Rumor: Broadweave Tight on Cash, May Outsource Call Center Functions

I’ve had several anonymous tips regarding Broadweave lately that aren’t any kind of good news for the company. These sources say that Broadweave, despite their happy face for the press, is running very tight on cash and is planning to outsource their call center as a way to cut costs. This could mean some very serious service difficulties in the near future and runs contrary to their promises to keep the company operations on iProvo within the city limits. If true, it sounds like Broadweave is coming unravelled much faster than even the harshest critics could have anticipated.

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34 Responses to Rumor: Broadweave Tight on Cash, May Outsource Call Center Functions

  1. g1 says:

    Broadweave MDU customers are calling mstar for help with there service. Outsource might be the answer for them. Seems there call center can’t HELP there customers maybe someone in india can?

  2. BigD says:

    Outsourcing to a dedicated customer service provider inside of provo or utah county my be a great choice for the company. That would allow for them to stay true to their promise of keeping it local and also provide better support and service. Broadweave MUST succeed. If they fail the Iprovo network will fail. There are other FTTH projects throughout the nation that have failed. And all that is left is a dead network. I hope no one in provo wants that.

  3. Jesse says:

    I think one of the big worries there is that the technical support/customer service team could no longer have direct access to the engineering team if something goes wrong. It could create the kind of bifurcated support structure that Broadweave blamed all of the service problems on in the first place.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Broadweave – Listen to what I am saying. Do NOT watch what I am doing… just listen to what I am saying.

    I would make fun of the stupidity of going to that model but its what we had on UTOPIA. Granted they were deploying some tools to the service providers so they would not have to call the NOC for every single issue but only took awhile. (And probably pushed for these tools since they know they were going to lay almost everyone off soon) If they had not deployed the tools the lone guy left in the NOC would of gone bonkers.

  5. Capt. Video says:

    I doubt Broadweave is going bust.

    But if broadweave did go bust, I don’t think it would mean the end of iProvo. The network would fall back to Provo City to operate.

    The proven successful model for municipal network operation is a municipal network owned and operated by the city….no service providers.

    I’m not saying the open access model cannot be successful, but that is yet to be shown. It has not been successful for iProvo or UTOPIA. The model when the city owns the network and provides the service has been successful in a number of locations (including Spanish Fork).

    So the demise of Broadweave would not automatically mean the demise of the iProvo network. It just may be what is needed to force Provo City to take over and do it all (challenging the existing state law that AT&T & Qwest got the legislature to pass to forbid it).

    But I’m not a believe Broadweave is failing yet.

  6. Capt. Video says:

    Broadweave finally got the VOD transfer to work!!!! And it only took them 5 full months!!!

    Of course they are not managing the vOD very well. I’m sure it’s just an oversight that “1st to Get Naked”, “Sexy VIP Party Uncensored”, and “Wet Wrestling: Sexy Strippers Lockdown” are included in the offering.

    Both iProvo and Mstar would have eliminated these titles as not something the “community standards” would support.

    So either Broadweave is much more broadminded than the company owners (many former BYU students and Mormons) and Provo community standards are….or they are just not watching and managing the VOD content carefully.

    I’ll bet it’s the latter?

    But at least VOD is working!!!!

    Five Full Months to figure out how to get the VOD to work…which was working before Broadweave took over!!!!

    Now if only that can figure out Widevine to get the IPTV encryption working.

  7. Jesse says:

    VOD should only be considered “working” if it can deliver the content that people want. As much as I’m sure there’s *some* demand for the, uh, “colorful” content, you’ve hit it right on the head that such offerings will not impress the majority of subscribers.

    And what’s this about Wildvine? Are they really sending video signals over the network unencrypted?

  8. Capt. Video says:

    You are correct in the VOD comment.

    I should have said they have corrected the technical problems that made the service not work at all.

    There were actually 2 problems. The first, going on since the day Broadweave took over, was no new content was transferring from the VOD catchers mitt (local server the provider TVN send the signal to via satellite) to the Broadweave VOD server that provider the content to renters. This is what took 5 months to fix.

