For a rural internet provider – telco or electric – every step in the initial planning, construction, marketing and day-to-day operation requires continual analysis. Everyone, ranging from established ISPs to new entrants seeking to reach previously unserved areas, must keep track of the subtle data points that can affect their business models. NRTC has forged a new agreement with CrowdFiber of Rome, GA, which has developed a full suite of marketing and sales automation tools to get successful rural broadband services started and maintain success.
“Most broadband providers can and will benefit from a CrowdFiber-type of product,” said Aaron Bennett, VP, Solutions Architecture for NRTC’s Pulse Broadband subsidiary. “It’s very flexible.” He praised the software’s ability to gather broadband data in rural areas and prepare for new broadband service launches.
The CrowdFiber system is a web-based approach to planning, building and operating last-mile broadband service. It divides a rural ISP’s service area into geographic zones, then uses crowdsourcing techniques to determine which zones have the most interest in broadband service. When an NRTC member is planning broadband service over a large area, it can use the data to determine which areas to launch first. It can analyze customer-interest data together with construction costs to make decisions during the building phase.
The member can use customer-reach features within the platform to continually gather new data. Throughout the process, rural ISPs can share CrowdFiber data on their websites or through directed email messages and newsletters. Potential customers then can respond, expressing their interest in the service and further refining the quality of the data on the system. CrowdFiber offers this data distribution on a white-label basis so that the ISP can brand the data display with their own brands.
Overall, the platform amounts to a type of high-tech word-of-mouth strategy for demand-building and subscriber management. ISP customers maintain a dialogue with the NRTC member and contribute data to the system throughout the process.
Several of NRTC’s rural telephone and electric members already use CrowdFiber to maintain and grow their broadband services. CrowdFiber offers full subscriber life cycle management tools to enhance customer engagement, increase revenue and reduce churn and streamline communications efforts. These tools also yield detailed customer data that helps broadband providers make better business decisions.
“It’s very popular in the industry,” Bennett said. Bennett and the Pulse team have had an opportunity to work with the CrowdFiber software and become familiar with its features. It has been using the platform to gather data in many parts of the country to refine its own processes for conducting broadband feasibility studies. “There’s a lot of moving pieces in these financial models. A lot of inputs and changes and we want to be able to standardize system-wide,” he said.
And although the name of the company is CrowdFiber, NRTC members also could use the platform to plan fixed wireless service or hybrid fiber/wireless deployments. Bennett said that Pulse has been working with CrowdFiber to expand the system’s capabilities in that direction.