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Reconciling crazy fast Internet and mobile that makes sense

Since we launched our gigabit Internet service, some folks have understandably questioned what seems to be a contradiction between our mobile offering and our Internet offering.

On mobile, we save our customers hundreds of dollars a year by allowing them to pay just for what they use. We implore people to consider whether they are overpaying for a bloated or unlimited plan and preach monitoring and managing data usage to reduce costs.

On Internet, we are leapfrogging almost every other available, reasonably affordable Internet service in the country and offering one fixed price on unlimited data at an unparalleled speed.

What gives?

Well, first, we never thought of Ting as the “pay for what you use” company. We think of ourselves as providing services that make sense. We offer what we believe is sorely lacking in a market. We look for situations where people are in some way underserved by the incumbents. Maybe they are underserved because there is a lack of competition. Maybe it’s because there isn’t enough money to be made for larger companies. Maybe it’s because everybody has been solving a problem one way for so long that they had stopped considering others.

In mobile, the problem we saw was that too many people were just paying too much for service. Carriers had fixed costs and wanted to pile as much revenue as they could on existing networks so they pushed everyone to unnecessarily large amounts of usage at unnecessary prices. That was great for some people who didn’t want to have to think about usage and were happy to pay the price. Others just needed their smartphones to communicate and solve problems between work and home. Those people shouldn’t have had to pay $60, $80 or $100 a month for such a basic need. It didn’t make sense. So we offered a seemingly obvious, yet surprisingly unique plan that allowed people who use less to spend less. Makes sense.

I think that if we had launched Ting as just a cool, little company with an unlimited plan similar to what was already out there, we wouldn’t have had much reason to exist and we wouldn’t have pushed the industry in a positive direction.

On fixed Internet for homes and small businesses, the problem we see is that existing networks are inadequate for the amazing things people can do online now and the speed at which people want to do them. These existing networks were never meant to stream video, upload and download huge files to the cloud or host meetings. But the incumbents are generating so much revenue on those existing networks and face so little competition, there really is no incentive for them to invest in anything new. Instead they promote marginally better prices on the same old speeds and put neat names like Pro Plus and Quantum on marginally faster speeds. They also lock people into their Internet service by bundling it with TV service. That’s great for some people who use the Internet mostly to browse and email and who just can’t rethink how they buy TV. Others want and need the Internet to do so much more. They want it to provide entertainment, communication, storage, security and education. They want to be productive and competitive. (Interestingly, once you have that that remarkable speed coming into your home or business, you end up being able to buy and manage services like TV, phone and alarm systems sort of like Ting mobile, getting just what you need at great prices.) So we offer a speed that will allow people to use the Internet to its fullest potential now and for many years in the future. Makes sense.

I think that if we jumped into Internet service with a similar speed to what is available at even a slightly lower price, we just wouldn’t have much reason to exist. We wouldn’t be making a profound contribution. Prices will inevitably go down. We really need speeds to go way up.

I will admit that my own life fits with exactly the sort of usage our two services provide. I use my phone quite tactically, enjoying some streaming music here and there, navigating on Google maps when I need to and checking my email and our real-time website analytics way too often. But I am generally between Wifi at home and at the office. I am very willing to do smart little things to keep my cellphone usage down. It’s no great sacrifice. At home, on the other hand, I want to swim in a sea of Sonos, Rdio, Netflix, Skype, iTunes, YouTube, Dropbox, ESPN3 and other glorious services. I have a wife who tends to work a lot at home and two girls who are just starting to discover the services I named and so many I have never heard of. I have already dropped the home phone and am getting ready to cut the cable TV chord. I would welcome a Gigabit with open arms.

But I also think it is important to admit that we are not aiming to please everyone. No provider should. There are people who want unlimited mobile service. There are people who want cheaper home Internet. That is OK. I am confident on both services that we are offering something that some people (like me, for example) truly need and something that is truly unique. We are solving a problem. Of course, I am also confident that any service we offer at any price brings with it our unique ethic and our unique commitment to fairness, honesty and customer satisfaction. We are desperate to make people happy, which will always be our greatest point of difference.

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