    The 2nd problem, the VOD rental just not working at all in the middleware (Minerva) has only been going on about a month. But given that there were only about 12 items to select from in the vOD library, it likely didn’t matter that much that it didn’t work.

    But both of those problems are fixed.

    The bigger problem you point to, the size of the library or VOD selections, is the limited licenses with studios that limit the offering. If they have moved to the (former) UTOPIA VOD server they should now have room for thousands of movies. If they are still on the iProvo server, they have room for only about 100 movies.

    Both the VOD server and the Widevine encryption system are co-owned by Broadweave and UTOPIA and the cause of a minor pissin’ match between the two now that UTOPIA is going in a different direction on the headend.

    Provo paid UTOPIA to buy into both the Widevine and VOD server. The equipment was moved from the Center7 site to the iProvo headend. I thought UTOPIA was responsible for activation of both?

  9. g1 says:

    Has anybody heard about the law suite from Utopia against Broadweave and Provo
    That was served around 10/35/2008

  10. Capt. Video says:

    I believe I was being too hard on Broadweave related to the adult VOD content.

    Giving the matter more thought, there is no way Broadweave would have known to watch out for this type content transferring on the VOD server.

    This would be something new to Broadweave and I’m sure there were just caught by surprise. Additionally, the content, while having “sexy” titles, is NOT pornographic in any way and are similar to movies one might see on Cinemax or Showtime (movie channels).

    I should have just congratulated Broadweave on fixing the VOD. To me this shows they have not given up on the VOD service and are continuing to work hard to improve the service.

  11. Jesse says:

    I’m not inclined to have sympathy for them on that front. They’re the ones who didn’t retain critical engineering staff from iProvo that would know how to work this equipment. And they’ve had months to figure out how it works. If any other provider had these problems for months, subscribers would be screaming for their heads. And, of course, since the subscriber numbers are as secret as UTOPIA’s, we have no way to see if that’s already happened.

  12. Capt. Video says:

    It’s a pretty obscure piece…one would expect that you would not have to eliminate content. you would think iProvo would only subscriber to content that fit it’s community standards. (By the way, Comcast elects to not delete this VOD content and carries “adult” channels that iProvo, UTOPIA, Mstar and Broadweave have all turned their back on, despite the high profit margin the adult content provides.)

    But while iProvo & Broadweave don’t accept the “adult” VOD package. There are a few titles in the standard package that they also elected not to carry. This content elimination is not something one would expect to have to do.

    If I remember right, the iProvo engineers were offered positions with Mstar and left for other jobs. They likely did not think to tell Broadweave every little thing. The service providers likely did this (I know Mstar did it for themselves) and the word did not get passed.

    There is nothing wrong with Broadweave making a decision to let it’s customers decide what they want to watch, or removing the content if they decide to just not offer it.

  13. Harold Bills says:

    Capt. Video,

    Only some of the iProvo engineers got offers from Broadweave and those who did would have seen a loss in revenue. They were very arrogant regarding their technical knowledge and seemed to be not interested in what Provo Engineers knew. They would no-show the knowledge transfer meetings all the time.

    There should be no sympathy for them. With the city out of control, there is nothing stopping them from adding adult content. Why would they remove the most profitable part of VOD? You must be thrilled with the adult content being available.

    The fact that still send out their video unencrypted will eventually result in their demise if cash-flow problems don’t kill them first. We all know that the content providers require encryption and they are on borrowed time.

    The loss of the call center will also be another nail in their coffin since their level of customer service will continue to decline.

    I’m betting that by January they will have collapsed.

  14. Capt. Video says:

    Typical video content contract do NOT require encryption. They do require that you take efforts to secure the content. Having a closed network (not using the internet to deliver the content), auditing the network for illegal connections, etc.

    Broadweave took over the network in it’s current condition from Provo City. So they have the same level of security as Provo City had for years.

    Many cable systems use simple security methods (like positive and negative traps) and do not use encryption at all. The channels are not completely unsecured. There is a level of security in the closed network (it’s very, very difficult to connect yourself to a fiber network) and the Minerva middleware and addressable set top boxes provide another level of security.

