A small company can easily go bankrupt by growing too fast and not having the cash flow to keep up with growth, because of the time lag between investment and recovery on that investment. That lag needs to be financed. Most fast-growing startups must be fueled by outside investment capital, especially those with high construction costs like communications networks. Without this, they would not have the cash flow to even pay their employees because of this time lag. Directcom, essentially still a startup, must finance most of its network growth and upgrades through borrowing from banks and government entities devoted to lending to rural institutions. Borrowing the millions of dollars needed for upgrades is not easy, and very tight government regulation of our industry makes it especially challenging to acquire financing. Put simply, we just can’t get our hands on the huge amount of money needed to do all the upgrades at once.

An important piece of this puzzle is to understand that end consumers themselves could never pay for the real cost of bringing fiber to their homes under pure market forces in a community this size. Clear evidence to demonstrate this claim is that there no other wireline provider in Eagle Mountain.   However, rest assured, Eagle Mountain citizens, that we are truly the only provider who really loves you, because we are here with you and working diligently to bring fiber optic connectivity to every home and business. This is our only market, and Direct Communications Cedar Valley has no interest outside of Eagle Mountain. You are our only customers.

We should mention the need to build and scale the network in a technologically sound way.  Switching everyone all at once would drastically impact our network, resulting in months or years of chaos and a bad consumer experience for everyone in Eagle Mountain until we stabilized everything again.   We want to build it well, not just for today but for decades to come.  That along with identifying trouble/aged areas in the network is the primary determinant in where to upgrade and how to improve the network. The upgrades have to be carried out in a manageable fashion that will fit within capabilities, and our financing model.

Direct Communications makes their investment in fiber construction back over several decades. We borrow to build the network, and then during those decades of cost recovery, an FCC program pays a specified rate of return, which provides the incentive to invest in remote areas, and allows us to pay back the debt. Without this program, Eagle Mountain would not have a fiber network at all, and we would not have a viable business model. (Also worth noting is that there is a several year gap between when we put fiber into the ground and when it is allowed to start being recovered on under the FCC program.) Of course, along with this federal cost recovery program, comes federal regulation—a lot of it. In spite of the very real and genuine challenges resulting from cash constraints, burdensome government regulations, and ever increasing network demands, we are excited about the accelerated deployment of fiber to the homes that we’re pursuing in order to continue providing premier internet experiences for our customers now, and to prepare for the way people will use the internet in the future.   It is often trendy to trash government regulation and by no means are we fans of a great deal of it, but in rural communities where there is no viable business model for the deployment of fiber networks the model of a regulated monopoly makes the most economic and social sense.  It ensures a provider of a business model that incents investment and then a statewide regulatory authority regulates the monopoly to protect the consumers who have no other choice where to go for wireline services.

So, we will continue to slowly but steadily upgrade from copper to fiber as the business model allows. If you are already on fiber, know that you are enjoying the most advanced broadband technology available anywhere in the world.  If you are one of the customers still on copper, try to console yourself with the fact that you do have fiber to your neighborhood or street node. Only the last few feet through your yard to your home are actually still copper lines. We currently deploy the latest VDSL equipment to maximize the copper technology, and you can choose 20Mb DSL speeds, which is enough to stream about 3 Netflix movies at the same time. We are currently looking at increasing that copper offering to a 30Mb download to tide you over until we get fiber to your home. Someday every home in Eagle Mountain will have fiber all the way to the home, and the happiest people of all will probably be the employees of Direct Communications, your local broadband provider.

(Special thanks to Kip Wilson, General Manager, and Michael Parrish, Accounting Manager, for their contributions to this article.)

Viacom Negotiation Update

Update: 4/2/2014

NATIONAL CABLE TELEVISION COOPERATIVE AND VIACOM
REACH DEAL TO RENEW CARRIAGE AGREEMENT
Lenexa, KS and New York, NY – April 1, 2014 – The National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) and Viacom reached an agreement to renew carriage of Viacom’s media networks by NCTC’s more than 800 member companies. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Judy Meyka, NCTC Executive Vice President of Programming, said: “Viacom is and remains one of NCTC’s largest content providers and we are pleased to have reached an agreement that will provide opportunities for our members to distribute their content over multiple platforms.”
“We’re grateful to have reached an agreement with NCTC that will allow millions of viewers nationwide to continue to enjoy our programming,” said Denise Denson, Executive Vice President, Content Distribution and Marketing, Viacom. “We commend NCTC for collaborating with Viacom to reach a fair deal that puts viewers first.”
About the National Cable Television Cooperative
The National Cable Television Cooperative, Inc. (NCTC) is a Kansas not‐for‐profit corporation that operates as a programming and hardware purchasing organization for its member companies who own and operate cable systems throughout the U.S. and its territories. NCTC seeks to maximize current and future opportunities to ensure the profitability, competitive stature and long term sustainability of its member companies.

Original Post 3/27/2014:

Multinational entertainment company Viacom, which is the parent owner of networks:  BET, Comedy Central, Spike, TV Land, CMT, MTV, VH1, and Nickelodeon, is threatening to shut down their network feeds to most rural cable companies at the end of March 2014, unless their demands for huge prices increases are met by the rural cable industry.

Direct Communications obtains all cable TV content through a national rural co-op, The National Cable Television Cooperative — which represents more than 1000 small rural cable operators, and negotiates all our programming deals. NCTC is trying to negotiate with Viacom, but they have informed us that they are not hopeful that an agreement will be reached due to Viacom being unwilling to budge on pricing demands.

Programming fees account for the bulk of our customers’ monthly cable TV bill.  Our goal is to protect our customers from significant programming fee increases. Viacom is demanding an increase that is 40 times the rate of inflation over last year’s fees for the same channels you get today – even if you don’t watch them.

We, as a small company that serves rural customers, feel that Viacom may be out of touch with demand for their programs in rural America, since surveys of our customers in rural Idaho have consistently ranked programs like MTV, VH1, BET, and Comedy Central (which are mostly targeted to urban youth) among the least-watched of any cable networks on the Directcom channel line-up.

Our existing agreement with Viacom expires on March 31, 2014. Although NCTC is working to negotiate a fair price for these networks after March 31, Viacom may turn off their networks or require us to remove all their channels until a new agreement is secured. For more information, please call us at 208 548 2345 or check back regularly on our facebook site, facebook.com/Directcom or  blog.directcom.com

 

Here are links to some of the national news stories about NCTC’s negotiations:

Multichannel News, March 25: Small Ops Gird for Battle

Los Angeles Times, March 26: Viacom in Fight with Small Ops

CBS MoneyWatch, March 26: Cable Customer could lose Viacom

Long Distance Changes Coming to Eagle Mountain

Good News:

Starting with the September 2013 billing period, Direct Communications Long Distance rates will be even better value. We will now only offer two long distance plans—$0.10 per minute with no monthly fee, or a bucket of 1000 minutes for $29.95 a month.

Why are we changing plans?
Not only are we changing our rates, but also the way we send long distance traffic across the country. Recently, the big national carriers who sell wholesale long distance service to small companies like us raised their wholesale rates to over $0.20 per minute. This basically puts all small independents out of the old fashioned long distance business, because we know our customers will not want to pay over $0.20 per minute for long distance.

Our only viable solution to keep providing our customers with reasonable long distance rates is to begin delivering all long distance traffic from our switch in Eagle Mountain to the national providers as digital IP traffic over the internet backbone. This will not affect or utilize your own home internet service. You will not notice any difference in the way you make long distance calls; this will all happen in the inter-carrier background only after your call leaves Eagle Mountain.

If you want to continue with regular old fashioned, non-digital “switched toll” long distance, please contact one of the national long distance carriers. We will continue to support other carriers’ long distance service over our network. However, be aware that most big carriers now use IP delivery somewhere in their networks anyway.

What do I have to do?

You do not need to do anything. We will be automatically migrating all of our long distance customers to the $0.10 per minute plan on Sep 1. You only need to contact us if you wish to change to our $29.95 per month plan. Please note too that this change will only affect customers currently on Direct Communications Long Distance service. If you are with any other provider for your long distance service, your service with them will continue as usual.

When will I see a change on my bill?

Since your  long distance bill is for the previous month’s activity, customers will not see a change until the October bill. You long distance plan will actually change in the billing system to $0.10 per minute on Sep 1, 2013, but those changes will only be shown on your printed bill in October.

What if I currently am in a bundle that includes long distance, like the “Bundle of Joy?”

Any legacy bundles that included long distance will be discontinued. We will be constructing a new customized package for you that includes the $29.95 for 1000 minutes per month, our Top 4 Calling Features Pack, 20Mb High Speed Internet, and unlimited local landline phone service.

What’s the difference between IP Long Distance and Switched Toll ?

There is no difference in delivery method or call quality from our switch in Eagle Mountain to your home phone. The big difference is the method by which we send long distance traffic from our switch to our wholesale provider. In the old days, all long distance was all sent over regular landline toll trunks. The new digital method, which is possible because we installed a new digital switch in Eagle Mountain several years ago,  is to convert all long distance voice traffic into bits and bytes and send it over the internet as IP traffic to the national providers. Since most of them utilize IP protocol  in their networks now anyway, there really is little difference in quality, especially compared to the low quality delivered on a mobile phone, which is how most long distance calls are made these days. What we have noticed with IP delivery is a drop in the consistency of calls connecting reliably–since this is travelling over the internet, on rare occasions, a call may not reach its destination, so the customer will have to dial again. However, again, this has sadly become the new industry standard, with the national carriers always seeking the cheapest possible call route, which usually involves IP anyway. Most regular toll customers all around the country have seen declines in long distance call quality and reliability. Big carriers like Verizon are in fact even trying to cut costs  by routing what is supposed to be more reliable landline long distance calls, over their wireless towers. What used to be a strictly regulated industry has almost become the wild west, with the FCC allowing the big boys to basically do whatever they want to, and the end customer suffers. See https://blog.directcom.com/2012/01/27/calls-not-coming-through-you-are-being-discriminated-against-by-big-national-carriers/

What are my other options?

