Thursday, March 03, 2005

"Eatel launches fiber-optic TV service"

Mike, posting on the DigitalLouisiana list, points to an article in the Advocate on EATEL's fiber-to-the-home project. From the first paragraphs:
Eatel launched its new fiber-optic television service Tuesday in Ascension Parish, putting it in competition with Cox Communications.

Dubbed FiberEdge, the Gonzales telecom company's digital TV service provides access to more than 300 channels. They include 47 commercial-free digital music channels; digital pay-per-view; specialized sports and high-definition channels; a digital video recorder service that lets consumers pause, rewind, record and replay live TV; and high-definition TV packages.
Lafayette readers may recall EATEL as a former sponsor of local festival events and an aggressive competitor for BellSouth who used to offer good deals on phone service. All that's past, of course, since BellSouth and the other baby bells got the FCC to effectively end the regulated competition that allowed EATEL and other carriers like ATT into that market.

EATEL, a small, nimble, locally-owned company which seems to actually care about its customers, turned around and reinvested its earnings in building a state-of-the-art fiber optic network for its core customers. It's clear proof, should any be needed, that fiber is an economic investment--for companies that choose to invest in upgrading their own infrastructure as a way of driving long-term growth. Other companies, like BellSouth for instance, invest in get-rich-quick schemes like trying to own Central America's wireless companies, and end up selling out at fire sale prices. They then turn around and pay their CEO as if he wasn't running a company that was allowing its core business to decay each year. Of all the regional telephone companies, only Verizon, apparently, hopes to continue in the landline business. It's pushing forward with a major fiber build at locations all across its footprint.

4 comments:

GumboFilé said...

I would like to know the details of Eatel's departure from the telephone business in Lafayette.

GumboFilé said...

I didn't know they had left.

Anonymous said...

To all of my valued customers,

This will be my last “EATEL” update, as my position with EATEL was eliminated on Friday due to recent rulings handed down by the FCC. As I’d told you in the past, because of Bell South going to the FCC to get approval to no longer have to allow other carriers to resale their services, we ceased our marketing efforts last July. We’ve been in limbo since then, waiting to see what the FCC would decide. My supervisor, Kip Guerin, and I were kept as Lafayette Account Managers to take care of the existing EATEL client base. Bell South appealed the rulings that were handed down before Christmas, which would have allowed them to raise the rates to EATEL and other competitors by 20%. We thought that since it was back in the courts, it would be another long court battle, but it seems that some new information has come to light that has caused EATEL to eliminate the remaining reps in each market and keep only a technician in every market. As you know, as information became available to me, I shared it with you. Obviously, I had no idea this was coming, or I would have not spent a week stuffing envelopes to 1000 clients with the letter you recently received from me! J I have left the company on good terms…EATEL has and always will remain a successful company because they make good decisions, and the decision to eliminate all of sales and marketing, I’m sure, was something they had to do for the good of the company.



This does not mean that EATEL is pulling out of the market (yet). Customers can still add or delete services on their account through our customer service department, and we still have a technician here in Lafayette for repairs and service. I wish I could give you definite answers and advice as to how to handle your telecommunications services in lieu of all of the uncertainty in the industry, but I know just as much as any of you. It is my hunch, that with the deep pockets that Bell South has, and with George Bush running things, that Bell South will get their way and push out all local competition and we will be back to the way things were before the Telcom Act of 1996. Our choices will be Bell South, Cox, and possibly L.U.S.. South Central Bell has purchased AT&T, MCI and Qwest have merged…it’s like a free for all right now….and I would imagine another year or two will pass before all of the buying and selling of telecom companies is done and the dust settles, and we have a true idea of what our choices are.



I have no qualms with any of this, as they say, “Business is Business!”.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my years at EATEL and have enjoyed doing business with all of you. I appreciate your loyalty, patience, and understanding through all of this and hope that I can call on you again in the future.



Please do not hesitate to email me with any questions…I will do my best to assist you in any way I can. Our customer service number is 1 800 621 4211 and for repairs: 1 866 647 4288.

John said...

Note: as I got ready to post this I realized anonymous had posted the email I mentioned in the body below. Thanks for the documentation.

gumbofile,

My understanding is that they are no longer accepting new contracts for service. That hiatus came in not long after the FCC decision to effectively allow BellSouth and the other baby bells to charge what they want for accessing their network's last mile. (I can talk a little about all that if you are unfamiliar)

At that time Eatel joined companies like ATT & MCI in ceasing to accept new customers. The effect is to withdraw from competition; leaving all new business to BellSouth and removing any competitive pressure it might have felt--especially in the business line market.

Recently--within the month, I believe--an email from the head local rep was circulated that thanked all the Lafayette area customers and announced that all the service reps had been let go. It said that there is one regional technician left in the office--basically to service remaining contracts.

BellSouth has to wait for some sort of regulatoraly defined moment to raise its fees but Eatel and the others (responsibly) didn't want to accept new business they would just have to let go of. So they closed contracts.

I think the basic message is that they will keep old contracts going as long as they can afford to do so profitably. When that is no longer true they will be cut loose.

End result: the return to the pre '96 telecom situation of get your local landline phone from Bell or do without.