    UTOPIA has had the same level of security as iProvo and Broadweave. As I mentioned, when they bought into an even higher level of security (Widevine encryption) I thought is was the responsibility of UTOPIA (whom they were buying into the system from) to implement that added level of security.

    You say their level of customer service will “continue to decline” when (IF?) they outsource customer service. That assumes the customer service has declined since they took over (I just can’t say if that is correct or not….not having any data…do you?)

    Outsourced customer service can be either better or worse than the existing in-house service. It would depend how good your existing service was and how good the outsource company was. How can you “know” the outsourced service would be worse?”

    As far as Broadweave’s survival….I have seen (and heard) statement that, Broadweave would never get the money to close the deal, that they have missed making bond payments, and that they have lost their financing….so far all appear to be completely wrong?

    I’m betting the new year will see Broadweave adding more HDTV channels and giving the VOD service a much stronger offering than iProvo ever did. In about 4-5 years of operation iProvo never increased the VOD offering from about 100+ movies. Despite an original plan and money in the budget to do so. I’ll bet Broadweave does so within their first year.

    I’ll again say that I would give Broadweave a higher chance to be successful that UTOPIA. To me this is a no brainer. I don’t think anyone can look at the two businesses and disagree with that. Look at the debt load of each and create a business model for both companies. I’ve not seen anyone on this list (mostly pro-UTOPIA and anti-Broadweave) make a case that I was wrong about that?

  15. Harold Bills says:

    It’s amusing that you say they never lost their financing. We all know that they did and Sorensen pulled out in June. They spent the next few months coming up with a new source of capital. this is just one of many things that you tend interpret as you would like them to be instead of as they are.

    The further you move the call center away from interaction with the engineering staff, the worse customer service will be. I have heard many horror stories about how customers cannot get any intelligent help from them.

    I wonder when they will start their grandiose tasks like replacing all the portals and re-inventing the network core.
    Gee, I’d just settle to see some actual marketing. Yea things are sooo much better now!

  16. Ben Saunders says:

    I think I would have to agree with Harold. Broadweave has done nothing since they were handed the Provo network. Where is the marketing? Where is the technical improvement? I am also hearing they are revenue poor and have begun some lay-offs.

    Utopia has taken some positive steps such as Tremonton and FuzeCore…

  17. Capt. Video says:

    I don’t dispute that there were changes in the Broadweave financing, but the end result is still the same. They closed the deal. The rumors were the deal would never happen.

    Just like the rumors they missed bond payments. Just not true!

    I do know there were problems when the call center was with the service providers and the engineering staff was with the city. I saw these problems first hand, the consultants seemed to agree. I’m also fairly sure the service providers agreed this caused problems.

    I believe customer service, engineering, marketing and the field crew being under one management structure is the best to serve the customers.

    But I do not automatically assume if they are somewhat distant they cannot still provide good customer service.

    I thing both Comcast and Qwest have considerable distance between customer service and engineering…but provide a fairly good level of service.

    The highest rated customer service comes from satellite provider…and they outsource their customer service which has no contact with local contract installers and field techs. DirecTV and Dish don’t have their own field crews but also contract that out…with great success.

    I think good service is more dependent upon setting up processes and procedures that work and placing well trained, motivated people in all the positions. People that see themselves as one team, working together.

    If Broadweave moves it’s customer service it could be an improvement over the current situation (which you seem to believe is bad), or it could make things worse.

    As far as marketing, I has someone in my neighborhood tagging doors with a Broadweave offer last weekend.

    I guess it depends where you sit if you think things are better or not.

    If you are Provo City and you are not losing a million dollars a year, things likely look much, much better?

    I’ll bet the network is being run more efficiently (significantly lower operating costs) by Broadweave than it ever was by Provo City. They eliminated the 7X24 NOC with little or no noticeable change in the service customers see.

    Do they have more customers? Are the customers happier?

    I wish I knew!!!!

    But it’s only been 3 months since they closed the deal. Too soon to really tell much?

    I don’t think they will change the portals or re-invent the core network. At least not anytime soon. (I know they said they would!)

    But I do think they will be here in Jan. and well beyond. But they could be effected by the overall economic meltdown that no-one foresaw?

  18. Jesse says:

    “They eliminated the 7X24 NOC with little or no noticeable change in the service customers see.”