Google Voice is a great free long distance option. This uses IP calling to connect your home phone to Google’s IP switches, using your home internet service. The trade off: you need to have your computer on to initiate the call, plus there is a rumor going around that Google is not too good at keeping your call records private.

Please call us today at 801 789 2800 if you have any concerns.

What Internet Speed Do I Need to Watch Netflix?

Customers often want to know what broadband speed package they need to subscribe to watch Netflix. The first important thing to know is that the Netflix video stream quality and resolution adjusts automatically to match your available bandwidth, so although you can in theory watch Netflix on any real broadband speed, it’s going to be very low-quality unless you have a good, fast, consistent Internet speed. We typically recommend at least a 6 Mb connection in order to watch one high definition feed, and if you want to watch two movies at once, you should subscribe to our 10 Mb speed.

Here is the information Netflix provides on their website regarding internet speed requirements. Please note, these recommendations are the bare minimum, and only for a single stream. If you want to watch two movies at the same time on different devices in your home, you will need to double these requirements. Plus, if you want to watch a Netflix movie while somebody else wants to browse the internet on another device, you are going to need more bandwidth. Basically, more speed is always better. More speed means more fun, and more connected devices you can use at the same time.

From Netflix Help Center: Internet Connection Speed Recommendations

While Watch Instantly works with many different levels of broadband, the speed and bandwidth of your broadband Internet connection may impact your viewing experience. Netflix streams a little bit of data as a buffer each time you start a movie or TV show. Frequently starting and stopping movies & TV shows will result in a minor increase to the amount of data Netflix streams to you per hour. In most cases, this will be less than a few minutes worth.

Below are the internet speed requirements and recommendations for playing movies and TV shows on the Netflix website.

*Note: Internet speeds listed represent Download speeds.

0.5 Megabits per second – Required broadband connection speed

1.5 Megabits per second – Recommended broadband connection speed

3.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for DVD quality

5.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for HD quality

7.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for Super HD quality

12 Megabits per second – Recommended for 3D quality

HD Video Quality

Movies and TV shows we have available in high definition will play in 720p or better with a fast enough internet connection. If you would like to view high definition titles whenever they are available, be sure to change your video quality setting to Best on the Video Quality page.

 

Netflix and Data Usage

Perhaps an even more important  than your connection speed is monthly data limits. Some providers claim to support video streaming, but will cap how much you can download each month. They may even charge you data overages or throttle (intentionally reduce) your speed if you watch too much.

Direct Communications is the only provider that will give you true unlimited bandwidth, so you can stream as much online video as you want, in full HD quality, without ever worrying about data overage charges.

Only Directcom offer truly unlimited bandwidth with no caps, so you can watch as much as you like, without worrying about data overage charges.

Only Directcom offer truly unlimited bandwidth with no caps, so you can watch as much as you like, without worrying about data overage charges.

Here is what Netflix says on their help pages about data caps—basically they recommend you avoid streaming in HD if you have caps of your service because Best quality can use up to 2.3 GB per hour for HD video.

Netflix Bandwidth Usage

Higher quality video uses more bandwidth than lower-quality video. If your service provider applies a bandwidth or data cap to your Internet service, you can Manage Bandwith Usage by changing the video quality settings to Good or Better to consume less data.

 

https://contactus.netflix.com/article/en/node/306

 

Manage video quality: We know that some of you have Internet data caps and we want to make it easier for you to manage how much data you use. We offer 3 video quality settings to help you manage your data usage. No matter what level you choose, your Netflix membership price will remain the same.

Good quality (up to 0.3 GB per hour)

Better quality (up to 0.7 GB per hour)

Best quality (up to 1.0 GB per hour, or up to 2.3 GB per hour for HD)

https://movies.netflix.com/HdToggle

 

How many devices can I use Netflix on at the same time?

You may instantly watch on up to six (6) unique authorized Netflix ready devices. The number of devices that may be allowed to instantly watch simultaneously will depend on your membership plan. To see the details of your membership plan, go to “change plan information” in the Your Account page. You may have up to six (6) unique authorized Netflix ready devices associated with your Netflix account

 

Why is Direct Communications better at streaming than any wireless provider?
Only Directcom offers truly unlimited bandwidth with no caps, so you can watch as much as you like, without worrying about data overage charges.
We are the only wired network in town.
We offer speeds up to 100Mb.
Our network is state-of-the-art fiber optic cable.
Our speeds are consistent, and we typically provide the speed we advertise, not some “burstable” mythical speed that you can only get for a few seconds.
Unlike wireless providers, your bandwidth is not shared with your neighbors, so you can all stream video at the same time and not be affected by their usage.
We don’t throttle your speeds if you stream too much.
We don’t put a cap on how much you are allowed to download each month.
Our fiber-optic cable connects you directly to the national fiber backbone, with no wireless links inbetween.
Wireless internet equipment simply wasn’t built to handle constant high-demand applications like high-definition video very well. Our engineered Fiber network was designed to stream high-definition video.
We provide enough bandwidth power so you can watch multiple streams simultaneously on several different devices in your home.

Direct Communications offers faster streaming broadband over fiber optic cable in Eagle Mountain and most of Southeast Idaho. Call us for absolutely the fastest High Speed Internet in Eagle Mountain. We are the premiere Eagle Mountain ISP.

Pony Express Days Smart TV Winner Announced

Paul Talbot-TV prize winner, with Ben Hayes, Directcom account manager.

Paul Talbot-TV prize winner, with Ben Hayes, Directcom account manager.

Paul Talbot of Eagle Mountain, Utah, was the winner of the 2013 Direct Communications Pony Express Day Smart TV giveaway. Each year we give away an internet-enabled, or “Smart” TV to a current customer in Eagle Mountain, as part of our Pony Express Day celebrations. The winner is drawn on Saturday afternoon at our booth at Nolan Park. Thank you to everyone who participated  this year–perhaps next year will be your lucky year. We wish we could give a smart TV away to every one of our customers, to encourage all of our customers to stream as much video as humanly possible, because we find that the more our customers stream video, the more they like and value their Direct Communications service.

Why? We don’t cap your service. This is vital for really being able to enjoy HD streaming. All of our wireless competitors are now capping data, or throttling speeds if their customers download too much. Even Comcast is capping data,[i]  which is wonderful news for independents like us, because we can claim to be the only provider to offer unlimited data with no caps.

Online video has become more prevalent, more sophisticated and more bandwidth-intensive.  In 2012, video streaming sales surpassed hard media sales for the first time ever.[1] Netflix says on their website that HD video will use 2.3 GB per hour. A Verizon 4G customer could use up their monthly data allotment on a single HD movie. Netflix is beginning to roll out 3D streaming video and SuperHD quality, and soon we will be streaming Ulta HD, which has four times the resolution of current HD. Ultimately, in a future of video streaming, we as fiber providers with unlimited bandwidth are going to become the entertainment partner in your home.

Two years ago, a customer poll showed that two-thirds of our customers were streaming online video, after several years of us giving away streaming devices like Xbox’s, Wiis, Rokus, Apple TVs, Kindle Fires, or free year-long subscriptions to Netflix with our broadband service. We recently completed our 2013 annual customer satisfaction survey, and found that almost 99% of our customers are now streaming video, with 75.5% reporting that they are streaming video every day. This is good news for our customers, who are saving money on entertainment every month by using their broadband connection to access video rather than paying for satellite, and getting better-quality entertainment on demand, and it is good news for us as a service provider. So go ahead–watch as much as you want to–we won’t cap you.


[1]  IHS Screen Digest Broadband Media Market Insight report

Speed Increase for DSL Customers in Idaho

Faster streaming broadband means no buffering when watching online video.

Faster streaming broadband means no buffering when watching online video.

We will be doubling the download speeds for customers on our starting DSL package from 1.5Mb to 3Mb starting around mid-February of 2013. We are also doubling the upload speed from 512k to 1Mb for all customers currently on our 6Mb package.

However, along with this speed increase, we also need to make a price adjustment to our starting retail package, which will become 3Mb for $39.95 a month. This price increase will only affect those customers on the starting DSL package. The prices for all other speed packages will remain the same as they have been for the past many years. This change will happen starting at the billing period for March 2013.

StandAlone DSL will be changing to $99.95 for 12Mb. More about that later…

This is the first time we have ever had to increase an internet price in our long corporate history. For the past 10 years since we first introduced DSL service, we have only ever had the pleasure of giving our customers higher speeds for the same price they were previously paying.  Raising our starting package price was a difficult decision that we did not take lightly. We understand how vital having access to reliable and affordable high speed internet is to all of our customers, especially in our rural areas, where broadband has become the primary way of staying connected the world.

