article

Raising Rural Routes

Posted: 10/2003

Raising Rural Routes
Independent Telco Alliances Band Together to Market Carrier
Services
By Khali Henderson

Independent telcos and cooperatives serving
rural America have long banded together in alliances essentially converging
their networks on a statewide basis. This summer, 17 such alliances (see list)
have joined forces as an alliance of alliances called the Independent
Alliances Telecom Group, or INDATELgroup.

Chartered as a not-for-profit organization in the state of
Missouri, the association has a dual purpose encompassing networking and
information sharing not uncommon for trade groups and also joint
national marketing of its members individual networks, which presently cover
15 states primarily in the Midwestern United States.

While many of the alliances already interconnect with one
another, such deals are not a primary purpose of this coalition, says Max
Huffman, president of the newly chartered group and COO of Missouri Network
Alliance. Our goal today is not to be a nationwide provider through
interconnects or a buyer or seller of our networks other than on an individual
basis, he says. We have been careful to stay strong to our two key purposes
networking/information sharing and joint national marketing and advertising.

In fact, he says the association came out of a meeting with
four other alliance executives seeking to share best practices in advancement of
their respective businesses.

We spent the better part of a day and a half comparing
notes while discussing the nature of our businesses, says Scott Hoffmann,
executive director of Wisconsin Independent Network LLC and vice president for
INDATELgroup. It was clear to me right from the onset that there was great
benefit to me and my efforts to build WINs business to establish a dialogue
such as this with other organziations across the country that are structured
similar to WIN. A big plus already has been the networking with my peers in
INDATELgroup.


Board of Directors
President: Max Huffman, MNA
Vice President: Scott Hoffmann,
WIN
Secretary & Treasurer: Kathy Duff, MAIN
Director: Ellen Bryson, IRIS
Director: Russ McNeill, TLSN

Because the members are not competitors, such information is
not viewed as closely guarded intellectual property that it otherwise might be
in another circumstance. Thats why this alliance works. We are like
organized and we are not competing in the same space with each other, Huffman
says, adding plainly, If you dont want to share information, you keep your
mouth shut.

Learning from each others experiences good and bad
on the technological and business fronts is just one of the perks of membership.
The other is inclusion in a national marketing campaign wherein members have
pooled their monies to fund INDATELgroup ads in trade publications and a
presence at industry events. The association will be on hand at this months
CompTel 2003 Fall Conference & Expo, for example.

In fact, Huffman says the groups dues are based on the
budget for the marketing campaign with each member paying an equal portion. A
good two-thirds of us could not advertise nationally without having come
together, he says. I spread [the cost] across 17 companies and it becomes
cost-effective; its scale.

Created with the assistance of Dallas-based Patrick Beckman
Advertising Design Inc., the campaign, which includes a web site and print ads,
features the tagline What state is your business in? and a map of the United States with the member networks noted
geographically. Huffman says the purpose it to promote respective member
networks as an alternative to the incumbent LECs for broadband transport.

The ads target IXCs and wireless carriers seeking access to
rural market and backhaul to MSA points of presence over fiber backbones. The
only solution you have to get from Kansas City to Chillicothe, Missouri, is SBC,
says Huffman, citing an example. In many cases, we [MNA] are the alternative to the large
incumbent RBOC.

INDATELgroup is planning its annual meeting for first quarter
2004 at which time the executive board (see inset) will present the results of
the 2003 campaign.

Hoffmann adds, I am also optimistic about the joint
marketing we are undertaking with the other members of INDATELgroup.

Charter Members
Advanced Communications Technology Inc. (ACT) Wyoming
Aurora Fiber Networks (Aurora) Minnesota
Dakota Carrier Network
(DCN)
North Dakota
East Kentucky
Network (EKN)
Kentucky
ENMR-Plateau Telecommunications (ENMR) New Mexico
Great
Lakes Comnet (GLC)
Michigan
Independents
Fiber Network (IFN)
Ohio
Indian Nations Fiber Optics Inc. (INFO) Oklahoma
IRIS Networks (IRIS) Tennessee
MBO
Corp. (MBO)
Oklahoma
Missouri Network Alliance (MNA) Missouri
Montanas Advanced
Information Network Inc. (MAIN)
Montana
South Dakota Network (SDN) South Dakota
Syringa Networks
(Syringa)
Idaho
Texas Lone Star Network (TLSN) Texas
Valley Telecom Group
(ALECA)
Arizona
Wisconsin
Independent Network (WIN)
Wisconsin
Links
Independent Alliances Telecom Group www.indatelgroup.org

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