    Except that the program guide was non-functional many times for extended periods?

    “But it’s only been 3 months since they closed the deal. Too soon to really tell much?”

    There’s some irony in that statement given that you haven’t been as willing to give UTOPIA as much benefit of a doubt.

  19. Capt. Video says:

    What specific technical improvements were you looking for?

    Broadweave expected to be the only provider on the network. That did not work out for them.

    Credit markets tightened and I’m sure that has made operating and improvements more difficult.

    I expect to see Broadweave make some improvements that Provo city failed to do.

    I say in the first year (or less) Broadweave will:

    1: Add more HDTV channels.
    2: Expand and fix the VOD offering.
    3: Add “on screen” called ID to the TV service.

    What changes/improvements are on your list?
    How long will you give Broadweave to make them?

  20. Capt. Video says:

    Jesse said:
    “If true, it sounds like Broadweave is coming unravelled much faster than even the harshest critics could have anticipated.”

    I think their harshest critics are on this web site/blog, (and I have been a Broadweave critic at times, on some items), and some of them thought Broadweave would unravel much sooner, as they didn’t even think the deal would close.

    To Jesse’s comments:

    The guide problems were happening before they eliminated the NOC and the NOC could never fix the guide problems (that I was aware of)…and Broadweave does seem to have fixed that problem.

    The sale to Broadweave was a much bigger transition (a sale to a new company) that a simple management change at UTOPIA.

    Didn’t the UTOPIA management change take place in May and the Broadweave sale close in Aug.

    But I do think it’s too early to tell if the new UTOPIA management team will be successful. I’ve not judged the new management a failure. My main complaint against them is their failure to set goals that will allow us to make a judgment down the road.

    As a publicly financed enterprise I feel UTOPIA has additional obligations that sadly, Broadweave as a private company does not carry.

  21. Jesse says:

    The deal with the criticism around here is that I don’t hear any kind of positive changes through the back channels and despite counting multiple Broadweave employees (and their PR agency) among the regular readers, nobody seems to feel any kind of need to set the record straight. A lack of refutation appears to be confirmation. These things do not speak in their favor.

    The guide problem was a known bug in the guide software with a known workaround (rebooting). That it took them weeks to properly implement the workaround is a bit ridiculous.

    While UTOPIA management started being shaken up in May, it wasn’t until June 30 that the new bond closed. New management or not, it’s hard to do anything when there’s no money. Broadweave, however, assumed full operation of the network before UTOPIA had money to burn. In that lens, UTOPIA has had less time than Broadweave to prove themselves.

    Broadweave may have lower obligations to share data, but I don’t believe they should be much lower. The public financing aspect requires significant disclosure regardless of if this is a private company or public agency. If you aren’t happy about UTOPIA’s secrecy with the numbers, Broadweave’s should drive you just as nuts.

  22. Capt. Video says:

    Yes, I noted it was “sadly” that Broadweave has no need or desire to share numbers.

    Very few private companies share such numbers. I wish all companies were required to share data that would help investors and stockholders get a better picture of the company.

    It’s rather sad that both Broadweave AND UTOPIA follow this blog and both fail to comment at all. Broadweave has issued a number of press releases and news stories, whereas from UTOPIA we hear NOTHING!

    I think no one was more critical of Broadweave over the guide problem than I. I contacted them directly near a dozen times to let them know the problem was occurring and was hard on them on the problem on this blog. I just don’t connect the guide problem to elimination of the 7X24 NOC.

  23. BigD says:

    I Can tell you this. The reason for the lack of Broadweave comments is non-disclosure policies.

    Also note that the Provo NOC went from a manned 7×24 to a manned 5×24 with an on-call for weekends. This is for service providers only. Unlike the Iprovo NOC that everyone would call. If you are Veracity/Nuvont or have a co-lo, contact Broadweave, they will be happy to tell you how to get after hours access or service.

    As for the lack of information passed on from Iprovo engineers to Broadweave engineers, that was not a one way thing. The Iprovo guys were short timers and stopped caring. Except for one who was made a very nice offer elsewhere. Broadweave engineers have had experience with larger more complex networks. But any network engineer will tell you every network has it quirks. Some are not always easy to find or fix.

