It’s time for Uber and Airbnb the telecommunications industry


Verizon, can you hear me now?

I issue a call to arms to shake up, smash and decentralize your old industry. I’m not alone. I’m joined by hordes of telecom geeks decentralizing giants like you, AT&T and Vodafone.

Your old habits are not adapted to modern life. Your semi-monopolies should disintegrate like dandelions in a summer wind. From your wreckage, something prettier will grow.

Who is with me? Ready to compost telecoms?

Wireless and internet services are too important to be done poorly. We live and die by our devices. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs now includes Wi-Fi. When I’m out of range of my cell, I can feel my social ties crumble. My most important daily vitamins are C, B12 and 5G.

And yet, we’ve all been burned too many times by our monthly Verizon bills. Telecoms have hosted me and my customers for decades. The #1 task for them was not to solve their customers’ problems, but to make as much money as possible. I have never seen a telecom undercharge on a bill.

How is it possible? If you try to price your services accurately, you might find that you are accidentally overcharging sometimes and undercharging other times. It happens all the time in restaurants. However, with telecoms, errors always pass. I like when companies reduce my bill; Slack lowers the bill for users who haven’t logged in for a month. Very cool.

Most people don’t know enough to fight telecom overload. It is impossible to verify invoices without purchasing specialized services. What a perverse incentive. I’ve saved my businesses billions by reporting overcharges on our IT contracts and telecom and hosting bills.

Telcos are extractive capitalism at its worst. No wonder people distrust telecommunications and look for ways out. Telcos are as popular as poison ivy.

Net promoter scores are a standard way to measure customer satisfaction, ignoring lukewarm customers and subtracting the percentage of detractors, i.e. unhappy, from those who are promoters, i.e. delighted. A score of 100 is wonderful; -100 is catastrophic.

According to Qualtrics, four of the five lowest net promoter scores by industry are wireless carriers, utilities, internet service providers, and television service providers, the one-stop-shop components that make up telecom carriers or today’s cable TV. According to NICE Satmetrix, the two weakest are cable/satellite TV, with an average NPS of 1, and Internet service, with an average NPS of -1. This compares to department/specialty stores at 62 and tablet computers at 56!

Aren’t telecoms ashamed of how they work? For what part of the world distrusts them? If telecoms were people, they might go on dates because they’re rich, but you wouldn’t invite them to Thanksgiving.

Part of the reason for low net promoter scores is the pressure between two desires: on the one hand, customers’ desires for unlimited bandwidth and low prices, and on the other hand, providers’ limited network capacity. services and huge capital investments. However, every industry must balance the needs of demanding customers with those of stakeholders. That doesn’t explain the horribly low customer satisfaction scores.

If telcos want to win back some of our favor, I suggest they try to improve the way their company does business. Instead of just trying to make as much money as possible, telcos could:

  1. Make communications more accessible.

  2. Aim for a positive social impact.

  3. Use their excess bandwidth for good.

  4. Donate a percentage of profits to local communities.

  5. Make their billing transparent.

Things change. As telecom took money from our bank accounts, they could ignore us and abuse us. After all, it was the only game in town, the only popsicle stand in the desert. What were we going to do? Hang tin cans on trees and build our own telecommunications network?

Finally, we can.

Market forces mean that telecom operators can no longer rely on monopoly to maintain their margin. The monopoly power of large telecoms is changing rapidly. Telecommunications are becoming fragmented and decentralized.

New players are rapidly arriving to dismantle telecoms. We build our own networks. As one decentralized telecommunications player told Forbes, “What if someone could stick a box to their window, turn it on, and suddenly become their own cell tower? I hope this started a movement towards people realizing that you can do it open source without a big telco.

It’s out of time. Who else wants to join the cause?

Tony Greenberg is Managing Director of RampRate, a consulting firm that optimizes supplier relationships for over 100 major brands such as Microsoft, eBay, Nike and Hearst. He is currently an advisor or investor in startups in motion capture, virtual and augmented reality, networking, blockchain technologies and several companies related to social impact and well-being. He wrote this comment for SiliconANGLE.

Image: Mehadi Hasan/Pixabay

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