We wish we could have in fact lowered the starting DSL rate to make it even more affordable for more people, however, this decision was made at the federal administration level, who currently appear to have little interest in improving life for rural residents. The only way that operating rural networks is possible is through federal government cost-recovery programs. These programs subsidize the cost of building communication lines to remote areas, which is wonderful for all of us living out in rural Idaho, but, along with federal dollars of course comes the burden of federal regulation.

The FCC, through their rural management agency NECA, (National Exchange Carrier Association), declared that DSL rates must be increased to meet rising costs, so we had no choice other than to raise our retail DSL rate. In the case of standalone DSL, (internet without land line phone service) NECA has basically priced us out of the market for that. $99.95 is now the cheapest standalone data product we can reasonably offer, and from now on all customers who want DSL will be far better off paying for a landline–even if they don’t use it. This is exactly the opposite direction we were hoping the FCC would take on StandAlone data–we would love to be able to offer DSL on its own for people who really don’t want to pay for a land line, but apparently the good folks at the federal government have their own ideas of what people really want.

We hope that also doubling your speeds will help to reassure you that we really do want to provide real value for our customers. As a comparison, 3Mb, which will be our new lowest, or starter internet speed package, is actually the fastest available speed for DSL in most of the larger cities in Idaho.

Will I have to do anything to upgrade my speed to 3Mb if I’m subscribing to 1.5Mb now?

No—this upgrade will happen automatically in the background. We will simply change your account information in our servers to increase your speed from 1.5Mb to 3Mb. Once this happens, you will notice that downloading many things online will take half the time.

Why will the upgrade to 3Mb speed improve my quality of life?

Using the information highway today is very much like driving on a regular highway- most people want to go the maximum allowable speed. We have places to go, people to see, and we don’t want to waste time getting there. The higher your speed, the more things you can do online, faster.

Online Video Apps

Online Video Apps

Of course, the real advantage of more speed today is the number of devices you can connect and stream to at the same time. Many homes today might have a desktop, a few laptops, a couple of smartphones, and a tablet like an iPad or Kindle Fire, plus entertainment devices like an Xbox, a Wii, or streaming media playes like a Smart TV, Apple TV or Roku, or have Netflix on their Blu-ray player. Count them up—you may already have 5 or 6 Wi-Fi-enabled devices in your own home. If the new primetime at home consists of Mom catching up on The Bachelor on her iPad, while Dad is watching reruns of Shark Week on Netflix on his laptop, and the kids are on episode 103 of SpongeBob on the Xbox, that is going to require a very robust, constant feed with a lot of bandwidth (another word for internet speed.) Family time is just not what it used to be when everybody was staring at the same screen, but multiple screens require multiple internet video streams into the home, and that is where you really need more internet speed. If you have ever complained that you can’t watch Netflix on your TV and use your browser on your laptop at the same time, you need to upgrade to a higher speed, and now with Directcom you can choose as much speed as you will ever need.

1.5Mb? 3Mb? 20Mb? What do the numbers mean? How much speed do I need?

Internet transfer speeds are measured in kilobits per second and megabits per second, although those are not the same as the kilobytes and megabytes we use when we’re talking about hard disks and files. 1 megabit = 1024 kilobits, so simple math dictates that a 1.5 Mb connection will be about 3 times as fast as a 512 kb connection, and our new starter 3Mb DSL Broadband Internet connection is around 55 times faster than a 56k dial-up Internet connection.

When it comes to DSL speeds, loading simple web pages or emails with text only can be accomplished on any speed, but the internet is now so much more than text– think about music, video, animations, games and all the other stuff that makes the Internet so much fun. You will notice a huge difference in speed if you are downloading large files like pictures, music or video, where downloading a file on 3 Mb might take 1 minute, but 10 minutes on a 512kb connection.

But don’t worry about understanding all the numbers. What matters is how they apply to the kinds of things you’ll do on the Internet. Do you like to watch your favorite TV shows online? Download music, video conference with your family, play games, or do your shopping online? If you watch a lot of video, we suggest at least 6Mb to ensure a consistent, enjoyable streaming experience. 12Mb will allow you to download HD-quality video, or watch 2 video streams comfortably at the same time.

If you spend a lot of time online, you know that more speed is always going to be better. Please call us at 208 548 2345 if you have any concerns or questions about this upcoming change.

What We Saw at CES 2013

A few of us from Direct Communications were lucky enough to attend the annual CES in Las Vegas last week.  CES is the world’s largest annual innovation event, drawing more than 150,000 attendees (about half of whom must have been ahead of us at the breakfast buffet line at CircusCircus) and  3,250 exhibitors, who unveiled about 20,000 new products.
We attend because we try to stay informed about coming internet technologies that our customers will probably be using soon, and the good news for us as a fiber broadband provider is that all trends are definitely calling for more bandwidth usage and even smarter devices.  Here are a few cool gadgets we saw that will make life a little more convenient for all of us in the future.

IMG_0096Just when you thought you had High Definition figured out– meet Ultra HD TV. (Also called 4K) This new standard was being presented at all the major TV manufacturers’ booths, and displays at a minimum resolution of 3,840 × 2,160 pixels. That kind of resolution will literally require four times the current bandwidth requirement to stream HD video, which is great news for all fiber optic internet service providers, such as Direct Communications, with no data caps. Good luck watching TV over wireless in the future! The resolution was really quite remarkable–a real difference to regular HD that must be seen in real life to know what you were missing. So, stop buying those Blue Ray disks–they are already obsolete.
Ultra-HD Video Camera

Ultra-HD Video Camera

There was only one device at the entire show that was capable of recording at ultra-HD/4K resolution–this camcorder, used by the only station in the world currently broadcasting at 4K, which was in South Korea. But the way things are going, looks like soon that new HD Canon camcorder you just bought your wife will be at the bottom of your junk closet along with that old Hi8. Just don’t buy any more electronics until about 2020.

Free network TV on your tablet– tIMG_0162his was a great idea from Belkin–now you can pull off-air broadcast channels directly onto your tablet without a TV subscription, using this little device that plugs directly into your tablet.
 IMG_0143One exciting development in the world of internet streaming was the number of new Android-based streaming devices. These will turn any TV into a smart TV simply by plugging the card into an HDMI port, and give you the ability to download any Android app, like Netflix, and basically just use your TV as a giant screen. This will open up a whole new world of online entertainment possibilities because of the sheer number of android apps on the market – the Google Play Store now offers over 700,000 mobile apps for the Android OS. Plus, many of these android cloud TV devices are a lot cheaper than existing players like Apple TV or Xbox.
IMG_0149Want to track your kid on your smartphone without having to insert a chip in his or her forehead? This is your ticket– the mini GPS tracking chip that you simply drop into your child’s pocket or backpack and you can follow them as a blinking light anytime on your Google map, just like in the spy movies. Available May 2013.http://www.imsmart.com/en/i-m-here/overview
Talking animal bluetooth speakerThis novelty toy will give more life to your phone conversations–a cute animal speaker that connects with your cell phone–the mouth even moves in sync with the audio stream.
BelkinThe Belkin @TV Plus is like a Slingbox but goes one step further. Plug this IP device into your cable or satellite box, and it will stream a video feed of what is showing onto your home wifi network, so you can watch that feed on any device via wifi. Good for watching your TV in the bath on your Kindle. It also provides an IP feed so you can access your video feed remotely anywhere just like a Slingbox, but the rep says it only costs significantly less than a Slingbox.
 IMG_0157Verizon demoed this handy live broadcast video system that is designed to replace a mobile satellite truck for producers. In order to be able to upload an HD video feed back to the office, they paired four cell phone radios together into a portable device so you can broadcast from anywhere you have a decent cell signal.
IMG_0156Field technicians of the future–this is going to be your standard headwear. A camera will provide a video feed of everything you are seeing back to the office, while a mini digital projector superimposes an image into your eye for any additional information from the office computer you might need, so they can show you to cut the blue wire instead of the red one.
IMG_0150Computer mice and USB sticks in any shape or size you like–as long as you like cars.
IMG_0147This was one of the award-winning new Smart TVs- the  Hisense 55XT780 Google TV “brings a revolutionary user experience to the living room.  Consumers will enjoy a new level of intuitive content discovery and viewing recommendations in addition to Chrome, Google Play, Search, TV & Movies and YouTube.” http://www.cesweb.org/Awards/CES-Innovations-Awards/2013.aspx?category=HomeAudioVideoComponents
IMG_0086Lexus was presenting their developing smartcar technology which someday may allow cars to drive themselves using internet connected GPS. This would have been a whole lot cooler if they had an actual working model driving around–looked pretty, but hard to know what exactly you were looking at.
  Just like in the sci-fi movies, now your windows can also be your 3D TV screen.
Audi booth
Audi booth

If there were a prize for the brightest booth at CES, Audi would have been the winner. Stepping into their booth induced an instant migraine.

Vocaloid – This is an interesting demonstration of how pop music of the future will be made–just type in the lyrics, program in a tune with midi, and the computer will sing the song for you.
 If you haven’t ever heard about the MHL standard, this is an easy way to mirror your cell phone or tablet onto an HD TV using just the USB port on your device. No HDMI port needed. IMG_0124
 IMG_0078Gibson is doing a lot of cool things to interface with your digital home recording workstation, including buying the KRK Rokit studio monitor manufacturer.
 