    As for the customer service issue, I do not foresee the move from an in-house customer service. With the exception of after hours and possibly holidays. People will still reach a person that is in the Broadweave office for a while.

    As for UTOPIA and their issues, I hope them the best as well. There were issues with having one company run the NOC, another do field operations, and all of the different service providers. Especially when there is an issue, and no one wants to own up. I saw Fuzecore’s website and it seems they want to charge a little more than MStar. GOOD. The service providers need to charge more realistic rates to cover their overhead of bandwidth and limit over-subscription rates. I think XMission and Mstar should follow the lead and raise rates to something to add a little profit and allow for better service.

    Rather than spreading rumors and pointing out the bad, try some optimism. Capt. Video is doing that to some extent. Point out the problems you see on the network, and point out when they are fixed. Realize that Broadweave is both MSP and Network operator. They took 2 operations with easily over 100 employees, and condensed it to under 50. They are leaner, making them more competitive.

    If anything else, Provo citizens should be happy. They no longer have to pay for a service that not everyone uses. Why should tax payers be responsible for paying for the network? Let a private company do it. The many should not pay for the few. UTOPIA is at least state wide, and not as closed as IProvo was. They allow single service providers. Iprovo didn’t.

  24. Ben Saunders says:

    Big D,

    Do you guys ever plan to do any marketing? I see this as kind of a barometer on how well a company is doing.

    Do you plan to do any video encryption? this is huge liability for the project.

    Yea, it was a big undertaking to become both MSP and network operator. You also convinced Provo that you were the only qualified option, so deliver. You’ve had control of the network for over six months. What have you done?

  25. Jesse says:

    Non-disclosure policies sounds like a weak argument for being non-participatory. After all, a Broadweave employee regularly commented on the Traverse Mountain Community Forum. Heck, even Comcast was willing to contact me directly when I ranted about a service interruption at home. That’s PR 101.

    The real problem you guys have with the NOC was the bill of good sold by your CEO. He made it sound like once you guys were in there, it would be all unicorn giggles. After weeks and weeks of program guide issues (ones that iProvo techs had a workaround for; I should know because I’ve talked to a few of them) and dwindling VOD options, it started to look like you didn’t know what you were doing. There was also zero explanation as to what caused the issues to assure anyone that you were working on it. Again, your PR kinda sucks.

    If good things get reported, I report it. For instance, I gave you guys credit for pulling off the emergency phone transition. Unfortunately, stories of good experiences seem to be few and far between. It could be because there’s little good to report, it could be because those things don’t get out. When the news and rumors point to a company that can’t get its licensing problems resolved, takes days to fix issues that used to be resolved with a 5-minute fix and leaves everyone wondering what the heck is going on… well, don’t be surprised when little good is reported.

    Many Provo citizens aren’t happy. They don’t like how the deal was conducted in secret, they don’t like how many concessions were built into the deal (which cut the overall price paid by about a quarter) and they don’t like that competitive bids weren’t considered. Mayor Billings is likely going to lose his job over this one and several council members are in the crosshairs. The biggest mistake that the City of Provo made was not actually asking the citizens what they wanted. They just assumed that the constant derision from the Utah Taxpayers Association and Reason Foundation reflected their true feelings.

  26. Capt. Video says:

    In my opinion, Provo citizens would have voted to sell the network.

    I think a key point is that they (Provo citizens) did NOT support the network in the only way that is really important…subscribing to the network.

    If more Provo citizens had subscribed to the service the city would not have been losing almost $2 million dollars a year operating it.

    Given the bad times all cities are in for with the downturn in the economy and tightening of the credit market…lower sale tax revenue, more unemployment, potential cuts in city headcount and services….all here or coming soon to many cities near you…the last thing the citizens in Provo would want to do is have more city service cut backs because they are paying to support someone’s internet, phone or TV services on iProvo.

    You should assume that the politicians (Mayor and Council) have a pretty good feel for what their constituents want…both getting into iProvo and then getting out when things did not go as expected.

    I suspect if Mayor Billings loses an election over iProvo, it will be for getting INTO iProvo and NOT for getting OUT.

