Georgia and Florida. “We’ve been able to improve that offering through scale,” he said. “It’s been the best thing for us.” l
Masha Zager is a freelance writer. Contact her at
Finally, telcos can stop selling video services altogether.
This is what Planters Telephone Cooperative (Newington,
Ga.), decided to do in 2011, and it has no regrets, according
to CEO Stephen Milner. When Planters began building fiber
to the home, it signed on to the IP-Prime service (a so-called “headend in the sky”) offered through NTCA–The
Rural Broadband Association and NRTC. It
went through a long beta-test period and had
just begun a commercial service when
IP-Prime, after a number of setbacks,
announced that it would have to switch its
By this time, Planters had its doubts about
when, or whether, it would get to cash-flow
positive on video. “We realized quickly that the
money was with the programmers, not with
the last-mile deliverer,” Milner said. The company was entitled to conversion help from
Cisco, the original middleware provider, but
opted instead to apply its credits toward routers that would bolster its broadband network.
“Our thought process was that video would
come in over-the-top form in the next couple
of years,” Milner explained. “If we wanted to be
ready for high-definition streaming, we had to
provide the type of network that would be able
to deliver video. That would be a wise use of the
capital. So we exited TV. … Were we going to
throw a lot of capital and resources to a no-
margin business, or would we take the long-term
run, which is broadband? We decided to allocate
our resources to the highest-margin business.”
There was some pushback at first, including
a headline in the local newspaper saying
“Planters Telephone Hangs Up on Video.” Then
Planters’ customers—or those who still wanted
a traditional video service—went back to satel-
lite video. They had hoped Planters would be
able to offer video for less, but once they saw
that wasn’t going to be possible, “they realized
they weren’t as dissatisfied with satellite as
they once had been,” Milner said. Contrary to
expectations, the company kept its broadband
service and even its landline phone service
(the number of Planters’ access lines has actu-
ally increased for the last three years).
Milner is thankful that Planters’ board was
supportive of the broadband-first strategy. With
the capital and labor resources freed up by giving up the video service, the company built out
an expansive broadband network and now provides ISP services for seven other telcos in
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