State of the Network: Where Is the Love?
Consumers might love their smartphones, but not the networks to which they and other devices connect.
The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) recently reported that customers aren't happy with pay television and Internet service providers but really like their smartphones -- results indicative of an unchanging mindset on all counts.
According to the ACSI report, customer satisfaction rates for information services dropped 3.4%, down to an ASCI score of 68.8 on a 0–100 scale. This is the lowest ranking in seven years for information services, a category that includes subscriber TV, wireless, fixed-line telephone, Internet, and computer software.
ACSI data, which is based on 14,176 customer surveys collected in the first quarter 2015, also showed that Comcast and Time Warner Cable took big hits in customer satisfaction, too. Comcast's customer satisfaction rating dropped 10%, to a score of 54, while Time Warner's sagged 9%, 51. That puts Time Warner at the bottom of the pile along with newcomer Mediacom Communications, which also scored a 51. Clearly there is not enough love to go around in the cable TV circles, and cord-cutting remains an ongoing threat.
Fueling customer dissatisfaction could be the fact that many U.S. households have no services choice -- according to ACSI, 61% of respondents report having only a single or no high-speed ISP in their regions. This shows a disconnect between reality and the FCC's perception of Internet service; it's view of "high-speed Internet" is outdated.
As I wrote in a May 2014 No Jitter post, "The Broadband Availability Gap: Think Differently," the difference is in vision and holistic understanding of telecommunications services and networks. The problem is lack of vision for building a national telecommunications infrastructure with fiber. Clearly, as shown in FCC reports and research, fiber remains the best alternative and the choice of longer term, longer life, and lower operating costs. The ACSI report shows that a significant majority of U.S. customers are underserved -- they do not have reliable and Internet bandwidth available to them. In a follow-on post, "The Broadband Availability Gap: Traffic Modeling Challenges," I noted that the ramifications affect both large enterprises and SMBs. While the large enterprise remains somewhat protected within private networks, SMBs remain largely on the public network, best-effort routes across the Internet. As convergence takes hold and the PSTN fades, the grade and quality of service will be affected.
Again, we are facing what Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, has called " the perfect storm of innovation."
Since then, de la Vega's comment has resonated with customers -- at least according to ACSI's data, which shows that customers "love their smartphones."
For enterprises in the small-to-medium range, take note: You need partnerships for bandwidth and you may need two ISPs to meet your basic needs today and in the very near term. For large enterprises, wireless holds the reins in connecting your mobile workforce, and while Apple and Samsung battle it out, don't expect any significant reduction in your cellular expenses because if the U.S. marketplace is underserved by 61% in the ISP delivery of high-speed Internet, then cellular phones and remote employees parking themselves at McDonald's or Starbucks to work remotely is more likely to happen than fiber reaching their homes anytime soon.