Longtime Domain Registrar Tucows Buys A Small ISP, Wants To Refocus Broadband Industry On Giving A Damn About The Consumer

from the baby-steps dept

As we’ve been noting, Google’s arrival into the broadband space has resulted in a flood of other companies proclaiming that they too will soon be offering 1 Gbps services over fiber. While some of these announcements (particularly from sluggish, larger companies like AT&T and CenturyLink) are little more than fiber to the press release (development community deployments dressed up to appear more substantive than they are), some of them are genuine, grassroots efforts to rescue the U.S. broadband industry from the clutches of our beloved cable and phone duopoly.

As a hopeful example of the latter, longtime domain registrar Tucows has announced it’s jumping into the 1 Gbps fiber game under its wireless MVNO brand name, Ting. In a blog post, Ting notes it has purchased a small Charlottesville, Virginia, ISP called Blue Ridge InternetWorks (BRI). BRI, Ting claims, will be the company’s beachhead in an attempt to disrupt the U.S. broadband market one small bite at a time. Ting didn’t release pricing details, but told me in an e-mail it will offer symmetrical 1 Gbps speeds at a “sub-$100 price point.” It also promises to make respecting consumers and net neutrality a priority:

“Tucows believes very strongly in the open Internet. Up until now, there wasn?t a whole lot we could do but educate, agitate and contribute. Getting into fixed access, owning our own pipe, is an opportunity for us to practice what we preach when it comes to the open Internet and net neutrality.”

Ting says it was inspired by Google Fiber, but claims that as a smaller company Ting can deliver a more personal, human touch:

“We admire what Google is doing with and for gigabit fiber Internet access, but for the Internet giant, access is more of a side project. Also, Google is a lot of great things but human scale isn?t one of them. If a smaller, more customer-focused company player like Ting can pull off a win-win in a community like Charlottesville, it bodes really well for small towns and providers all over the country. For the record, we?re confident we can pull off just that, otherwise we wouldn?t start down the path.”

While the fact that Google’s “human scale” is waning (like oh, forgetting about net neutrality to court GOP lawmakers) is certainly true, it’s unclear if Ting can truly disrupt on any serious scale. The company is coming off of the launch of a consumer-friendly wireless MVNO that has done some very interesting things in regards to simple, freemium pricing, though actual consumer interest has been modest so far. If most broadband industry customer satisfaction studies are any indication, there’s certainly room for smaller ISPs that actually value consumer relationships, as opposed to treating their own users with disdain.

That said, the U.S broadband market certainly isn’t free, and if you’ve paid attention over the years, we’ve watched an endless stream of small, consumer-friendly disruptors (does anyone remember ISPs like Speakeasy?) run face-first into a regulatory capture brick wall erected by the nation’s biggest carriers. AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner Cable and Comcast have worked long and hard at writing state laws that make competing with them difficult if not impossible. If Tucow/Ting is going to enter the fray — even on a small scale — it’s going to need oodles of cash, plenty of lawyers, and some damn good lobbyists.

Google Fiber has succeeded (if we’re going to define success as three partially-constructed fiber cities) in large part because it has oodles of cash to throw at the problem. But even with Google’s deep pockets, it’s unlikely that Google Fiber will ever really impact more than a handful of cities. In that case, Ting’s right in that if U.S. broadband competition is ever going to improve, it’s certainly not going to happen via a dysfunctional Congress and timid/beholden regulators. It’s going to need to be clawed out of the very earth, town by town, piecemeal, by the communities themselves.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: blue ridge internetworks, bri, ting, tucows

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Longtime Domain Registrar Tucows Buys A Small ISP, Wants To Refocus Broadband Industry On Giving A Damn About The Consumer”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Longtime Domain Registrar?

When I think of Tucows, their cut-rate registrar service reselling is definitely not what comes to mind. They made their money being a download.com style Windows software aggregator before download.com existed as a CNet entity.

That said, they seem to try and provide the services their customers want, so that’s good. Of course, their customers are advertisers, so think about that before you decide on whether this move is good for *you* or not.

UseTheGuillotine says:

Re: Longtime Domain Registrar?

If you want to dig up ancient history, don’t forget they provided download service for not only Windows software, but also Linux and Mac (they still do).

More recently, their Ting cellphone service is highly rated. I have used their service and enjoyed it. Customer service is great (actual real people). I hope they are able to grow that business.

I would sign up with them for internet service – but I don’t live in that part of the country. Where I live, the cable and phone companies badly need competent competition. The cable company (Cox) is a rip-off and has mediocre customer service. The phone company (CenturyLink) has obsolete DSL and atrocious customer service. Tucows, Google, I can’t wait.

