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Fo Fum, Change Gonna Come

I want to address Google’s new mobile service, Fi, starting with the obvious question:

Are you scared?

What?! Scared? Why would you…I’ve never been…sure, a little.

Google can do things nobody else can. They also have that uniquely Google thing where they might mess with folks over here just to ultimately achieve some totally different goal over there.

I definitely had that movie moment in my head where the giant lizard is stomping down the street and I’m hoping the foot lands a few inches to my right.

Then I got calm. (And it wasn’t because I realized you have to buy a $649 phone to use the service. Although that helped.) Then I started to get excited. Here’s how I think about it.

150,000 Ting subscribers might say, “Hmm, I should check this out.” 350,000,000 non-Ting subscribers might now lift their heads up and say, “There are choices beyond the major carriers?!”

In fact, this afternoon already provided remarkable evidence of this. We had the most traffic we have had in months as every Web site in the world covered the Google news and then Ting customers commented under half those stories that “Ting did (this or that) first” or “I’m only spending $23 a month” or “The best part about Ting is their customer service.” (Thanks guys.)

So the opportunity for us just mathematically dwarfs the threat.

But what got me really excited is the prospect of greater change. Think about it. How can we spend three years rallying for change in the mobile industry and then be disappointed or frightened when someone like Google joins the cause?

In many ways, Google (with their buying clout) offers a great hint of benefits that more providers and end users should soon enjoy. International roaming rates should keep getting lower for all of us. VoIP functions and features (originating with the carriers) should keep getting better. Google has undoubtedly pushed our mutual carrier partners to develop all sorts of wholesale capabilities that we will now swoop in and leverage.

The key, as always, will be to take the things that all providers should be able to do and combine them with the things that only we can do to create value and experience that our customers would choose over and over again.

That’s the other exciting part. News like this does an amazing job of forcing you to identify what those things are – what you believe and what you do really well. I don’t want to turn this into a sales pitch. I don’t need to trumpet our customer support. But there are a couple of concepts and principles that jumped out at me that I just had not thought about in quite this way before.

Agnosticism and choice.

Google has offered a great vision for network agnosticism. But we might be the only provider that is absolutely indifferent between networks, operating systems, devices and activities that you perform on your device. In three years, I have never been in a Ting meeting where we have talked about pushing customers to use one network, OS or device over another or to do more or less of anything. Google offers the benefits of a remarkable ecosystem. Ting offers complete unimpeded choice. For Ting customers, that often means activating a three-year old smartphone that they bought off their brother-in-law for a song. It also means that when we eventually launch an integrated VoIP solution (with what we need at the carrier level), it will be one that Ting customers can use on absolutely any phone they want. That’s simply our vision and we’re sticking to it.

Accounts versus devices.

We think of a device as just a vehicle for using our service. Ting accounts can have as many devices as they want, pooling as much usage as they want. That never seemed particularly profound to us. But it is fascinating how so many of the best plans out there, from T-Mobile to Republic Wireless to Fi, are all tied to a single device. This ultimately feels less proprietary than our humanity or our agnosticism. But it continues to be a big advantage for families and businesses.

Of course, none of these principles probably matter as much as execution, how well you understand your customers and how tirelessly and skillfully you work to help them solve problems every day. I think Google does that brilliantly in their way and we do it brilliantly in ours.

In the end, Ting loves change. Heck, it’s going to happen anyway. You might as well love it. We love innovation. We love disruption. We love inspiration. We even love competition. Google, you bring all of that and we welcome you wholeheartedly. (Sorry about calling you a big lizard.)

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