    Mark my words, no-one is going to run for Mayor or Council on the platform that the city should have kept iProvo. They will run saying the city should NEVER have gotten into iProvo.

  27. Ben Saunders says:

    If Provo residents were wanting to sell the network, which I really doubt, it would have been caused by the poor management that went on and the media barrage. Spanish Fork residents love their service and are loyal even with a lack of HD programming.
    Mayor Billings and this administration have no clue what their constituents want or even who they are. They would have built a new rec center if they did instead of subsidizing a number of the Mayors close business friends and service providers. What do you think the Provo demographic spectrum is. I think Provo is mostly inhabited by older folks, empty nesters, students, and low income families all of which could’nt give a hoot about politics. It would be interesting as to how many would even vote. In any case if they wanted a “sale” it would not be anything close to the assumption that Broadweave was handed with no money down. That was not a sale, it was a give-away!

  28. Capt. Video says:

    The Spanish Fork situation is completely different.

    When they build their network Comcast offered no data and only about 30+ channels of video. They did not build a fiber network, they are both the network owner and operator…no “open access” bullshit.

    I’ll bet the Spanish Fork Network subscriber percentage went down when Comcast got competitive…offering digital TV, high speed internet, VOD and HDTV. It’s still doing well, but not at the original percentage when they offered double the channels at a lower rate than Comcast (AT&T).

    The city is smaller and has a much more loyal base. Small cities always do compared to larger ones. They also have more families, Provo is (as you say) students (that don’t consider themselves residents of Provo), older empty nesters, etc. I think only something like 24% of homes in Provo have school aged kids.

    These are not people that are going to care about “long term” good for Provo if it’s at their expense. (As it would have been if the city kept the network as the economy turned down.)

    I don’t disagree with the concern as to the terms of the deal. But I do feel sure they would want to sell…or more so, they would NOT want to support (subsidize) the network. If the network were not going to cost them anything, they would be fine with it, but if you are going to increase their taxes to allow someone to get internet and TV….no way they would support that.

    Having a fiber network in Provo is NOT high on their list IF they would have to pay higher taxes….which they would.

    The Mayor and Council DO know who votes (NOT students) and they do work to keep those people happy when possible. That is how politics work and how politicians (like the Mayor) get re-elected…more than once!

    I too heard MANY complain about the terms of the deal, I did not hear anyone make a better offer?

  29. Jesse says:

    To be fair, nobody was given the chance to make a better offer. I know a few industry professionals who feel that the price was way low-ball.

  30. Capt. Video says:

    That’s fair….we agree the system should have been sold in a more open manner, seeking more bidders. That would have helped establish a clear “value”.

    Not the other side of that coin is how many people are so sure Broadweave cannot be successful. The better the deal they got, the easier it would be to be successful.

    If the price was really low ball and a give away, operating the system at a profit and being successful should be very easy.

    I still think it will be rather difficult and therefore the deal might not have been as good as it appeared?

    But a real clear sale RFP and more bidders would have helped establish that in a very clean way.

  31. captain_obvious says:

    I love my Broadweave service, but I wonder if the reason they may be running out of cash is because they don’t bill people for their service. I have had fiber since August, and have never been charged for installation ($25) or monthly service ($50/month). I would gladly pay if they would only send a bill… I know at least one other person in the same situation.

  32. SirTomster says:

    Dang, maybe I should see if my company should move from Veracity to Broadweave on iProvo then. hmmmm

    Of course once Broadweave pulls its head out it might just bill you for 6 months of service.. eek.

    Did you sign up directly with Broadweave or with another provider?

  33. Ben Saunders says:

    This one of those items mentioned in the Broadweave expose’ document that had to be pulled. They have lost track of their customers. They are just waiting for you to call, then they will become aware of you!
    “The best of the best in Utah technology”, a quote from Mayor Billings. You would think that they could keep a simple list of their customers and maybe even account for what they owe. My children could use a spreadsheet to do this…

  34. captain_obvious says:

    I signed up directly with Broadweave. I’ve been saving my pennies because they will eventually figure out I owe them $200~… I don’t mind though…

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