Photos from the Cable & Telecommunications Human Resources Association's annual Symposium and Awards Luncheon, held in Atlanta on May 2.
Satellite Data Reseller Withdraws Slam at Cable Broadband Policy and People
Editor’s Note: This is an updated version of a blog posted on January 31. The author has confirmed that the infographic was created and posted by an independent HughesNet distributor in Florida which mistakenly used a HughesNet logo with its ad integrated into sales message at the bottom of the Website. The company’s president told the author that the “The State of the Internet in the US Infographic” was not authorized or even seen in advance by HughesNet or its parent company EchoStar, and that the site, which debuted on January 30, would be taken down. This blog mistakenly identified the owner of the web site as HughesNet and, by extension, parent company EchoStar, which was incorrect. The author and Multichannel News apologize for that error.
A seemingly benign State of the Internet in the U.S. infographic has triggered a thunderstorm of controversy, although much of its message includes familiar competitive rhetoric about high-speed access.
Fast Bridges Inc., a year-old Jacksonville, Fla. authorized reseller of HughesNet satellite Internet access service, put up the website on January 30. The site opened with familiar broadband comparisons about slower U.S. speeds and higher prices than Internet service other developed countries and then focused on “Powerful Companies,” noting that Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon “control 48% market share” of high-speed service. The site’s next section focused on the salaries of four top communications CEOs from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T and Verizon.
Then a "government" section singled out Michale Powell of NCTA and Meredith Attwell Baker of Comcast for revolving-door themselves from the FCC to cable lobbying.
Finally, the website’s punch line asked: “Should the Internet be controlled by a select few?” It offered a lot of footnotes to “authenticate” the data of its compelling message and then seamlessly flowed into a message for HughesNet High Speed Internet, with a listing that lets you “Find a High Speed Internet Provider in Your State.”
At this point, you might think that this infographic, which quickly went viral among policy wonks, was yet another screed from public interest advocates. Once again, they were picking on the big companies that “control” Internet access.
But at the bottom of the screen is a notation that this site was “Created by Satellite Informant.”
At first, you ponder whether “Satellite Informant” may be an independent research organization, compiling familiar data to support policies for broader Internet distribution. But a couple more clicks – actually a separate search – will bring you to the real source: a reseller of HughesNet. Only if you dial the toll-free phone number at the very bottom of the page can you find out that the entire site is (or was) a message from Fast Bridges, a 16-person independent reseller of HughesNet service.
Kevin Conner, president of Fast Bridges, told me late Friday that, “We made a mistake. We’re growing super fast.” He said that the web designer used a template that included the HughesNet logo from a previous owner of the “Satellite Informant” website.
“The designer used the actual HughesNet logo rather than an ‘authorized retailer’ logo,” Conner said, emphasizing that Satellite Informant is an independent retailer, not part of HughesNet or its parent company EchoStar.
The links at the top of the Website provided the usual social media options of sharing this eye-opening information via Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest and other options – making the site look like a policy screed. The sales link in the “more information” section at the bottom of the page connected to a HughesNet marketing site.
With its frequent references to HughesNet as “North America’s #1 high-speed satellite Internet service,” the Satellite Informant site offered extesnsive information about the HughesNet service. For example, a FAQ section cites “up to 1000 Kbps” (maybe that sounds faster than 1 Mbps), and then acknowledges that “during peak times the speed can be 650 Kbps to 750 Kbps.” Of course, there’s an option to upgrade to “HughesNet Elite” which ratchets speeds up to 2.0 Mbps (but 1500 Kbps during peak times).
Fast Bridges’ clever infographic is a timely reminder about the ways in which Web marketing makes it possible – easy – to distract and confuse while appearing to be informative. Conner acknowledges that the original Multichannel News blog about the site created “one of the craziest days of my life” as he had to explain the relationship of his sales entity with the actual service providers.