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18 March 2020

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What SMB Ought to Know About Big Telecom

Business Phone Service by Tom Collins

Is big telecom selling you short?

Global telecommunications providers spend a lot of money on national marketing campaigns. Super Bowl ads. Full page newspaper advertisements. Their spend for online advertising exceeds some local government budgets for technology! They always say they're the best or the fastest or the latest and greatest. But, the very nature of big telecom is to maximize profit. They want the highest possible return-on-investment (ROI) on their network assets. It's not their fault. That is what Wall Street demands. 

Don't get me wrong. We here at Atlantech Online are stone cold capitalists. We’re all in business to turn a profit. However, making money doesn’t have to come at the expense of your customers. You don’t need to cut costs required to satisfy customers to compete, especially when cutting costs means cutting quality.

Here’s what big telecom doesn’t advertise in their Super Bowl commercials.

What You Should Know About Big Telecom

Atlantech Online is the antithesis of big telecom. Think of us as the Rebellion and Big Telecom is the Empire. We’re not small, and we’re definitely no fledgling startup. We’ve been in the telecom industry for 25 years because we know what we’re doing, and we’re serious about providing value to our customers.

Atlantech provides the best network and Unified Communications in the Washington D.C. metro area. And believe us, we’ll be the very first to admit that we’re biased. However, our customers agree that we offer the best service and technology.

Learn more: 6 Best Internet Service Providers in Washington, D.C. for 2020

We’ve learned a lot during two-and-a-half decades in the industry, including a few secrets about big telecom business models. Atlantech Online is a firm believer in transparency. Honesty is the right thing to do for our customers. On that note, here’s what you don’t know about big telecom.

They Sell Your Data

One global communications conglomerate got caught selling customer data several years ago. Location data was as cheap as $300 in one instance. This was kept secret from customers, judges, defense attorneys, and lawmakers. It could have remained a secret forever, except a whistleblower leaked documents to a journalist.

This wasn't a one-off incident, either. Four other giant network providers were caught selling customer location data last year. Sometimes, law enforcement officials need to get a warrant to obtain telecom location data. In some cases, location data can protect public safety or help locate missing people.

Location data can also be risky, or even deadly, in the wrong hands. Anyone with a few hundred bucks can easily buy sensitive info from a data broker.

Big telecom turning a profit on your location “is a nightmare for national security and the personal safety of anyone with a phone,” writes Senator Ron Wyden.

There are Often Hidden Costs

Advertisements rarely tell the full story. The only guarantee big telecom is selling is sticker shock, especially if you don’t read the fine print.

Big telecom companies advertise low-prices and high speed, and sometimes they hide a tiny website link to “learn more.” There’s a lot of details hiding behind these rock-bottom prices. For a low monthly fee, you are probably:

  • Locked into a 2-Year Contract
  • Offered Zero Pricing Guarantees
  • Paying for Installation, Equipment, Taxes, and Fees
  • Paying to Upgrade, Modify, or Cancel Service
  • Receiving Zero Availability Guarantees
  • Receiving Zero Promises About Speed or Bandwidth

You’ll also be stuck paying for every add-on service you need, even necessities like customer support in some cases. There’s a lot of hidden costs involved with big telecom promotions and very few guarantees about quality.

Related: Why High-Quality UC-as-a-Service Isn't Always Guaranteed

Bells and Whistles aren’t Always Realistic

Big telecom often advertises bells and whistles for business customers. Take all the hype over the past couple of years about 5G. I've seen promises of 5G connectivity everywhere. I've seen claims that "we have the fastest 5G network in America". Once again, the truth is hidden in the fine print. Most carriers haven't even installed 5G antennas outside of a few small areas and no people actually have 5G phones. You need a 5G phone to use 5G. In fact, in Montgomery County, carriers are still fighting with regulators on where they can put 5G antennas. 

Lagging, Overloaded Networks

A 30-second Super Bowl commercial cost $5.6 million in 2020. A national direct mail campaign to 25 million U.S. households costs at least $12.5 million. You probably receive several big telecom advertisements in your mailbox each month.

Big advertising efforts should never come at the cost of quality. These costly marketing campaigns don’t mention the fact that existing network resources are overloaded with users and lagging. Big telecom cuts costs where it actually matters, like network reliability.

We recommend: 5 Ways to Improve Enterprise Communications Quality & Reliability

National marketing campaigns and high-quality networks are both really costly, which is why telecom companies have to pick and choose where they spend their budget. Atlantech chooses to invest in quality instead of national marketing. We invest in reliability and speed instead of flashy advertising.

