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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day, Not!

On the occasion of Saint Valentine’s Day, we will leave the bouquets of roses and sweet phrases to those lucky folks who are enraptured with their significant others. For the EPB, we will mark the day thinking about our significant partners who we will not be sending a box of chocolates. Let’s call it our anti-Valentine message. Here goes...

Providing internet service, especially high speed internet service, has never been easy in Glasgow, even from the very beginning back in 1996. Our problems are chiefly our size and our geography. The companies who built the major arteries of the world wide web in North America generally tied together major cities using the interstate highways and railroad rights-of-way as their construction corridors. Taking a quick look around Glasgow, you will note that we are situated upon neither. That problem vexes us with respect to many things. Attracting industry is tough because of that. Attracting the sorts of retail stores and restaurants many folks desire is a problem because of that. Finally, arranging high capacity circuits to the internet is exceedingly difficult for that very same reason.

From the beginning of our plan to provide Glasgow with faster internet service than that which is available in any other town our size we have been fighting with our geography and our dependance on mighty telecommunications corporations that could care less about us. So, it is with some of those companies in mind that we send out this anti-Valentine.

Our first card, with a big black heart on it, goes out to Qwest Communications. They are a little telecommunications company with, oh, about 36,000 employees. In the last fiscal quarter they had a net income of, ummm, about $366 million. So, as you can see, they are just barely scraping by. Two of those 36,000 employees, Holly McMillin and Frank Koldys came to call on the EPB just about a year ago. They had a fantastic offer for us. Qwest wanted to sell EPB high capacity circuits to their internet connection (the connection point is called a “POP” which is telecommunications geek-speak for Point of Presence) to replace the circuits we presently lease from AT&T (another black-heart recipient which we will discuss later). Further, they assured us that their circuit would double Glasgow’s transport speed and capacity to the internet and, this powerful new circuit would cost us less than what we are paying AT&T!

The EPB team listened to the offer. We looked at each other and rolled our eyes in disbelief. We knew in our heart that this could not be possible. We told good old Holly and Frank that we did not believe them. But Holly and Frank were not done yet. They double and triple checked their offer. They put it in writing. Still, we did not believe. Phone calls and emails from Holly came down on us like rain for the next several weeks. Qwest, it seemed, really, really loved Glasgow and longed to carry our data to Bowling Green and then out to the world wide web. Finally, after many versions of the offer were presented in writing and backed by emails stipulating their capacity as a big smart telecommunications company, above reproach, to deliver this new circuit at the guaranteed price by October of 2007, we gave in and accepted their proposal. Holly and Frank and Qwest were thrilled. Billy and the EPB team were thrilled. Celestial music played in the background and little song birds orbited around our heads. Qwest loves us! They really, really do!

That was June and July. We started notifying old partners, like AT&T, that we would be canceling some of the circuits we lease from them as the contracts expired in December. Then came August and September, and Holly and Frank didn’t call or send roses any more. By early October we demanded that they come by and let us know when the circuit would be connected. It was at that meeting that we knew our love had been misplaced. Yes, good old Holly and Frank now admitted that Qwest would not deliver on the offers made in person, in writing, and in emails. Well, actually, they decided they could deliver the high capacity circuit, but they backed up on the price. Now that it was October they said, the price for the circuit they offered more than tripled! We felt a bit unloved, but we did not have time to linger on our broken hearts. We knew that our customers would still be expecting high speed internet service. It was time for us to show Holly and Frank the door and give back our ring(and make a mental note to make sure everyone possible knows what they did to us) and call up AT&T and ask them for forgiveness. It was a humbling experience.

The folks at AT&T were happy to hear from us. They were quite thrilled to order up a new circuit to their POP in Louisville for us (at full price) and assured us it would be in service when ever they got good and ready. We gladly accepted their gracious offer since we looked around and saw no other option. At the same time, we noted how our customers use of the existing circuits was growing rapidly and we begged AT&T to put a rush on the new circuit as we had put all of our future in the hands of our friends at Qwest and they had broken our hearts and damaged our reputation with our customers. AT&T listened to our plight and smirked.

Still, at the dizzying pace of traffic in the left lane of the Bypass in Glasgow on a Friday afternoon, AT&T ordered our circuit and got to work on increasing our capacity to the internet by 50%. It was going to be in place by the end of the year. Then it was going to be in place by the end of January. Then it was going to be in place by February 13. Then, yesterday, they fired it up and . . . it did not work. “Darn!” ,we at the EPB exclaimed. “Hmmm,” the AT&T folks replied, “It seems that we told you to order the wrong kind of circuit.” So, here’s a big old anti-Valentine for you too AT&T. Enjoy!

Meanwhile, we are sitting here by the phone, hoping AT&T will call after they had their way with us yesterday. Maybe they will. Maybe today the new circuit, now ordered correctly, will start working. If it does, we really hope that Holly and Frank and the whole Qwest gang see us out with AT&T and it makes them jealous. But we have other plans as well.

No interstate or mainline railroad goes through Glasgow, but major electric transmission lines do. We have just cut a deal to build our own fiber optic circuit along one of those transmission lines all the way to Bowling Green. Once there, we plan on partnering with our sister utility, BGMU, to connect that fiber directly to one of the internet POP’s located in Bowling Green. THEN, we will control our own destiny. By July of this year that fiber interconnect should be complete and we will no longer be as geographically challenged as we have been. Perhaps Qwest and AT&T will send us a black valentine then. More likely, they will go back to doing what they always have done, forgetting that towns like Glasgow even exist.


Cory Goode said...

I have been greatly anticipating this new circuit, seeing ads stating how 'fast' EPB's internet service is when in recent months it has most of the time been anything but 'fast' had been quite troubling. Thanks EPB and good luck with Giant Telco, as I like to call them.

Billy Ray said...

I know how you feel sloth. Maybe, MAYBE, today will be the day...

Daniel said...

With a name like sloth, It seems like he wouldn't need much speed. Thank you for informing us on the issues at hand. I am quite looking forward to the time when my latency in games equals that of the rest of my friends.

Billy Ray said...

daniel, try it now. AT&T just got another circuit added to our matrix.