Sep 28, 2003
Comments Off on Saving the Internet……one account at a time

Saving the Internet……one account at a time

After reading Bret Blaser's thoughts (via Doc) on publicizing the Internet I was struck by how much easier this may be than folks may think. Before I explain what I mean I must preface with two supporting arguments. I will also note that my arguments are based upon a strong belief in end-to-end architecture

First, it is the case that, quietly, most of us live in a world of multiple service providers. I go into detail on this point at conferences, but here let me simply say that because of infrastructure and regulation the internet access market has finally tilted towards telcos and cablecos. The total numbers still don't support this, but in broadband, where the growth and future are, they dominate. However, and this is important, NONE of them are ANYWHERE in the other core internet services (email, hosting and domain registration). These are all markets that I follow very closely. They are all very competitive and, because they do not naturally contain a chokepoint (infrastructure, regulation) the telcos/cablecos are simply not big players. By the way neither is AOL or MSN. Yahoo is another story, but they are simply not as scary.

Second, competitive service providers (“CSPs” where CSP not=[telco/cableco/big media interest/enemy of a free internet]) are the natural custodians of the internet. They are massively distributed. They get the internet's strengths and weaknesses. They operate driven by enlightened self-interest. They are natural enemies of the forces that would look to privatize the internet. And they excel at customer service. While these are all generalizations, there are SO many CSPs that we can take a macro view. Unfortunately, they also suck at customer acquisition. And the ones that tend to be good at customer acquisition tend to suck at customer service (again, I know there are many exceptions to this but these are macro comments. micro exceptions to macro comments are not important. we all know a 95 yr-old smoker but this is not generalizable).

I should note there are some telcos and cablecos that are great friends of a free internet and there are some CSP-looking providers that are not. These are guidelines, not rules.

So what? Well, this leads me to the important point. What can YOU do to help save the Internet? Two things. First, ensure that YOU get YOUR internet services, other than broadband, from a CSP. You are likely to get better customer service and more responsiveness in general than you may be used to. The bad news is it WILL be harder to find them. You may need to ask around a bit. You may need to do a google-dig. You may choose based upon geography or function or any other of a number of distinctions (price being the most useless IMHO).

The second thing you can do is more important. CSPs tend to suck at customer acquisition. Their number #1 method by far is word-of-mouth. Think of them as plumbers. Plumbers generally get new business based upon trust, reliability, responsiveness and skill. They also do not tend to advertise much. Aren't those EXACTLY the qualities you want from your service provider? Ok, so they depend upon word-of-mouth. Every peer group has one, maybe two people who are the expert inside that peer group on each subject matter. My guess is that if you are reading this there is a good chance that YOU are the internet expert in one of the circles of your life (work friends, old friends, family, church group, bowling buddies, whatever) when it comes to technology or computers or the internet. If so, USE that influence. Find yourself a great CSP or two. Promote them. Do it only if they deserve it, but I promise you if you look just a bit you will easily find one that deserves it.

This is classic “power of one” stuff. If enough of us do this we will greatly strengthen the internet and make it orders of magnitude more difficult to control. The one area that can resist this for now is the network itself at an access level, but this is just 12-24 months from changing as well. That is a discussion for another day.


I am elliot noss.

for more on me see the google results.

for picture see google or flickr.

to follow me on twitter.

some of my old blog posts here.

my icannwiki profile is here.