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Operations Benchmarking Report to Assist with Day-to-Day Broadband Business

Randy Sukow

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NRTC today published the Rural Broadband Operations Benchmarking Report, a useful resource members can use to weigh operational options as they manage their internet businesses. NRTC members, both rural telephone companies and the electric cooperatives, have established broadband service throughout the United States, including in some of the most remote locations. The new report provides much of their experience and operational wisdom.

“With 84 broadband providers’ participation, we identified valuable broadband benchmarks that can help you and other NRTC members optimize operations,” said Jon Bartleson, president, NRTC Managed Services, in an email message to NRTC members announcing the report. Those 84 members from 33 different states had a median size of 6,100 subscribers. The report demonstrates how participants are especially responsive to their internet customers’ needs.

  • The participants’ customers tend to be loyal, with a typical churn rate of just 1 percent; net promoter score (customer experience metric) of 75 percent and take rate of 50 percent.
  • Many members see opportunity in expanding their geographic service areas, sometimes into areas where they will face various levels of competition. Thirty-nine percent indicated they had researched the level of competition in potential expansion areas, and many had applied for federal and state grants to expand their networks.
  • At the same time, many said increased competition is the greatest challenge they face. The report found that 64 percent of respondents already face competition with an internet provider offering service of 100/20 Mbps or more.

In the marketing and customer experience portion of the report, respondents reveal that they tend to offer both voice and internet services. However, only 35 percent indicated that they were offering video service. About 61 percent of members are engaged in some form of market research, with a 45 percent plurality using brand research to measure the popularity of their brands compared to any competitors. Another 39 percent were using new market research to explore areas to expand.

The customer service section of the report indicates that respondents tend to be aggressive about improving their average-speed-of-answer performance on customer calls and often use that metric to compare themselves to competitors. They are also responding to increasing customer awareness and demand for paperless billing.

Respondents in the installation and repair section indicated that the median number of days it takes to perform an installation is 6.5 days. Median installation cost was $500, although that number tends to vary widely due to a wide range of equipment costs and different population densities.

The report also includes chapters on financial issues, network management and information technology trends. A “Challenges and Opportunities” chapter compiles respondents’ written responses to specific broadband operations issues.

The Operations Benchmarking Report follows up on the Rural Electric Cooperative Broadband Benchmarking Report and a 2022 update of the 2020 report, which NRTC completed in collaboration with NRECA. Taken together, those reports along with the new operations report and any future projects offer NRTC members a store of data to help them navigate their broadband futures.

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