Limited Flexibility

Most big telecom providers offer exactly 3 or 4 options for business bandwidth. Typical service packages may look something like the following:

  • 100 Mbps
  • 300 Mbps
  • 1000 Mbps

These packages could fit your needs, but if so, you’re lucky. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all communication service.

Limited flexibility and lock-in contracts mean you’re out of luck if your company grows quickly. It means a limited ability to adopt bandwidth-taxing technologies like video conferencing.

And, if you need 400 Mbps of Internet, you’d better buy the 1000 Mbps package. Then, you're stuck paying for unused resources.

We recommend: How Much Bandwidth Do I Need for My Business?

Standardizing service packages is easier than customized service. If you can force customers to fit a defined mold, you don’t have to spend time assessing what they actually need. ROI should never come at the cost of positive customer experiences.

Customer Support Cost-Cutting is Rampant

Customer support is another area where many global telecom companies choose to cut costs. Many choose to outsource phone support as cheaply as possible by hiring overseas call center contractors. These customer service representatives may not know much about telecom service. They’re rarely prepared to help customers troubleshoot complex issues.

Almost everyone has a big telecom horror story about negative customer service experiences, unfortunately. You almost certainly do, too. Maybe you waited on hold for 20 minutes one time. Maybe it took six calls to get to someone who could actually help you. Even worse, maybe you found out you had to pay extra each month for phone support.

Inexperienced customer service reps may be cheaper, but they’re not better. When your Internet goes down, or you have questions, you want a one-call resolution. You deserve to reach a local expert who can really help 24/7/365.

Unlimited Data is Just Lip Speak

Big telecom promises unlimited data for business Internet and mobile devices, but everyone knows this is a myth. Unlimited data always has a threshold. If you thought your connection was slow, just wait until you’re throttled. You’re about to experience even slower speeds than anyone else on the congested network.

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently fined one global telecom company $60 million for throttling customer data. Going forward, this big telecom company is forbidden to market data plans without disclosing restrictions. However, there’s no guarantee they’ll comply, especially considering they’ve already faced a $100 million fine for the same issue in 2016.

“The issue here is simple: ‘unlimited’ means unlimited,” says former FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez.

Unfortunately, big telecom disagrees with most of us about what ‘unlimited’ means. All major network carriers have a cap for “unlimited data plans,” which ranges from 22-50Gb per month. That may sound like a lot, but it really doesn’t go very far with Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video. You’ll hit a 22Gb “unlimited” data cap after 11 hours of HD video streaming.

Canceling Service?

Canceling service isn’t nearly as easy as buying service from big telecom. You could be subject to a lot of surprising cancellation fees. You also may be required to bring your equipment to the nearest office. It doesn’t matter if the office is located far away. It’s got to be done quickly, or you’ll pay the full equipment costs.

Size isn’t the Same Thing as Value or Quality

Big telecom operates on a unique business model. They’ve invested in global network assets, and they’re motivated to get the highest possible return. Atlantech Online wants to deliver a reliable customer experience to keep our customers happy.

Size isn’t the same thing as quality. The customer difference between big telecom and other providers can be huge. It’s like the difference between a quick dinner at McDonald’s and a private restaurant. Do you want your telecom service fast and cheap, or do you want a better, higher quality experience?

Atlantech is a small telecom giant. We’re not trying to be a national provider or go global, and we’re unwilling to cut corners to compete. Instead, we regionally offer reliable, fast, and scalable business Internet and communications services.

Our customers love us because our network speed and uptime are guaranteed, and they’re continually getting better. We don’t outsource, we invest in locally-based expert employees, and we train them to become even better.

Quality and value are our business model, and they’re a promise we’ve made to our customers. Atlantech Online doesn’t pressure prospective customers because we know we’re not the right fit for everyone. That’s okay. We’re here whenever you want to start a conversation. Looking for More Than You Get with Big Telecom?







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t-tom-collins

About the author:

Tom Collins (Twitter, LinkedIn) - is the Director of Enterprise Sales & Marketing for Atlantech Online. He has over 20 years of professional experience in the Internet Service Provider industry and is known for translating technology into positive results for business. A native of Washington, DC, a graduate from University of Maryland (degrees in Government & Politics and Secondary Education), Tom is also a five-time Ironman finisher.

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