I read a lot of reports on how to encourage broadband adoption. There are three kinds of reports – one focuses on getting folks at the far end of the digital divide to use technology, one focuses on creating super users (think GigU) and the other encourages average users to use more broadband – or faster broadband. No Field of Dreams: Eliminating the Waiting Game and Driving Uptake focuses on the upping the use mainstream users. Well, more specifically, it focuses on how to get those users to upgrade their subscriptions to fiber. Or as they say in the report to get customers to put their money where the providers mouth is.
This report is a little different from some in that it comes from the perspective of the provider. Public or private, it’s the provider that has generally made the big investment in broadband in a given area. So they have the most to gain and lose based on local subscribership – subsequently they are pretty motivated to find self-sustaining, full-paying customers.
The bad news is that customers won’t come clamoring to your door just because you’ve built a network…
Build it and the will come is not only a faulty theory, it goes against the basic laws of technology marketing. Theories developed over the past 50 years have continued to be born out to be true – that technology adoption is slow and sometimes does not come at all unless you make smart, strategic efforts to cross the chasm and drive usage.
But there’s some good news too. Once someone tries fiber, they stick with fiber…
Just as significantly, the level of customer satisfaction among fiber customers is off the charts when compared to the traditional cable, DSL, etc.) Fiber has proven its reliability where other access type did not.
In other words, once you have a customer, you are most likely keeping that customer.
So enquiring minds want to know – how do they do it?
Whether we like it or not, driving adoption of ultra-fast broadband networks is a two-step process:
1. Education – driving understanding of the benefits of ultra-fast broadband, and
2. Close – getting the household, company, organization to actually signup for the service.
Only by creating an understanding of the benefits will you ever get your network to “majority” position as per the Technology Adoption Lifecycle.
They break that down into 4 approaches…
- The innovation – Better broadband (ultra-fast and more reliable), distinguishing effective utilization from basic Internet usage.
- Communication channels – One-to-one communication of the benefits of e-solutions and the ultra-fast broadband needed for full utilization.
- Time – By delivering the ROI that ultra-fast broadband and its e-solutions bring, prospects are faster to adopt so they can realize efficiencies.
- Knowledge (what are the e-solutions not being utilized that should be)
- Persuasion (the ROI of adopting ultra-fast broadband and e-solutions)
- Decision (weighing advantages/disadvantages – what is the cost of not adopting?)
- Implementation (employing ultra-fast broadband… signing up for your network)
- Confirmation (utilization of ultra-fast broadband and driving economic benefits)
- Social system – Leveraging industry leaders’ utilization of ultra-fast broadband and e-solutions to persuade adoption.
In Minnesota – and I am most acutely aware of MIRC initiative efforts – there has been a nice partnership between public and private entities in providing education opportunities to learn more about the benefits or broadband and to provide hands-on training to help local residents and businesses to use the Internet strategically. The report calls these skills e-solutions. An interesting note they make is to differentiate between the e-solutions that are low-bandwidth users (research or having a website for example) with high-bandwidth e-solutions, such as teleworking and creating rich media….
Unfortunately, the “slow to adopt” e-solutions are better served with ultra-fast broadband… so carriers are dealing with two challenges: 1) making the e-solutions relevant; and, 2) driving uptake so that individuals and organizations can realize these benefits.
As the chart below shows adoption rates for various e-solutions.
So for folks who are looking to increase adoption, it seems to make sense to continue with current education efforts to increase use – but from the providers’ perspective it might make sense to start emphasizing the higher bandwidth applications as well.