IT Briefcase Exclusive Interview with Ting!April 17, 2019 No Comments
Ting, a mobile virtual network operator, launched a fiber-to-the-home symmetrical gigabit Internet in 2014 when it bought ISP Blue Ridge InternetWorks of Charlottesville, Virginia. Since then, Ting has launched similar fiber networks in a number of U.S. markets, including parts of Maryland, North Carolina, and most recently, Fullerton, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. IT Briefcase spoke to Monica Webb, Director, Market Development and Government Affairs, at Ting Internet/Tucows following Ting’s recent “lighting ceremony” in Fuquay-Varina, NC.
- Q. Ting recently held a “lighting ceremony” for the citizens of a small town in North Carolina, Fuquay-Varina. What exactly is a lighting ceremony and why is it so important to residents of that community?
A. A lighting ceremony is a chance for Ting and the community to celebrate the official “lighting”of the fiber network. A lot of effort, on behalf of the local Ting team and the Town of Fuquay-Varina, culminates with us connecting the first customer, be it a home or a business, with true fiber to the premises. We think fiber alone is something worth celebrating. It means Fuquay-Varina residents and businesses will have access to the fastest Internet available today, and be able to reap all the benefits it has to offer.
- Q. Ting seems to focus its efforts in the U.S. on small communities like Fuquay-Varina. How did you settle on a business strategy like that and how do you pick a specific community?
A. We’re open to working with any town or city, big or small. What we really look for in a location is strong demand for better Internet options for homes and businesses. We love to work with towns and cities that look to the future and realize that fiber Internet is the path forward.
We like to be a strong part of the communities we serve. We don’t want to be just any Internet service provider, we want to be your Internet service provider and we carry ourselves accordingly. Smaller communities tend to feel the need for viable home Internet most keenly and so we’ve found our community first approach works really well in places like Fuquay-Varina, Holly Springs, Wake Forest, NC as well as in Charlottesville, VA, Sandpoint, ID, Centennial, CO and elsewhere.
- Q. You have called fiber “the great equalizer.” What exactly does that mean?
A. We do think of fiber as the great equalizer. America’s Internet access lags behind the rest of the world. Fiber brings us up to speed. Fiber is fast, boringly reliable and has a huge capacity for future growth. As technology evolves, we’ll need stronger and better Internet. Fiber factors this growth in from the start. Fiber is about leveling the playing field online.
- Q. Why is Ting the preferable way to go as opposed to some of the better known fiber networks? What are its advantages?
A. First off, Ting Internet is true fiber to the premises. That’s special and on its own is reason enough for anyone that cares about the fastest, most reliable Internet access. Other providers might talk about “gigabit” or fiber but fiber to the premises is the exception, not the rule. Fiber to the premises is all we do.
Other than that, we care more than the incumbent Internet service providers. We care about the communities that have welcomed us. We care about people’s lawns when we’re building the network in their neighborhood. We care about their experience, about their personal privacy and about the open Internet.
- Q. Beyond bringing fast, reliable Internet to individuals and businesses, how does Ting impact economic and community development in these small communities?
A. We hire local. We partner with local community initiatives, non-profits and educational initiatives. We sponsor local community events and we’re always open to a conversation about how we can help.
The fiber infrastructure (and it is infrastructure) we’re building puts towns like Fuquay-Varina on par with the world’s major metros like Shanghai, Tokyo, Stockholm etc. in terms of the benefits to economic development and quality of life that fiber makes possible. That alone is a massive benefit to a community. Next Century Cities (nextcenturycities.org) perhaps says it best in their principles statement:
High-Speed Internet Is Necessary Infrastructure: Fast, reliable and affordable Internet – at globally competitive speeds – is no longer optional. Residents, schools, libraries and businesses require next-generation connectivity to succeed.
- Q. How long does it take to build a fiber network in a small town like Fuquay-Varina? How many communities have you wired in the U.S. to date?
A. To date Ting has built and lit networks in Holly Springs, NC, Charlottesville, VA, Sandpoint, ID and Centennial, CO. Construction is ongoing in these towns as we continue to expand the network’s reach to as many addresses as possible. We’re also currently building the fiber network in Wake Forest, NC. Building a fiber network is no easy feat and it does take time. We can typically light our first customers six months from the start of network construction.
- Q. Constructing these fiber networks would seem to require a great deal of coordination and cooperation with the locals – government officials, businesses, residents, and so on. How smoothly does that typically go and what kinds of roadblocks have you encountered?
A. Before we consider building a fiber network in a town or city, we start with these important conversations with local officials. We’re always happy to work with towns and cities that are happy to work with us. Things like dig-once policies, simple permitting, clear easements and that kind of thing. Fuquay-Varina has been fantastic to work with on all these fronts which is a big part of the reason we were able to light our first customer here in such short order.
- Q. It sounds like Ting’s approach has been a winning strategy so far. What’s next? What communities will you wire next and what is the plan for Ting’s continued growth nationally?
A. We’re going to continue on the path we’re on; working with great towns and cities that want great Internet for their residents. We’ve just announced our newest “Ting Town,” Fullerton, CA, and we’re excited to continue serving the communities we’re in today and adding more going forward.
Monica Webb is Director, Market Development and Government Affairs at Ting Internet, Her focus there is on developing new markets and tasks associated with government relations and policy, She previously served as Chair of the Board at WiredWest and a member of the Massachusetts State Council of the Humane Society of the United States.SOCIAL BUSINESS