IMG_0095You have heard for a long time that someday fridges will be connected to the internet and do your shopping for you. This one from LG won’t actually order for you, but it will tell you when your milk has probably expired.
IMG_0133This was a new kind of toy–a real ball that you control with your tablet or smartphone. The lines between the real and virtual world become ever more blurred. Check out http://www.gosphero.com/”Sphero is a completely new type of gaming system. It’s the world’s first robotic ball that you control with a tilt, touch, or swing from your smartphone or tablet. You can drive Sphero, play tabletop and multiplayer games, hold Sphero in your hand to use it as a controller for on-screen gameplay, learn basic programming, and even explore augmented reality.”
 
IMG_0092This huge display wall of 3D TVs from LG was just impressive.
IMG_0163 Ubuntu revealed a new operating system for smartphones and tablets. Check out http://www.ubuntu.com/devices/phone
IMG_0111 Intel’s booth.
IMG_0106This new TV could be yours for the current low price of about $60,000. Actually, pricing has not yet been announced, but the 85-inchers are going for about $40,000. Perhaps in a few more years we can all have one.

Life at 100 Mb – How I Broke into the 1%

I always knew that someday I would make it into the 1%. I have been aiming to be a part of it since the day I arrived off the boat with just a suitcase in my hand. Unfortunately, I am not talking about my adjusted gross income,  which according to the IRS still puts me right amongst the riffraff, or for the true 1%, “rif et raf,” meaning  “one and all” in French.  But, now that I have 100Mb broadband speeds to my home, I can boldly claim to be part of the new 1% internet glitterati, which is almost as good.

100mb speed test result

100mb speed test result

If you don’t believe that internet speed is the new status symbol, replacing both the BMW and paid-off mortgage to let people know that you have arrived, just look at how the Washington liberal elite are making the National Broadband Plan their new priority. The current administration has looked at rural America, and seen how we fat cat country folk have been gorging ourselves on broadband, building “elite,” “premium” and “unnecessary” fiber optic networks to sparsely populated areas, while the more deserving cosmopolitans in the great cities of this nation languish on archaic, dilapidated copper networks that the Big Telecoms have not bothered to update since the 50’s. Consequently, city folk struggle to get 3Mb speeds in many cases. The average broadband connection in the United States is only 6.6 Mbps downstream, according to Akamai’s latest State of the Internet Report. To correct this gross injustice with some smart social engineering, the administration has declared, nay—decreed, that 100Mb speeds must be the goal for broadband to urban areas, but that 4Mb is good enough for simple rural folk. There may of course be political motivation behind this, due to the demographic distribution of where the current administration’s votes come from, but, regardless, it is clear that even at the very top of the Ivory Towers, they now recognize that to have arrived you must have 100Mb speeds.

It wasn’t easy for a poor immigrant like me to break into the 1%. Like many people in that other elite 1%, it may in the end have come down to a lot of luck, and being in the right place at the right time. The first thing I had to do was move to an area served by a rural telecom with the funding to build out their fiber optic network, and then unwittingly build a home so remote, so far away from the existing copper network, that the only option was to break out a strand from their main fiber backbone and bring it directly to my home. In this way my new house became the first in Idaho to have fiber to the home. This event was published in the Idaho State Journal back in 2006. At the time, I was cruising on the fastest available speed of 12Mb, which was unprecedented back then. A couple of weeks ago I ordered our newly available 100Mb speed package. But, although I now had that speed to the fiber optical network terminal on my home, my old reliable Linksys router simply could not handle the awesomeness of those speeds. The maximum output to my computer, Xbox and other direct-wired ethernet devices on my home network was only about  35Mb. As for the wireless devices like the Kindle and Droids, forget about it. Clearly the router was holding me back, so it had to go.

So, I consulted with my friend Jeremy Smith, who is also my neighbor and boss, and one of the few people I know in our small town who is a bigger internet geek than me. He showed me his Cisco E2000 router, which has the rare feature in a consumer-grade router of having Gigabit ports. I found a refurb model on Cisco’s website for only $39, so it was a no-brainer to upgrade to a new router. As an important side note, this E2000 is not Cisco/Linksys newest router—it’s an older model. They now have a lot of fancier ones with the ability to broadcast multiple guest networks at once and such, but they didn’t think to build Gig ports into them because, after all—who caters to the politically incorrect 1% anymore? But, the Gigabit ports are the key. If you are subscribing to higher speeds and not getting the full potential out of your internet—that is the first place you should look. Regular 10/100 ethernet grade ports will not get you to 100Mb. The second I plugged in my new Cisco Gig router into my network, I was able to get the full 100Mb download speeds to my wired devices. My upload speeds were only set to 5Mb on purpose, because that is the current residential upload offering here in Idaho, but in theory, over fiber, Direct Communications has the ability to deliver the full symmetrical 100Mb up and down.

My next dilemma was, now that I have arrived, what do I do with my 100 Mbps internet connection? I have faster speeds than 99% of the country—I need to do something important online. So, naturally, the first thing I did was take a screen shot of my speed test and post it to my brothers to make them jealous, because they still live in speed-deprived metropolises like San Francisco and Salt Lake City . I learned this trick from our customers on our corporate facebook page, who have shown me the importance of posting speed tests online. The thing about having obscenely fast speeds is that the speed, just like making even more money for the financial 1%, becomes an obsession—it becomes necessary to keep running speed tests just to make sure you are still in the 1%. So, that was also an obvious way to use my connection—run more speed tests and pat myself on the back each time.

The latest national report on bandwidth usage in the USA from network solutions provider Sandvine, says that the average household now uses about 52GB per month, or about 81 hours of streaming video, and that Netflix is responsible for 33 percent of all downstream traffic. As already stated, I have never wanted to be average, and over the past couple of years, I would estimate that I have been personally responsible for at least 2% of all download traffic in the USA due to my Netflix usage. We dropped out satellite years ago when we figured out Hulu was free and Netflix also had free streaming.  But, now that I am in the 1%, it’s time to step up my streaming video usage. Using my elitist training in statistics and standard normal distribution, I calculated that if the national average was 81 hours of streaming video, (guessing a generous standard deviation of 20 hours) to become part of the streaming 1%, I would only have to consume about 128 hours a month of streaming video. That is just over 4 hours a day, which really is not a lot of online video, especially by my family’s standards. I use that on my Kindle over breakfast.

So, I looked to become a little more exclusive, but even to be a one-in-a-million consumer, you only have to watch 178 hours a month, or 5.9 hours a day. Clearly, America is not watching enough online video—the bar is currently very low. Our baby alone is probably using that much up each day just watching Dora on Netflix. She is more like a one-in-a-billion consumer of internet media. This sounds good, but is probably not something to put in Parenting Magazine.  Perhaps to feel more like an elite 1%, we should do something more extreme, like put an internet-enabled TV in all of the bathrooms–luckily I already took the precaution of wiring our Jacuzzi tub with ethernet for just such an emergency.

Of course, the real advantage of more speed today is the number of devices you can connect and stream to at the same time. In my home we have an Xbox, a Wii, a Roku, two desktops, some laptops, a couple of smartphones, and a tablet. That’s only about 8 devices. I know people who have a lot more devices than that in their homes, especially if they have a lot of teenage kids. If the new primetime at home consists of Mom catching up on The Bachelor on her iPad as she runs on the treadmill, while Dad is watching reruns of Shark Week on Netflix, and the kids are on episode 103 of SpongeBob on the Xbox, that is going to require a very robust, constant feed. Family time is just not what it used to be when everybody was staring at the same screen, but multiple screens require multiple IP streams into the home, and that is where we as the 1% truly shine. I sometimes hear customers complain that they can’t watch Netflix and use their VOIP phone at the same time, and I can only shake my head in pity, because they are only subscribing to 1.5Mb speed. If I am to fulfill my responsibility as part of the 1%, I clearly need to invest in even more screens, and I need to keep them all streaming simultaneous, whether anybody is watching them or not.

I have noticed with the financial 1%, that it is difficult for them to fathom how regular folks live. After a while of being rich, they tend to assume that all people live the way they do. They will say things in conversation like: “I don’t understand why you are going camping for your family reunion. Why don’t you all just go on a cruise like a normal family?” Hopefully I will start to become that way with my elite internet service. For example, I already just assume that everyone watches ESPN3, Hulu, Netflix and orders new releases on Amazon Instant Video like I do, or at the very least make use of remote Slingbox at an undisclosed location. I question why the masses are still wasting their limited income on old-fashioned satellite, or worse—visiting that bacteria-infested Red Box. But, I recently tried to watch a BYU game on ESPN3 at a relative’s house in Salt Lake City using my remote access account, and it was an absolute nightmare—not even worth watching over their 4Mb internet connection. The resolution and quality adjusts to your internet speed, and this was so pixilated that I could barely make out the opposing teams colors. I am used to watching ESPN3 on the Xbox at home in full HD, with no buffering, and a crystal-clear picture even better than HD satellite, because they use more compression in their digital feed than our direct internet feed does.

I am probably never going to be in the financial 1%. In fact, I suspect  I don’t even know anybody who is part of that 1%. But, I am finding it’s not easy being part of any kind of 1%, and I’m beginning to feel a slight empathy for them because of our shared experience. There’s the taunts, the derision from co-workers, the protests and the whining from regular folks complaining about their lesser service, the threat of government redistribution of bandwidth hanging over our heads, and the boredom of having unlimited resources at your fingertips. I can’t even enjoy the mobile data on my cell phone anymore—it is ruined forever for me. How could I ever go back from 100Mb? I will never be able to move into a house without fiber again. My options for relocating are going to be extremely limited from now on. Sometimes I just miss the old fashioned phone—it is tiresome having to dress up for video-conferencing all the time. I’m trying to be a good representative of our elite super-broadband caste, but I don’t play games; I don’t look at porn; I don’t download or upload anything illegal. I don’t even Bit Torrent. I wonder what the proletariat would do with 100Mb? Even though it means I will just be one of the masses again, we are going to have to give 100 Mb to all of them someday. Hopefully by then I will have 1 Gig speeds.

