Mindset change, new business opportunities and cybersecurity are three terms that describe some of the highlights of last week’s 2015 IP Possibilities conference and trade show. The sessions were terrific and the exhibit floor featured some interesting innovations, but the best part of the show, was the interaction with innovators from around the country. In the near-future, we will point readers to a series of Viodi-produced videos about the event, but, in the meantime, here are some highlights.
Tim Bryan, NRTC CEO, kicked off IP Possibilities with a humorous introduction that one could say was about a completely different mindset than telecom. Flipping the mindset to a customer viewpoint was the theme of David Seda’s entertaining keynote speech. He emphasized the service providers need to develop products from the needs of the customer, instead of leading with the network side of things.
Changing culture to be more nimble, react and create the type of services that customers need, was a common theme, even in panels that were ostensibly about technology. Jeff Leslie, CEO of ITS Fiber, emphasized the importance of bringing on board the right sort of staff when he stated, “Don’t be afraid to hire people you can’t afford.” His point being that knowledgeable, trained people will help retain existing and generate new business that will more than pay for the salaries of those skilled individuals.
There were plenty of ideas on how to create new revenue streams at this two-plus day event. Examples of new revenue services included approaches such as:
- Using fiber networks and secure local data centers to sell cloud voice and IT Services to local and, with the help of groups like WIN and INDATEL, regional and major corporate businesses
- Installing and managing Bluetooth Low Energy devices that help businesses and institutions provide information on a micro scale to consumers
- Creating skinny managed broadband video services that complement over-the-top services and provide a new offering to those consumers who don’t want to pay for a cable package filled with content-owner, required programming.
Regarding content challenges, Tom Whitaker, Vice President, Cable for Shentel, a Virginia-based rural operator said, “They are in the content business and not the customer business.” Whitaker was referring to content providers, whether they are providing their content through the operator or as an over-the-top service.
He also made the important point that content is not just video, but includes customer generated and purchased content, such as email, online documents, music and books. His comment was made in the context of Google and their decision to drop their ISP program and the negative repercussions that will have on the consumer of those services.
Whitaker mentioned that one of the features they liked about Google Apps Partner Edition™ and one of the reasons they moved 20k accounts to that service was its effective spam control. Spam is really a window into the threat posed by cyber criminals and terrorists.
The importance of fighting cybercrime through operators’ adoption of the NIST cybersecurity framework was made clear in an excellent panel moderated by NTCA’s Jesse Ward and featuring the FCC’s Jeff Goldthorp and Silver Star Communications’ CFO Jeff England.
That a CFO gave the presentation indicates that cyber security is primarily a business and process decision and secondarily a technology issue. England discussed how they went about implementing the NIST framework and it started with a commitment from leadership. England’s views were echoed in another excellent session that the seemingly overwhelming NIST framework can be split into baby-sized steps.
The important thing is to get started. Bill Trelease, Vice President/CTO of Delhi Telephone, suggested mapping out one’s network and identifying those customers with critical infrastructure (e.g. hospitals, institutions, etc.) and identifying weak points. In many ways operators will find that they are already doing the things that need to be done and it is the conversations with vendors and customers that will provide the most value in both identifying gaps, as well as opportunities.
Jeff England has found that the process has given them a competitive edge, as customers are becoming more aware of the dangers of cybercrime. Keeping customers’ data on-network (away from the Internet) offers potential new revenue opportunities for operators. Still, as he points out, the government needs to aggressively find and prosecute the people behind cyber crimes.
Stay tuned for links to the video interviews with many of the folks mentioned above, as well as many others who had valuable insights about the possibilities of IP and the opportunities it opens to service providers.