In joining ANPI, I have been reintroduced to the concerns of the smaller independent telephone companies. Although, these companies are labeled as “incumbents”, they are relatively unknown outside of their local areas. Two things are worth noting: these ILECs or RLECs have been affected by the latest FCC reforms on funding and transit rules more than most of us are aware and these same companies must develop business plans that address the technological changes that IP communication affords them. I have addressed the funding reforms put in place by the FCC multiple times and will continue to review the impact of the new rules on our industry. However, it is also important to look forward and identify what services and applications we can add to our businesses to improve our offerings to our customers. In general, IP Communications and mobility reflect the future of how we will share information. It is also clear that cloud computing has come of age and is accepted by all segments of the business community, SMBs and enterprises. What lies before these ILECs is an unclear landscape that requires investigation to determine what services and applications will be successful in their specific service areas. While the generic terms of mobility, collaboration, cloud computing and others have relevance, it is the specifics that will determine success.
This week I am attending the National Telecommunications Cooperative Association (NTCA) fall conference and meeting with many of the managers of the rural ILECs. Those gathering this week in Baltimore have the opportunity to hear about improving the basics of their business but also learn about leveraging wireless, video, collaboration and cloud applications to better serve their customer base and to generate new revenues.
Gartner now refers to Unified Communications (UC) as “mature”. Metaswitch research indicates “up to 68% of SMBs are considering IP voice service in the next two years”. While UC suppliers may have maturing products, UC like IP voice services is still in the early adoption phase. Therefore, the opportunity remains to exploit these trending technologies and services. It is important to address the rapidly falling call completion rates, infrastructure funding and pending FCC rules and reforms. However, multitasking is the new norm so the ILECs can also apply energy to positioning their phone companies to deliver new bundled services and applications. By adding “opportunity” to the dialogue, the ILECs improve their position as the policy of “universal service” comes under threat.