When will Directcom Offer Cable TV in Eagle Mountain?

Cable TV is something we have looked at launching ever since 2006, when we started in Eagle Mountain. We would like to offer an IP-based, digital cable TV service over our fiber to our customers.  We have explored a lot of different options over the years, and in fact are currently testing an IPTV product in our office. However, right now there just isn’t a business model to make investing in a new digital cable TV head end possible. Here are a few obstacles we have to consider:

  1. IPTV start-up costs are still too high.
  2. There aren’t enough pay TV customers in Eagle Mountain to ever recover the initial investment. (This is also the reason why we haven’t seen any other more well-known cable TV providers come into Eagle Mountain.)
  3. The margins on TV are too small, and are getting smaller every year as programming gets more and more expensive (even the local channels like KSL now charge a couple of dollars per sub just to rebroadcast their signal.)
  4. Dropping a couple of million $ into an IPTV venture while stating at 0 TV customers would be incredibly risky.
  5. The feedback from past surveys on how many customers in Eagle Mountain would switch to a cable TV product didn’t show a huge interest.
  6. TV is a very competitive industry, dominated by a few megacorporation’s that also own the content.
  7. Keeping up with the technology is a financial drain requiring constant upgrades.
  8. The majority of our customers, according to our surveys, now say they have switched exclusively to online video streaming for their viewing needs, (Netflix, Hulu etc), rather than paid satellite TV.
  9. We would rather spend our money on pure broadband investment, because that is the future of TV viewing.
  10. Our priority is to always  be the best internet service provider in Eagle Mountain, and we worry that spending our time and energy on cable TV would simply be a distraction from our core business. We have enough competitors to worry about already.

With all of that said, we are not ruling out anything if we have enough customers who would be committed to a digital IPTV product, or if a path opened up for us to provide that economically. Right now it seems most people are pretty happy with the growing streaming video viewing opportunities.

Eagle Mountain Fiber Construction Plan Update

We held a construction meeting yesterday to plan the fiber build to the remaining Eagle Mountain subdivisions that are still on copper lines. This year we will continue  upgrading  Eagle Point, and this winter, begin construction in Mount Airey—replacing the old copper plant with brand new fiber optic cable direct to each home.

We know that those of you still on copper in other areas are anxious to know how soon we will be bringing fiber to your neighborhood. The good news I have been authorized to share is that by the end of 2015, we plan to have the entire southern part of the city totally upgraded to fiber. We also laid out a 7-year plan to build fiber to every remaining home in the city.

This is obviously going to be an enormous project, requiring millions of investment dollars, but we feel that each person in Eagle Mountain deserves fiber to the home, despite the current federal government’s objections to remote areas having better networks than the larger urban centers. This is our community, and we are committed to ensuring the economic vibrancy of Eagle Mountain.

Directcom fiber optic cable splicers, Rod and Lani, with our fiber-splicing trailer.

The time is coming when there will be large economic opportunity gap between those who have fiber optic cable to their homes, and those without. We want you to be on the right side of that gap—the up side, the fiber haves.  Having access to unlimited broadband is the future to economic development and personal educational opportunity, and someday each home that wants to be part of the global information economy will probably require minimum speeds of 100 Mbps. Fiber is essential. Fiber is the future.

This build will be unprecedented along the Wasatch Front, especially since all public utilities are required to be buried in Eagle Mountain, so bringing fiber to every last home will require thousands of underground bores. We hope you will be patient as we roll out this plan and ensure that Eagle Mountain will always have the premier fiber broadband network in Utah.

Directcom construction crew with new reflective jackets so they won't be run over by any jogging strollers in Eagle Mountain.

Directcom construction crew, outfitted with new reflective jackets so they won’t be run over by any jogging strollers in Eagle Mountain.

Some Exciting Changes To Our Cable TV Lineup for 2012

Channel 64- Versus is now NBC Sports Network –You have probably already noticed this name change on your channel guide. This change actually occurred back in January. This is the third change for this network, which began as Outdoor Life Network, then became Versus in 2006 and focused more on sports events, finding a special niche with frequent NHL broadcasts. In now evolving to the NBC Sports Network this year, NBC appears to be making a real push to compete with ESPN for sports programming. The network and its broadcast sibling already out ESPN in April for a new 10-year, $2 billion NHL package, and investing $4.38 billion on a comprehensive rights deal for the 2014-20 Olympics. Find out more about this network at http://nbcsports.msnbc.com/id/30092015/ns/sports/

Channel 71 – SoapNet to be replaced with Disney Junior. This change is scheduled for June 1. We are pleased to offer this to our customers, and are excited about this change, since Disney Junior was the channel that has been most frequently requested this year. All your favorite kids shows from Disney Channel are now on Disney Jnr, including characters such as: Charlie and Lola, Rolie Polie Olie, Little Einsteins, Gaspard & Lisa, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse , Jake and the Never Land ,Handy Manny , Octonauts and more.

To see what other shows are on Disney Jnr, go to http://disney.go.com/disneyjunior/disney-junior-on-tv/about-our-shows/index-1834261

Click here for a current schedule http://affiliate.zap2it.com/tvlistings/ZCGrid.do?aid=disneyjr

Channel 66 – The Mountain (Mtn) will go dark May 31. This was inevitable after the loss of the major market players in the conference, including BYU and Utah. Read more at http://www.multichannel.com/article/482815-The_Mtn_to_Close_in_Wake_of_Upheaval_in_College_Conference_Landscape.php

We have decided to replace the Mountain Channel with CBS Sports Network, since many of the conference games look like they will be shifting to that network. This change will also take effect on June 1st.

“Sources indicate that CBS Sports Network and the Mountain West Conference are close to finalizing a deal for the conference’s rights that will wind up increasing national distribution for the Mountain West’s upcoming football and basketball games. CBS Sports Network is in around 45 million homes. Jointly owned by CBS Sports Network and NBC Universal, the Mtn is in around 13 million homes.”
Read more: http://aol.sportingnews.com/ncaa-football/story/2012-04-05/the-mtn-mountain-west-tv-channel-shutting-down-may-31-cbs-sports-network#ixzz1tHHO1Xdv

 

Local Network TV Preferences and Cable Retransmission Survey Results

Thank you to all our cable TV customers who responded to our recent request to share your feelings with us regarding the local networks and costs associated with keeping both the Idaho and Utah affiliate networks. We had a good sample of our customers complete the online survey, and we appreciate those who, even though they didn’t have internet access, still took the time to respond via letter, email, or phone call.

As we explained earlier this year, the local networks have each year been increasing the wholesale price they charge to let us retransmit their broadcast signal over our cable system to you, our customers. This seems unfair, since anybody with an antenna can watch these local stations for free over the air—however, the affiliates  see a chance to put more money in their pockets by charging cable and satellite customers more, and so they will continue to raise their prices until we as cable companies say: “Sorry—we simply cannot afford to carry your channel anymore.” This was the case with KUTV—their demanded price raise for 2012 was more than we thought any reasonable person could bear, so we had to drop that feed. In the old days, when these networks were free to rebroadcast, the networks had a good case to make that we had to carry their channel on our lineup, because it was in the public interest. Now that they are forcing the cable communities to pay to watch their channel, this is no longer a must-carry situation. Luckily, in most areas, we also had a CBS feed from our Idaho Falls affiliate, which we could still offer our customers. We have to pay for this feed too, but it is significantly less than what the Salt Lake affiliate was demanding.

So, we wondered if you our customers would be interested in saving more money by having us only offer a single feed of each big network. The compiled results of the feedback were very interesting. You have spoken with a clear voice, and given us the direction you would prefer to see us go.

We received the most responses from Montpelier and Preston, which are close to the Utah border, but significantly, when we asked

Do you prefer to watch the Idaho or Utah local channels?

the majority of our customers, 59%, said Idaho locals.

In Montpelier only, this broke down to exactly 50/50 for Idaho and Utah, and the highest response for Utah was in Paris, where 80% said they prefer Utah locals.

When we asked What is your absolute favorite local channel to watch?

The top answer was NBC – KSL (Salt Lake), and the second most popular was NBC – KPVI (Idaho), with CBS – KIDK (Idaho) and NBC – KPVI (Idaho) at an even percentage  third spot. The least popular were the Fox feeds, and apparently the CW does not have a lot of viewers in rural Idaho (which may not be a surprise to the executives at the CW, who serve up a lot of edgy teen soaps like Gossip Girl.)

The reason why people said they watched their favorite channel was clearly Local News (48%) with Broadcast network shows (eg: CSI, VOICE, American Idol etc) coming in second at 31%.

The question we were most interested in was “If you could save money on your TV bill, would you prefer us to only provide a single affiliate feed of each of the networks?” The results were split at 50% for and 50% against.

For further clarity, we asked “If, in order to save money on your bill, we have to drop the Salt Lake affiliates, would you still want to proceed with this?” and 59% said “No- I would prefer to pay the full re-transmission fee of $4.50 to keep the Salt Lake affiliate feed.” We also especially had a lot of people without internet service write in and ask us to not drop any of the feeds because they like to watch both the Idaho and Utah channels.

