It’s been a year since NRTC acquired CrowdFiber, the Rome, GA-based developer of online broadband marketing and sales automation systems. A string of happy clients is testament to CrowdFiber’s growing benefit to rural America.
Rural telephone and electric providers with experience providing broadband internet can tell you how important careful planning of construction, marketing and sales can be. From the early stages, through deployment and during everyday operations, the right software applications can be factors in the overall success of the project.
In March, CrowdFiber offered two online “CrowdSessions” to showcase the many advantages of its software. CrowdSessions are a regular feature for existing customers, but the company opened the two March sessions to the full NRTC membership.
One session featured Pineland Telephone Cooperative in Metter, GA, which has years of ISP experience, and used CrowdFiber to help its business grow. The same platform also is aiding Lake Region Electric Cooperative to build fiber to the home in northeast Oklahoma.
“We desperately needed a way to make the application process smoother because our service area is so large,” said Amy Harrelson, Pineland’s director of Sales and Marketing.
After more than a decade of construction, in 2018 Pineland completed construction of a fiber network that required laying more than 4,000 miles of fiber plant. It delivers up to 1 Gbps in both directions and covers the telco’s incumbent local exchange carrier (ILEC) service area, some competitive LEC service areas and the service areas of four nearby electric cooperatives in partnership with Pineland.
Prior to calling CrowdFiber, Pineland still used paper applications, some Adobe tools and email to complete marketing and sales functions. “It was a cumbersome process,” Harrelson said. “CrowdFiber is what gave us the ability to basically be open 24/7, 365 days a year.”
Like Pineland, Lake Region EC has a large service area. CrowdFiber has made the miles of construction manageable. Its mapping and data archiving capabilities help the co-op determine which areas have the lowest broadband penetrations, which have the highest amount of competition and which have the highest level of demand for service. Detailed market information allows Lake Region to organize and prioritize each step of the deployment. With up-to-date customer data, the co-op can adjust and improve its plans as it progresses.
For example, it used CrowdFiber to create construction zone boundaries. As it begins building in a zone, the CrowdFiber system generates lists of residents in the area and Lake Region sends them postcards to let them know that broadband is on the way and preregistration is open. “It is more cost-efficient if we build the drops while we’re building in a community,” said Larry Mattes, a communications specialist for Lake Region. “We really want to drive that message home so that we don’t have to build one-offs here and there.”
Early in its construction project, Lake Region was experiencing low take rates as it began offering services in some areas. But after applying the CrowdFiber system, it is maintaining 60 to 70 percent take rates. Much of that success can be traced to Lake Region’s CrowdFiber-designed registration/preregistration on its website.
Mattes and CrowdFiber’s Bailey White led a live demonstration of the system during the Lake Region Crowdsession (see video). The demonstration shows how quickly and easily customers determine whether service is available in their areas; if not available, find out when it will be; choose a service plan, and calculate monthly rates. The platform also collects market research data to measure the level of competition in each zone.
“Most people are taking the two-year contract and there’s no cost upfront. We’ll build the service line and hopefully have an internet connection forever,” Mattes said.
- Managed Services
- Smart Grid
- Member Impact