Thursday, April 10, 2008

Humor: Cox, Eatel, & LUS

Kevin Blanchard does his usual exemplary job of capturing the little ironies and quirks that make following the news so interesting.

In this morning's story on yesterday's big TechSouth Governor's award luncheon he covers the highlights of the event. If you'd like to find out more about the technology behind LITE and how BP uses in oil exploration the story is a great starting point. Our own Ramesh Kolluru comes in for well-deserved praise as well.

But if, like me, you're starved for a little knowing smile skip down to the end and read the bit about EATEL winning its Governor's award for best "Technology Company of the Year."

And just so you don't have to even click for your smile:
Gonzales-based EATEL was presented the Technology Company of the Year for its phone, cable and high-speed Internet service delivered over an entirely fiber-optic network.

EATEL President Robert Burgess thanked Cox Communications — a major sponsor of TechSouth — for its “formidable” competition.

“Because of (Cox’s) size, capability and market strength they force us to be at the top of our game every day,” Burgess said.

That competition has “helped” EATEL succeed, Burgess said.

Burgess than made a joking reference to Lafayette Utilities System’s fiber-optic based telecommunications service, expected to start up early next year — also in competition with Cox — saying he’s sure LUS would appreciate some help.

“We’ve had more than enough assistance,” Burgess said, drawing laughter from the audience, which included LUS and Cox officials.

“Please, any attention you give to us, please give it to (LUS),” Burgess said.

What Kevin does not have to say out loud is that lead sponsor Cox (with its name on every piece of promotion and occupying the suite of booths spanning the entrance to the affair) has recently been locked in an unusually public and expensive battle with EATEL. Cox is offering a super special that amounts to a 12 month 50% discount on its triple play package (with HBO!) but is only advertising it in the small area south of Baton Rouge where local telco EATEL is eating market share with the same FTTH technology for which they were receiving the technology award.

That's rich.

EATEL, as faithful readers of this blog will know, responded by taking out a series of full-page ads in the Lafayette Daily Advertiser which promoted, in vivid red and black, the deal in Lafayette as well. Louisiana law forces Cox to make the deal available throughout its service area but does not force it to promote it as evenly. So EATEL stepped up to "help" Cox out. So, on EATEL's account the two companies are engaged in an exchange of "favors." (That's rich, too.) After an initial confusion among Cox's operators, who initially denied the price reduction was available in Lafayette, the company trimmed its sails and made the best of a bad matter by allowing Lafayette residents in on the deal. Lafayette is a much larger market than East Ascension parish and extending the deal to Lafayette surely makes the attempt quash little EATEL with long-term price specials MUCH more expensive.

(Wanna know how you can get in on the deal? As a little fillup you'll be using a unified technology whose protocols will be similar to LUS' even if the capacity of LUS underlying infrastructure is vastly larger. After you get used to an all-IP household you can flip over to LUS' faster, locally-owned version. The Cox deal does not require a contract but is guaranteed for 12 months.)

/irk on/
As a little added fillip: Cox is sensitive on this matter—I wandered by the Cox booth at TechSouth (they give great floor prizes) and one of their booth guys struck up a conversation trying to encourage me to try Cox. I told him I already had cable and internet from them. He switched to urging me to try their VOIP. I couldn't resist at that point. I told him I was considering the "half-off" deal advertised in paper. ;-) He paled a little (though that might be my imagination) and said it was a good deal. As it is. But he then overreached by claiming that Cox had always intended to offer it to everyone. That it was only being "test-marketed" over there. Now that is just plain silly—and insulting. It was no accident that it was being offered in the only place in this market that Cox currently faces a local, FTTH-based competition. By all accounts EATEL is gaing substantial market share. I tried to point that out and that offering that large a reduction for 12 months had to be a bit more than a casual promotion. He countered by saying that Cox had done it elsewhere. I scoffed. He said he'd been working for Cox in Northern Virginia where they did the same. I doubt he expected anyone in little ole Lafayette to smile and point out that this proved my point about fiber competition—that is where Verizon's Fios FTTH network is going head to head with cablecos and is producing some of the highest speeds in the country. It's fiber taking market share, I said, that caused the long-term "specials" in both places. He wouldn't back off the company talking point that it was all just normal marketing and that it was just a coincidence that his company offered a 50% reduction in the one small place where they had fiber competition---and, oh yes, where they compete with fiber in Virginia. By the end I actually was insulted...Cox is, as EATEL says, a formidable competitor. They are shaping up to be the Verizon of cablecos—willing to really invest in the future of their network even at the cost of today's profits. That's both impressive and worthy. But their Achilles heal is their contempt for their communities, their customers, and even for individuals who walk up and talk to a representative at a trade fair. They need to learn how to be honest with folks. It'll go much further than hype, FUD and self-serving dishonesty.
/irk off/

Post Scriptum:
Blanchard is setting down his pen soon to go back to school and change professions. I, for one, will miss him and gently intelligent toss-off articles like this one.

1 comment:

Kim C. said...

Robert Burgess is the man! A born leader buoyed by integrity, character and humor.

Former EATEL employee.