Bend Cable Hits High-Speed Milepost


Bend Cable may be only the No. 72 U.S. cable system owner, but it ranks higher on the charts relative to high-speed Internet access penetration.

Boosted by strong word-of-mouth and amusing TV spots, the privately held Bend, which serves five cities in central Oregon, has signed up one of every four homes passed in its territory for InstaNet, the company's high-speed access service.

10k = 25%

Bend reached that penetration plateau on March 13, when InstaNet installed its 10,000th customer of 40,000 homes passed. Of that base, about 1,400 don't subscribe to video service.

The operator counts more than 28,000 basic-cable subscribers and more than 7,500 digital-cable users in the community of Bend itself, and nearby Redmond, Sisters, Black Butte and Terrebonne. InstaNet was launched to residential customers in 2000, two years after it was made available to local businesses.

Other small and midsized MSOs have taken the same high-speed sales trail as Bend — find business, education and government clients first, target the public later.

Company officials attribute the residential high-speed results to two factors: a solid product backed with good pricing and customer-service support, and promotion that took advantage of the word-of-mouth from business users.

"If people had it at work, they will want it at home," said Bend marketing manager Kate McPhillips. "The inroads we made in the business community set up the ideal early-adopter market to go after, the low-hanging fruit if you will."

Bend's first promotional wave in 2000 and 2001 targeted those adopters through direct mail and cross-channel messages, prepared by local shop The Mandala Agency. A pair of whimsical TV spots showcased the service's speed and always-on features.

In one spot, a son asked his football-watching father what two lions were doing in a National Geographic
magazine picture. The father freezes to the sound of a bad dial-up Internet connection.

A second pair of Mandala-produced TV spots premiered on Bend's systems and on local broadcast-TV stations last fall, emphasizing the service's content capabilities while retaining the whimsical approach.

The spots focus on turning points in history—and how things might have changed if InstaNet had been available. In one, Abraham Lincoln watches streaming video of a bad play on his PC — evidently at Ford's Theater, where he was assassinated in 1865 — and decides not to go.

Starts at $36.95

Bend offers InstaNet to cable subscribers for $36.95 a month, while non-cable households pay $10 more. Businesses and institutions pay from $69.95 to $150 per month, depending on the location and connection logistics.

"We are where we are because we made promises and stuck to them," McPhillips said. "The product is available at a competitive price point with no tiers, it's a local one-stop shop, and the customer service started at a high bar and we've raised it since.