Whoever says:

Not sure this is a good thing

Now Comcast and its friends will all claim: “see, there IS competition in the ISP industry. Someone is competing with us in …[where exactly? .. ah yes in:] Charlottesville”

Comcast and its friends will use this tiny ISP operating in one city to claim that there is nationwide competition and hence regulation is unnecessary.

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s going to need to be clawed out of the very earth, town by town, piecemeal, by the communities themselves.

Who will each in turn be savaged by ravenous hordes of telco attack lawyers, and eventually forced back into having to suffer pathetic service by judges stupid enough (or well-paid enough) to believe that community broadband is somehow illegal.

Unless those towns are willing and able to flaunt the law and ignore arbitrary judicial edicts, they won’t get anywhere.

cyclingcaveman (profile) says:

Tucows, Ting & Fiber

As a user of Ting service for a year, I can say they are far more customer oriented, just like hover.com, another Tucows entity. If Tucows can apply this skill to an ISP business, then they may become the new friendly face of telecom.
This face is what the uninitiated (those who still use cyber- prefixes) will need for smooth transition to an all digital environment.
More power to them.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Older Stuff
05:30 Survey Shows Majority Of GOP Voters Support Restoring Net Neutrality (31)
06:25 Big Telecom Finally Ends Quest To Stop States From Protecting Broadband Consumers (35)
05:56 Big Telecom's Quest To Ban States From Protecting Broadband Consumers Continues To Go... Poorly (13)
12:15 Courts (Again) Shoot Down Telecom Lobby's Attempt To Kill State-Level Net Neutrality Rules (5)
04:48 Dumb Telecom Take Of The Week: Because The Internet Didn't Explode, Killing Net Neutrality Must Not Have Mattered (23)
09:37 British Telecom Wants Netflix To Pay A Tax Simply Because Squid Game Is Popular (32)
04:55 Axios Parrots A Lot Of Dumb, Debunked Nonsense About Net Neutrality (54)
10:50 NY AG Proves Broadband Industry Funded Phony Public Support For Attack On Net Neutrality (10)
06:24 The GOP Is Using Veterans As Props To Demonize Net Neutrality (22)
06:03 Telecom Using Veterans As Props To Demonize California's New Net Neutrality Law (12)
09:32 AT&T Whines That California Net Neutrality Rules Are Forcing It To Behave (11)
06:23 The New York Times (Falsely) Informs Its 7 Million Readers Net Neutrality Is 'Pointless' (51)
15:34 Facebook's Australian News Ban Did Demonstrate The Evil Of Zero Rating (18)
04:58 'Net Neutrality Hurt Internet Infrastructure Investment' Is The Bad Faith Lie That Simply Won't Die (11)
05:48 Dumb New GOP Talking Point: If You Restore Net Neutrality, You HAVE To Kill Section 230. Just Because! (66)
06:31 DOJ Drops Ridiculous Trump-Era Lawsuit Against California For Passing Net Neutrality Rules (13)
06:27 The Wall Street Journal Kisses Big Telecom's Ass In Whiny Screed About 'Big Tech' (13)
10:45 New Interim FCC Boss Jessica Rosenworcel Will Likely Restore Net Neutrality, Just Not Yet (5)
15:30 Small Idaho ISP 'Punishes' Twitter And Facebook's 'Censorship' ... By Blocking Access To Them Entirely (81)
05:29 A Few Reminders Before The Tired Net Neutrality Debate Is Rekindled (13)
06:22 U.S. Broadband Speeds Jumped 90% in 2020. But No, It Had Nothing To Do With Killing Net Neutrality. (12)
12:10 FCC Ignores The Courts, Finalizes Facts-Optional Repeal Of Net Neutrality (19)
10:46 It's Opposite Day At The FCC: Rejects All Its Own Legal Arguments Against Net Neutrality To Claim It Can Be The Internet Speech Police (13)
12:05 Blatant Hypocrite Ajit Pai Decides To Move Forward With Bogus, Unconstitutional Rulemaking On Section 230 (178)
06:49 FCC's Pai Puts Final Bullet In Net Neutrality Ahead Of Potential Demotion (25)
06:31 The EU Makes It Clear That 'Zero Rating' Violates Net Neutrality (6)
06:22 DOJ Continues Its Quest To Kill Net Neutrality (And Consumer Protection In General) In California (11)
11:08 Hypocritical AT&T Makes A Mockery Of Itself; Says 230 Should Be Reformed For Real Net Neutrality (28)
06:20 Trump, Big Telecom Continue Quest To Ban States From Protecting Broadband Consumers (19)
06:11 Senators Wyden And Markey Make It Clear AT&T Is Violating Net Neutrality (13)
More arrow