We also wanted to see a relative comparison of how important each local channel was to our customers, and the results of that closely mirrored the results of “What is your absolute favorite local channel to watch?” What we were looking for here was if there were any channels that people would prefer to drop rather than continue to pay for.

Once again, the CW and KJZZ fared poorly, as well as the salt lake ABC feed. From the results, these would probably be the only good candidates to drop from our lineup; however, not surprisingly, these also happen to be the least expensive to carry (true market economics at work) and we would probably not save enough money to make it worth angering the customers who do enjoy those channels. However, these results from real customers do provide us with a good bargaining tools for next year when affiliates like the KTVX (ABC in Salt Lake) want to raise their prices again—we can show that they are simply not very popular relative to other channels in our market.

The comments at the end of the survey had a common theme, mostly wanting us not to change the current lineup, such as:

  • “I like the channels we have. There is a good selection”
  • “leave things as the same, I like what is there”
  • “stop changing things, happy the way they are now..”
  • “I love the channels we have and was saddened when channel 2 from utah was dropped.”
  • “I will pay the extra $4.50. and have been satisfied with the cable tv service for YEARS.”

We also had several comments and letters asking for Channel 2 to be brought back, no matter what the cost was, which we are taking into consideration.

At the end of the day, what we heard from this survey was that our customers enjoy watching both the Idaho and Utah locals, and are willing to pay the retransmission fees associated with carrying these channels, because they are all extremely important, mostly as a way of staying connected with the community live in, and people living in southeast Idaho clearly feel connected to both the Salt Lake City and Idaho markets. So, unless something else changes significantly, we will continue to provide both the Idaho and Utah locals, and unfortunately both you, and we as a company, will have to ride out these annual local retransmission fee increases as best we can.

Thank you for choosing Direct Communications. We appreciate your business, and hope you will continue to enjoy your cable TV service. We will always do our best to provide quality programming that our customers will really watch, with less fluff and filler channels that people shouldn’t have to pay for. You can feel confident that our quality line-up is still absolutely a better value than any satellite provider.

Cable TV Local Channel Re-transmission Surcharge Increase

As a result of substantial price increases by the local networks to retransmit their signals, the local channel re-transmission surcharge will increase to $4.50 on April 1, 2012.

While in the past, only the Utah local stations were charging a retransmission fee per subscriber, now most of the Idaho locals are also demanding payment. In the good old days, because they were using public airwaves, these local channels were relatively inexpensive to retransmit; sadly, this is no longer the case—they now are demanding fees higher than most cable channels (like History Channel or Discovery Channel) to carry their feeds. Unfortunately, they plan to hike up prices every year for the foreseeable future.

We are looking for ways to keep costs down on your TV bill. Earlier this year, we chose to drop the Salt Lake City CBS feed (KUTV) from our line-up rather than meet their demands, because we didn’t want to have to pass on their exorbitant fee to our customers.

We are currently still carrying both Idaho and Utah channels for most local networks. We could lower costs by only offering a single feed for each of FOX, NBC, ABC etc, meaning that you would only get either a Salt Lake City or Idaho feed to your town, depending on which designated market area you live in.

We want to know if you would prefer to drop dual Idaho and Utah feeds to keep the cost of retransmission lower. We need your feedback. Please visit our website or go directly to https://www.surveymk.com/s/directcom-local-tv to complete a survey about which channels you would like to keep.

Thank you for your business. We look forward to many years of providing you with the highest quality entertainment and connectivity. Please call customer service at 548 2345 if you have any more questions.

Sincerely,

Direct Communications

Calls Not Coming Through? You Are Being Discriminated Against By Big National Carriers.

Have you recently experienced any of the following:

1. Someone from a big city or out-of-state tells you they tried to call you but the call didn’t get through, or the call rang on their end but your phone did not ring?
2. A call came through to you but the quality was poor?
3. A call came through but the caller ID was incorrect?

Direct Communications strives to provide excellent service at all times, and we only install absolutely the most modern, state-of-the-art, telephone switching equipment available anywhere in the world. However, people who live in rural areas all around the country are reporting that calls to them are not getting through, or they are getting calls with poor quality. For example, when family from out of state tries to call you, they might be telling you they can’t get through to you or that their phone is giving them an error message.

The growing problem, as explained by the Foundation for Rural Service, lies “with the carrier used by the customer who makes the call, not your rural local telecommunications provider. The problem can only be resolved by the carrier used by the customer who makes the call. This nationwide epidemic is negatively affecting local businesses, public safety, and our relationship with our customers. Rural carriers have complained to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and state agencies. The FCC has created a task force to investigate and address the issue and rural telco advocates are encouraging swift and severe action against all of the providers at the center of the problem.”
-FRS, Calls Not Getting Through?

The FCC has recognized this problem and clearly identified large national carriers who are using below-standard, cheap long distance companies to save money, who don’t want to pay the costs to connect calls to rural areas, simply because it costs more money to connect  the call to remote areas. So, instead of terminating the call, they just drop it. Basically, they are discriminating against rural areas. The FCC put it very diplomatically when they recently stated on their website:
“The issue is complicated, but in a nutshell, the problem appears to be occurring in rural areas where long distance carriers normally pay higher-than-average charges to the local telephone company to complete calls.  These charges are part of the decades-old system of “access” charges that help pay for the cost of rural networks.  To minimize these charges, some long-distance carriers use third-party “least-cost routers,” which attempt to connect calls to their destination at the lowest cost possible. Sometimes, however, the calls appear not to be connecting at all.”
See http://www.fcc.gov/blog/new-year-solutions-rural-call-completion-problems

On Feb 6, 2012, the FCC released a new ruling to address this problem, stating that:

“Carriers that deliberately fail to complete calls to rural areas could face cease and desist orders, forfeiture, license revocations and fines of up to $1.5 million.”  The ruling is an important victory for rural telcos, who have seen a sharp increase in complaints from customers saying callers have not been able to reach them.

“These problems can have dire consequences,” the FCC wrote in the ruling. “Small businesses can lose customers who get frustrated when their calls don’t go through. Urgent long distance calls from friends of family can be missed. Schools may be unable to reach parents with critical alerts, including school closings due to extreme weather. And those in need of help may be unable to reach public safety officials.”

The FCC’s nine-page ruling references a variety of ways that failure to complete calls to another carrier violates existing statutes. The commission also said originating carriers could be liable for actions taken by least cost routers – other carriers who terminate calls for them.

“If carriers continue to hand off calls to agents, intermediate providers or others that a carrier knows are not completing a reasonable percentage of calls, or are otherwise restricting traffic, that is an unjust or unreasonable practice prohibited by section 201 of the [Telecommunications] Act,” the FCC said.

What can you do about it?
We as a rural telecom industry will continue to press the FCC to act against the large nationwide providers involved in these issues. You can help too by doing the following:

  1. Ask for the name of the long-distance carrier used by the person trying to reach you. Call us, your local provider, and give us details so that we can report the offending long distance companies. Include the name of the carrier used by the caller so that we can contact the carrier on your behalf to try and resolve the issue.
  2. Go to http://www.fcc.gov/complaints to file an informal wired telephone service complaint with the FCC against the carrier used by the person trying to call you (not your local service provider), and encourage the caller to do the same.
  3. Contact your Congressman and tell them to stop the discrimination against rural areas by the big carriers.
  4. Tell the person trying to reach you to report the problem to their long distance carrier.

What We Did in 2011

2011- Although this year was one of increased uncertainty for the rural telecommunications industry, with the FCC and federal administration threatening to cut major funding sources for rural areas under the guise of the national broadband plan, Direct Communications as a company made some important strides forward to strengthen our company, get to know our customers better, improve our products and offerings, focus on our core business, improve our competitive position in the markets we serve, and acquire new customers and revenue sources.

Overall, 2011 was a very good year. Our employees and customers should feel satisfied that we made a real difference to our communities, and improved the quality of life in both Idaho and Utah during 2011. That is what makes even us in marketing sleep well at night. We spent the year expanding our fiber network to the vital institutions that serve your rural areas, like schools, hospitals, city, county and government buildings, doctors offices, libraries, small and large businesses, and of course, homes.

We were excited to upgrade to a new Metaswitch IP switch in our Idaho exchanges at the beginning of 2011. Direct Communications was the first telephone company in Idaho to implement a digital switch several years ago, and this new central switch replacement was another pioneering step for rural telecommunications in Idaho. The old digital switch was about the size of an average living room. The new switch is about the size of a small refrigerator. A major difference between the new one and the old switch, besides the size, is that this new switch was developed to take advantage of all the newest computer and internet advancements, especially in its ability to use IP protocol, to talk to modern electronic devices, like IP phones, computers, routers etc., and work on a fiber-optic network.

