Rural customers get IPTV before others

first_imgPORTLAND, Ore. – When John Scott and his wife moved to the small town of Monroe in rural west-central Oregon, they thought they’d have to give up some urban amenities – like their high-speed Internet service. Instead, they found themselves on the cutting edge. They could still get high-speed Internet and telephone service that they enjoyed in Corvallis, a university town. And now they also could get Internet Protocol Television, the latest in interactive television – and a service not available in most major U.S. cities. IPTV uses Internet technology to deliver television to people’s homes. Depending on the provider, it can include a number of bonuses – faster channel-changing, a robust selection of videos on-demand and the ability to switch camera angles to get the best view of a game. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREFrumpy Middle-aged Mom: My realistic 2020 New Year’s resolutions. Some involve doughnuts.It also can be interactive with other services, such as showing telephone caller identification on the television screen. Some small-town companies are offering the new technology before their larger competitors because the bigger companies are hindered by their size – making it logistically difficult to roll out a new service to their large markets. Smaller rural companies, however, can reach a smaller number of people more quickly. This is particularly important with IPTV because it requires significant wiring, something that is easier to execute on a small scale. Of an estimated 350,000 IPTV subscribers in the country, 95 percent signed up through rural telephone companies, says Jeff Heynen, an analyst at Infonetics Research, a California firm. Smaller companies “can be the test beds for these technologies,” Heynen said. “It’s kind of a win-win situation: They get to be at the forefront of these new technologies, and the citizens already benefit.” Canby Telcom Co., a cooperative of more than 8,000 customers, was the first to offer IPTV in Oregon in 2005. Monroe Telephone Co., a family-owned business in the town of roughly 600, followed a few weeks later. And Gervais Telephone Co., with its nine employees, plans to launch IPTV in the first quarter of 2007. It’s not just in Oregon, but in rural communities across the country, telecom experts say. People in Newington, Ga.; Raymondville, Texas and Mayfield, Ky., all recently got access to IPTV. Meanwhile, efforts by communications giants to bring the service to larger cities are in earlier stages. AT&T has its version of IPTV in place in San Antonio, plans to have it in 19 million homes by 2008 and will consider expansion after that. Verizon has a hybrid version of IPTV that it offers in parts of seven states. Along with being able to move quickly, smaller rural companies can get financial assistance from the federal Rural Utilities Service. A division of the Agriculture Department, the program lends small telecoms money to pay for upgrades to prevent the companies and communities from falling behind. The agency has given out more than $800 million since 2002, including part of the $3 million spent by Monroe to revamp its telecommunications system. The program enabled many rural companies to begin offering broadband, and services have grown from there. “We’re bordered by a lot of people who could compete with us,” said Keith Galitz, president and general manager of Canby Telcom. “They are bombarded by Portland TV and radio ads. We have to stay price- and product-competitive.” Some customers, like Scott, also prefer to stick with the local company out of loyalty and because of quick service response. “The rural telco are in a really enviable position,” said Heynen, the expert at Infonetics Research. “They are viewed as the home team. They can also provide content and advertising that outsiders might not be able to.” The National Telecommunications Cooperative Association, an association representing small and rural telephone companies and cooperatives, said loyalty is a definite market advantage, but staying ahead of the big guys is just good business. “It’s a survival thing,” said Caitlin Colligan, a spokeswoman for the organization. “They have to compete with the big guys. They have to.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img

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