My house is bigger than your house!

Web sites put on by internet service providers are curious things. I suppose in one way, their function is to promote the service, but it's like preaching to the choir, if you can view the site you must be connected somehow either through the provider hosting the site or some other provider. Will a jazzy looking web site filled with cute graphics and promises of virtual expeditions through the universe somehow woo people to use their service instead of the one they currently use. "Hmmmm....look at this stuff, these people must know what they're doing so I should their use service instead!" But in my travels, I have yet to come across someone who went to a certain provider on the basis of pretty pictures alone. If they were new to the internet, they couldn't see the pictures in the first place and if they were having trouble with their existing provider because of of busy signals, (the biggest complaint these days) those
pretty pictures still may be elusive.

Actually, I think all this fluff and puff is put on not so much to be a benefit to potential consumers, but instead it is aimed at other internet service providers operating in the same area. Like the big bad wolf exhorts, "I'm going to huff and I'm going to puff and blow your house down!!" On they go, "we use Cisco routers," (a fine product) but to many people a "Cisco router" is something you buy at Sears or Home Depot for making dovetail joints in your home woodworking projects. No matter how reliably or elegantly a Cisco router routes things, if you can't connect reliably to the site where the Cisco router is located, the qualities of that device become rather academic. The same can be said for the other "industrial strength, janitor in a drum" solutions that they have at their beck and whim. What people want is good reliable connectivity at a reasonable price. If a provider can do this with Commodore 64's, I think most people could care less. The internet service provider business is really no different from any other service-related business. It's almost like if a garage was to advertise that their mechanics only used Proto or Snap-On tools. We all know that even the best hand tools won't make an incompetent mechanic a good mechanic. People deal with certain garages because they feel they get the best value there, the tools they use are of no consideration as long the consumer perceives getting good value for the money. If I take my car to garage for repairs, as long as the repairs are properly done and the garage is willing to stand behind their work, I could care less what brand of tools their mechanics used. Tools alone do not drive the service business, the people factor is far more important.

"Would you go fishing with a lawnmower," the pitchman intones. (actually when compared to devices like "Popiel's Pocket Fisherman," the lawnmower may be worthy of debate) I think the suggestion here is that if so and so uses "Intel" computers, (when did Intel shift their strategy of "Intel inside" to "Intel outside?") Cisco routers, and Motorola modems, no one else is!! Therefore everyone must be using "lawnmowers" or perhaps some Rube Goldberg setup worthy of a a post-apocalypse movie like Road Warrior or Waterworld. Actually, the question shouldn't be one so much of technology of and in itself, but rather one of implementation. A mediocre technology that is well implemented may be better than a good technology poorly implemented. It takes more than good technology or hardware to give good value, thoughtful implementation is paramount in such equations. I think it comes full circle here, the argument being posed by Intel this or Cisco that is not so much an attemp to say that the potential consumer can get better value here, but instead is a veiled way to announce to their potential competition that they are the 200 tonne behemoths in this business and that everyone else should run up the white flag and simply give up.

"Get ready, it's coming." A promise to deliver Lafayette from the evil clutches of Darth Vader or Kenny Bowen?? (whichever comes first!) Obviously this bodes to be the greatest event in the history of that city since the end of the civil war. We'll let history be the judge of that, but somehow I think it's not going to turn out in the exact manner it's creators had intended.

Now the internet service provider business has entered the "self-destruct" mode. A well-worn axiom in the business world is that you don't give away what you are trying to sell. The Lafayette market is rife with providers all trying to siphon away the market to themselves. They do this by seeking out email links on each other's site and bombarding clients with email messages extolling the virtues of their service. The other technique is to simply woo clients away by cheapening the product to the point where it becomes attractive to switch. But the simple truth is that if you give the product away for next to nothing, you can't expect to charge for it ever again. Those who engage in such tactics are merely digging their own graves. Some providers have deluded themselves into thinking that economy of scale will allow them to give the product away. One provider offers unmetered PPP connectivity for 12 dollars a month. The mathematics simply aren't there for this to work no matter what the scale is!! In other markets, self-destruct mode has lowered prices as low 5 dollars a month for unmetered PPP connectivity. Their thinking is perhaps based on the notion that their 5 dollar deals will bleed the market dry and drive all the others out of business. That scheme might have worked for John D. Rockefeller, but the difference was that Rockefeller was making buckets of money in other markets and could well afford to undersell in selected markets to gain share. The 5 dollar-a-month providers aren't Standard Oil of New Jersey, they are underselling in all their markets in a disparate attemp to gain market share after which they hope to control prices. Rockefeller was no dummy, he systematically destroyed smaller regional oil companies because Standard Oil was big enough to undersell in selected markets while remaining profitable overall. Those attemping to undersell in the Lafayette market are banking on the hope that their "new" money will hold out long enough to bury their competition. They are sadly mistaken as other johnny-come-latelys will come along offering the same kind of deals. The sides of the road are going to be littered with remains of would-be internet service providers. The next 12 months are bound to be pretty interesting!!

Cliff Larson threatens Fred

Return to Innovative Network Technologes Homepage
portions copyright (c) 1977, Lucasfilm Ltd.
(c)1996 All Rights Reserved
Fred Findling
Innovative Network Technologies
P.O. Box 1099
Crowley, Louisiana 70527
updated: 19 June 1996