In Eagle Mountain, the year began with some great publicity as Direct Communications was awarded the 2010 Best Business of the Year by the Lehi Area Chamber of Commerce. https://blog.directcom.com/2011/01/19/direct-communications-awarded-2010-best-business-of-the-year/

After months of work, Direct Communications was able to open the doors to their new building on Campus Drive in Eagle Mountain in February, 2011.  Our grand opening was held in June, along with the ribbon cutting of the Eagle Mountain City business incubator program. The building has 8 “pods”, or office spaces, approximately 2500 square feet each.  Direct Communications houses four of the pods, Beyond Limits Physical Therapy occupies one pod, and the Eagle Mountain City incubator program has the remaining three pods.  After working in two separate areas for several years, Direct Communications was excited to have all of their employees at the same location. This new building signified an important coming-of-age for DCCV, which began as a start-up in the back of the fire station in 2006, and employees who remember all sharing a single bathroom and welcoming potential customers into the reception desk/storage area/stairwell, now had their own offices with hardwood trim—an unimaginable prospect 5 years ago. For more about the building see https://blog.directcom.com/2011/10/06/opening-ceremony-ribbon-cutting-for-new-direct-communications-building-in-eagle-mountain/

We began the year with a couple of new marketing initiatives to launch our new brand position and tagline of “faster streaming broadband” and started by giving away a year-long subscription to Netflix streaming to all new customers in January.  In February we gave away a Roku streaming media player to all new customers. In June, to coincide with Pony Express Days, we gave away a Wii to new customers, which enjoyed about the same success as the Xbox promotion the previous year. All of these device promotions were designed to migrate customers towards using streaming video as their primary entertainment source, because that not only increases the value of our service from a commodity to a premium product, but also, once they become dependent on their internet for video entertainment purposes, they are less likely to leave us for a wireless competitor. We conducted a couple of customer survey during the year, and found that 66% of our customers said they now use online streaming of video as their primary entertainment source.

Also during June, we announced new broadband speeds for all customers, with our basic speed starting at 8Mb, and our fastest speed on offer at 50Mb. This was designed around our main wireless competitors offerings, which had 7Mb as their top speed. Of course, by the end of the year they had also reacted and changed their packages to advertise 10Mb and 15Mb speeds.

After Pony Express Days we cut back on advertising until December, when we rolled out a Kindle Fire as a Christmas promotion, which emphasized making the internet fun—since the new Kindle could stream video, download apps, and play games. The Kindle promotion ended up being our most successful marketing campaign of 2011.

However, 2011 was an interesting year for marketing with the maturing of social media, which for the first time played an important part of our integrated marketing, and opened up a new target media market for us, since we could now target internet customers living only in Eagle Mountain and we began spending a significant portion of our advertising budget on facebook ads.

We began the year by splitting our facebook page into two separate pages for Idaho and Utah, to make it more relevant to each market. Acquiring fans was a slow process at the beginning, until we learned the only sure way to entice more customers to our page was with online promotions for facebook fans.  By the end of the year we had over 500 customers on our Eagle Mountain facebook page. See  https://blog.directcom.com/2011/06/14/first-winner-of-directcom-monthly-facebook-fan-contest/

Navigating social media has been a learning experience for us, and we have had to learn to take the good with the bad, as dissatisfied customers also like to use our page as a soapbox, but overall it has been a positive experience for both the company and our customers, and we actually implemented a lot of good suggestions made by customers on our page through our interactions this year.

We presented on the subject of social media at the annual Utah Rural Telephone Association meeting in St George.

Direct Communications Cedar Valley’s own Brenda Caldwell was named Utah Valley’s Raddest Receptionist by Utah Valley BusinessQ Magazine, and Brenda was featured in the Fall 2011 issue. https://blog.directcom.com/2011/09/29/directcoms-brenda-caldwell-named-utah-valleys-raddest-receptionist/

Probably the most significant change during 2011 was the sale of our wireless internet business to Digis, after being one of the first companies in southeast Idaho to offer wireless internet over 10 years ago. We made this decision primarily so that we could focus on our core business of growing our fiber optic network in Idaho and developing our wired internet products, including our cable and DSL technologies. The money from the sale would be reinvested into developing the products where we have a real competitive advantage. Read more about this move at: https://blog.directcom.com/2011/10/13/sale-of-wireless-internet-assets-to-digis/

Immediately after the sale of our wireless business, we launched the ESPN3 broadband channel for our high-speed customers in Idaho. 2011 turned out to be a great year to offer ESPN3, because BYU football, which many of our customers follow, went independent largely on an ESPN broadcasting contract, and so most of their games were streamed online on ESPN3 this year.

We were also kept very busy working with the three major national mobile phone providers to construct and deliver fiber optic service to most of the cell phone towers in the area, so that they could offer more data to their customers, and we also now wholesale broadband service to most of our competitors in the area. Without an extensive fiber optic network, our rural economy in Idaho would not be able to function in this information age. As our tagline claims, we are the future of broadband technology in the rural areas we serve.

KUTV-2 Cable Re-transmission Negotiations

The owner of KUTV-2 (Utah), Sinclair Broadcast Group, is demanding a massive fee increase per customer, for continued carriage of  KUTV-2 on our cable line-up this year.  (Remember, this is a station they offer absolutely free to millions of people over the air, but they want to make cable customers pay to receive.) A couple of years ago we agreed to pay their new fee, and you saw those costs added as a local network re-transmission fee. This time, they have demanded too much. The station’s proposed agreement would increase the cost to provide the signal to you by more than 400% over the next three-years.  Although we have attempted to negotiate in good faith with SBG, the only response we have received is pay more, or don’t carry the signal.

Unfortunately, we have no leverage in these negotiations under current federal laws and regulations.  We do, however, strongly believe that our cable customers should not be extorted by multibillion dollar companies, who then gloat to their investors about the huge increases in revenue they are receiving as a result of their ability to take money straight from your pockets in the form of higher cable bills.

If we don’t agree to the massive rate increase demanded, SBG insists that we cease offering KUTV-2 as of January 1, 2012.  We have decided you should not pay higher cable rates owing to broadcaster extortion, even if it results in a signal blackout.  We are truly sorry for this inconvenience.  We would like to continue carriage of KUTV-2, but we cannot because of the negotiations breakdown.

Our situation is not unique. Identical situations have arisen with cable operators and station owner groups in other markets across the country. Cable operators are finally taking a stand, working to prevent your cable bills from rising dramatically, giving us hope that we can continue to deliver quality programming and broadband services to you, our valued customers.

We deeply and sincerely apologize for the inconvenience an interruption in carriage will cause. We take great pride in serving our cable communities and hope to solve this issue as soon as possible.

If you would like to help us win our struggle with SBG so we can once again broadcast KUTV-UT, please call the station at 801.839.1154 and tell them you won’t accept a 400% increase in cost to view KUTV-UT.  Also, please visit our website to learn about this issue and find out how to contact your representatives in Congress to ask that they fix this broken marketplace so cable customers across the country don’t have to accept extortion from broadcasters.

Sincerely,

Direct Communications/ICS Management

Don’t Let Washington Take Away Your Rural Broadband.

 

The FCC has proposed radical changes that could deprive millions of rural Americans, including you, of broadband access.

Please help by contacting Washington officials and letting them know about your opposition to any plans that would undercut Internet access in your rural community. Go to http://saveruralbroadband.org/?_c=zygmku1m2t5yi9 to send a letter to your two senators, your representatives, and the Obama administration. The more letters we send, the more Washington will know that rural Americans are demanding the same access to quality broadband as big- city dwellers.

For the last century in America, the telecommunications industry has been guided by the principle of Universal Service.   This vital national goal means that the value of the entire network is enhanced by everyone being connected.  This is accomplished through ensuring  those living in remote or rural areas have  access to comparable communications services available in urban areas at comparable rates.  Have you ever wondered how your local phone company can afford to bury a line out to the farmer living many miles out of town or even miles from his nearest neighbor? The construction and maintenance of a single line to a remote home can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but you might pay only $30 per month for that service.  The only way to balance that equation is with Universal Service Funding. In the old days the big telecom companies like AT&T used to help cover the costs to run small rural networks like Direct Communications through an access recovery system, in which they would pay rural companies a fee each time they transferred a call to a rural network.  This was done because they recognized that their own networks were more valuable if connectivity was ubiquitous.  Further, universal connectivity enables everyone to participate in the American experience and larger economy. In the 1980’s, the Federal Government took over the management of redistributing access funds to rural companies, and the FCC established an agency called NECA to collect money into a Universal Service Fund (USF) pool from customers all over the country, via a USF fee on every phone bill.  These monies are then distributed to rural telecom providers  to help cover the costs to build out networks in areas where the density is low enough that there is no viable business case for telecom services. Families in Bear Lake, Arbon, Rockland and Eagle Mountain, Utah, have home telephone service, DSL, other advanced telecom services and even fiber optic broadband service in their homes because of Universal Service Funds.  This is how we recover our cost of doing business.

Over the last decade broadband internet has replaced landline telephone as the service customers value most. Broadband is the future of communications. Broadband is the means by which our knowledge based economy functions. Cell phone towers function on broadband. People work from home on broadband. Rural customers email, bank, shop, study, work, talk, write, watch video, access news and information through rural broadband networks. Broadband is becoming the most important utility to any home. You need broadband, and you deserve to have the same opportunities as every other American, because your access to broadband will either limit or enhance your opportunities. Rural communities will not grow without broadband access. Jobs will not be sustained without good broadband access. Small towns will die.

Be aware: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing a new broadband plan that may impact your service. They are advertising this as a plan to bring broadband access to more people, but that is only part of the story. The real story is that they are going to take away funding from rural customers like you because they have decided people living out in the country don’t need to have the same quality or speeds as people in the big cities.  This issue is obviously one that is highly politically charged.

The plan is to ensure that people in big cities get 100Mb service.  This throughput was chosen simply because some Members of Congress believe some reports in which the US is lagging behind smaller and more urban countries like Denmark and Belgium with respect to average download speeds.  These reports fail to account for the fact that the USA is a vast and relatively sparsely populated county and burying  fiber across the great plains and over the Rocky Mountains is more time consuming and expensive than deploying facilities in a country such as in Belgium. As a consequence the FCC’s stated goal is “100 mb to 100 million homes!”  That sounds great, but what about the other 40 million US homes, what does the FCC propose for them?  For people like us living in rural areas, they feel we should be content with 4Mb service!   To restate: The FCC plan proposes speeds 25 times slower in rural areas than in urban areas.

Are our needs any different to people in cities? Don’t our children need the internet for their education just as much as kids in cities? Because of our isolation, and the great distances we have to travel to get anywhere from rural America, we would propose that people in the rural areas need broadband even more than people living in cities. Why does the FCC plan make rural consumers second class citizens?  Further, this stated goal of fostering a digital divide is in violation of the Telecom Act of 1996.

You deserve comparable speed at affordable prices.  That is the law!

Don’t let the FCC keep our rural community on the slow side of the digital divide.

We as a rural telecom industry are fighting this planned legislation to ensure our customers can keep their speeds. We have made such great progress over the past few years in bringing fiber optic broadband to homes, schools, hospitals and public services in our rural communities. We already offer speeds up to 20Mb to most homes, and now, some people in the government want to take that away from you, because they have no political interest in rural areas.

Contact your congressional representatives! Urge them to support regulatory action that ensures equal access to broadband for all Americans. To learn more about this issue, contact your local telecom provider or visit http://saveruralbroadband.org/?_c=zygmku1m2t5yi9.

Direct Communications visits CES 2011

Direct Communications visited the 2011 CES conference in Las Vegas last week to search for the latest tech gadgets and trends in broadband technology.

More than 2,700 technology companies across global industries were displaying their latest products and  inventions at the 2011 International CES®  (Consumer Electronics Show).  CES is the world’s largest consumer technology tradeshow, and concluded on Jan 9, in Las Vegas.

Attendance figures indicate more than 140,000 industry professionals attended the 2011 International CES.

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The product everybody seemed to be pushing was 3D television and

Jeremy and Brad test out a 3D gaming console.

gaming. Everybody wanted to turn their product into a 3D experience. Also, computers are getting smaller and tablets and touch screens are getting bigger. There must have been hundreds of tablet manufacturers, each with their own version of the iPad. The encouraging trend for wireline internet providers, was the many new and different online TV applications, interfaces and gadgets. We want our customers to migrate to online video, because then we become the entertainment provider in the home as well as the connection to the world, and at CES the trend was definitely towards IP video.

Here are some products and videos that I felt would be interesting to our customers, plus a few more that were just funny because they were completely random or just bizarre.

IGUGU TV is an internet TV interface that uses a very handy remote.

IGUGU TV

Igugu TV –http://www.igugu.com/internetv/about.html

The IGUGU System is comprised of 3 components:IGUGU TV Remote Control or iGUGU Gamecore Remote Control. IGUGU transmitter/receiver or connector to provide connection between the computer and television. A friendly, intuitive interface to control the PC while viewing the TV

Skype

Skype

Skype demonstrated a variety of fun new gadgets to make internet calling more convenient, including a Skype-enabled LCD TV. Apparently a few TV manufacturers are now building Skype functionality into their chips, so you can make video calls from your couch while watching TV.

HDMI over IP

HDMI over IP

Want to stream an HD feed over your entire home IP network to multiple TVs? No problem with an HDMI to IP converter.

Robot Comfort Seal

Robot Comfort Seal

Here is something every family needs – a robotic seal that snuggles up to you when you are feeling down. Hold it and pet it–make it suck a pacifier–nothing cheers you up like a furry baby seal robot. Unfortunately, at $4000 this kind of comfort is not for everybody–I know would have a hard time convincing my insurance company to cover this medical necessity.

Karotz -hear the tweets

Here’s another gadget you won’t see in a lot of homes this year, or… ever. These cute robot bunnies called Karotz will link to your browser and read you your tweets as they come in, or give you updates on the weather outside. Personally, I find sticking my hand out the door fairly effective too.

e-poc-it Ipod holder

Here is one I snapped for the jogging-stroller moms in Eagle Mountain. The e-poc-it ipod holder is a magnetic clip that keeps your mp3 player fitting snugly on your blouse so you don’t have to trip over cords hanging from your belt. Check it out, and keep downloading music-it makes your ISP feel needed.

Ooma VOIP service

Ooma VOIP service

Ooma VOIP service is a twist on internet phone service–you buy the overly-elaborate phone adapter for $250, and then make free calls for as long as the thing lasts with no monthly service fee.

Xi3 modular mini computer

This Salt Lake City-based firm makes the Xi3 modular computer, which is seriously smaller than your hand. It is modular because you can upgrade the hardware by swapping out the cards inside. It has all the functionality and connection ports of a regular computer, but uses a fraction of the power, which will result in huge cost savings for large corporations with many workstations. Mainly, I liked seeing a local Utah company at CES.

For more news on the 2011 International CES, visit CESweb.org.

Some personal thoughts on the 2011 CES.

I was invited to attend this year by Jeremy Smith, our General Manager, who is an old CES pro. Luckily, he always seemed to know where he was going as we navigated our way through the endless maze of halls and displays in the Las Vegas Convention Center, otherwise I think I would still have been stuck in the south hall even today. This was my first time at the CES, and while driving down to Vegas, Bradley, our switch manager, warned me: “Prepared to feel insignificant.” The telecommunications industry is an industry which meets together a lot—there are a lot of conferences held all over the country throughout the year—some small, some very large with thousands of attendees, but until this CES show, I had never felt insignificant at a conference. Bradley was right—walking through those multi-million dollar displays, especially those owned by the large multinational tech corporations like Microsoft and Sony, and looking at the amazing products, marketing, and engineering feats accomplished by people so much smarter than I, I felt extremely small in the world. I felt like picking up a broom and quitting the tech industry altogether, because the industry certainly didn’t need me—what difference did it make that we are trying to market this stuff–we should just leave it to the experts. However, after a few days of quiet back in my cubicle, king of all the clutter I survey on my desk, I came to a realization—my kids still think I am smart. (Though still not as smart as their 1st grade teacher.)  So I will continue trying to convince people that they need our internet service to improve their lives. (So, sorry, customers—I will still be filling up your mailboxes with many more emails, ads and letters.)

A post by the the Consumer Electronics Association  stated that: “attendance figures indicate more than 140,000 industry professionals attended the 2011 International CES. More than 30,000 attendees came from outside the United States, with the show attracting more than 80 international delegations.” Walking around, sometimes it seemed like we were trying to force our way through a train station in Calcutta—there were so many people. Living in Idaho,  I was not so used to the bright lights and crowding. The only thing that compares in any way is trying to buy a Tiger Ear at the Eastern Idaho State Fair. Stimulus overload was how I would describe my first day at the CES. The next day I tried not to look directly at all the flashing lights. This was an amazing experience though, and it was exciting to be involved even in a small way such a dynamic industry.

 

Annual Notice To Customers Of National Do-Not-Call Registry Rights

 Customers may reduce the number of unwanted and uninvited calls to their homes from telemarketers by registering their residential and/or wireless telephone numbers for free on the National Do-Not-Call List enforced by the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.  This List is nationwide in scope, applies to all telemarketers (with the exception of certain non-profit organizations), and covers both interstate and intrastate telemarketing calls.  Customers who are not already on the National Do-Not-Call List may register their residential and wireless telephone numbers online at www.donotcall.gov, or by calling 1-888-382-1222 from the telephone number they wish to register (for TTY, call 1-866-290-4236).  Registered telephone numbers remain on the National Do-Not-Call List for five (5) years.  Customers may re-register their telephone number(s) on the List when the five years have passed, and may remove their number(s) from the List at any time.

Xbox Live system update available

Yesterday Xbox Live released an update for your Xbox Live console. We gave out a whole lot of Xbox’s this year to showcase our faster speeds to encourage our customers to make the internet a central part of their home entertainment. This update contains a great new xbox feature that makes Netflix a lot more user-friendly, namely, there is now a search feature in the Netflix interface.

I downloaded the update yesterday–it was fairly big at 160 Mb, but only took a couple of mintutes to download on my 12Mb fiber optic connection. After I downloaded it I was really concerned because my video marketplace had disappeared from the dashboard, including Netflix, but after I rebooted my Xbox it was all there.

To find out more visit http://www.xbox.com/en-US/Support/SystemUpdates

Purpose of this Blog

This space is intended as a way to improve communication with our customers and friends in the communications industry. I want to communicate openly about what Direct Communications is doing in our service areas. I will try to keep customers informed of what they can expect from us in regards to future products, events, service issues etc. I intend to write about  the marketing and public relations efforts I am occupied with day to day, and share my views on changes the communications industry and how our customers can best benefit from those changes. I would like this to also be a public history of our company and a record of the contribution we make to the communities we serve. Above all, I hope this will increase our credibility, as we communicate with openness about the challenges we face daily as a small company in an increasingly competitive industry dominated by large national conglomerates. As a traditional phone company, we face the challenge of a whole new wave technology threatening to make our old voice products obsolete; but, as a broadband company, we have a very exciting future as we roll out fiber to our customers, capable of delivering 100 Mb speeds and more.

Finally, welcome to any competitors who might be interested in what Direct Communications is up to–feel free to browse–I am watching you too.