Author Archives: Ari Rabban

Should Your Gas Company Sell You a BBQ Grill? Talking About Net Neutrality

by Ari Rabban

net_neutralityNet neutrality. If you work for a company that does business online, you’ve likely heard this term. The concept and goals of net neutrality seem simple and fair: Don’t let the big kids bully the little kids or stop them from playing on the playground. The concern is that when net neutrality is jeopardized, everyone using the Internet can be affected, either by reduced services, higher prices or both.

It seems every few months there is some new ruling regarding net neutrality, and it can all become a little ho-hum. But the FCC’s recent announcement on net neutrality astounded many.

In a nutshell, the debate is whether the large commercial broadband providers like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and others have to allow free and equal rights to any content provider (think Netflix or YouTube) to deliver their media to the consumer. The big players contend that popular web-based services are clogging the network that they paid billions to develop. This also applies to web-based businesses and most regular content providers, not just those streaming video content.  Netflix and YouTube don’t feel they can offer the service level they need because the network is clogged and if, as the new ruling suggests, content providers will be allowed to pay broadband providers to get faster access, then small content and service providers will suffer.

From all the pundits who voiced opinions, and all the protests and write-ups on the topic, one caught my attention—a New York Times op-ed piece called The Wire Next Time by technology law expert Susan Crawford. Crawford’s article suggests broadband should be delivered to homes and businesses using municipal-level fiber networks. She states that MUNI networks can be a long-term solution to dealing with the costs and political wrangling that make net neutrality difficult. Crawford also offers real-life examples of towns where municipal fiber networks operate successfully. Sadly, her solution seems impossible in most places because of the stronghold and lobbying power of the big broadband players.

Frankly, I believe that we need to go one step further and see broadband simply as a utility. Like electricity, gas and water, broadband should be delivered to consumers by providers who are responsible solely for delivering broadband.

If you think about it, we don’t see electricity companies trying to sell us washing machines, and if they did, I doubt you’d see them blocking the sale of other brands. Likewise, if gas companies started selling BBQ grills, I can’t imagine them lobbying to prevent the sale of Broil King or Weber grills.

So whether fiber or wireless (the latter may prove to be the way of the future), Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and the other big kids on the playground should not be allowed to control the network and sell the content. I believe that we have today is bad—an infrastructure and climate that benefits the big kids and hurt startups, innovation and the consumer.

Reflections From PTC’14

by Ari Rabban

ptc_reflectionsI recently had the privilege of attending and speaking at the Pacific Telecommunications Council 2014 (PTC’14) in Honolulu, Hawaii.  I know– it’s a hard job, but somebody has to do it.  While I can’t begin to summarize everything that was said by some true visionaries and renowned experts, I want to share some of the highlights that really stood out to me.

First of all, with net neutrality recently coming back into the limelight, there was much discussion about companies like Netflix who are challenging service providers to not discriminate against their traffic.  Dr. Hussein Eslambolchi, former President and CEO of AT&T Labs and Network Services, wonders “if incumbents can ever really reinvent themselves and get rid of that ‘not invented here’ mentality, and whether they can truly add value-added services.  Or will they just continue to focus on ‘dumb pipes’ and trying to prevent others from competing with them rather than helping to push the industry forward?”  This certainly poses a risk and challenge to 3rd parties across a number of industries—not just telecommunications.

A second insight I gained was that there is a significant amount of bandwidth, equipment, and cost that is wasted by inefficient routing methodologies. Although a large amount of voice traffic is transmitted over IP, calls that are transmitted from one VoIP provider to another still need to make their way to the public network (PSTN) first. As VoIP becomes more and more prevalent, both with end-users and as a core telephony technology, the industry will need to “learn” how to keep voice traffic in the IP domain, and bypass the public network when possible.

On an interesting note, we discussed the fact that laser technology is currently being overlooked.  When we consider the need for faster broadband, laser and photonics are still realistically a decade away, but could ultimately replace the means by which many applications are delivered.  This article discusses the possibility of using laser beam projectors to serve video to multiple rooms in a house.

Finally, I gained a couple new insights that apply to both business and networking practice.  First, much discussion circled around the importance in the “make vs. buy” to shift our mindset to buy first.  We should focus on what we do best and acquire supporting solutions available in the marketplace and optimize or replace down the road as needed.  Second, companies need to design their networks with failure in mind from the very beginning.  Assume failure will happen and have a plan to address it.

Truly some sage advice from this group of experts, making my attendance at PTC’14 well worth the trip! 2013: The Year In Review

by Ari Rabban

lookingbackBefore we dive head-first into 2014, I want to take a few moments to reflect on the year that was.  As they say in the State of the Union address, the state of is strong!  Here are some reasons why:

Team Growth- We have welcomed many new members to our team so that we can better serve our growing customer base.  They have brought a ton of excitement to the culture at  Couple this with moves to new offices in both our Poway, CA and New Jersey locations.

New iPhone App- Our much-anticipated iPhone app was released and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.  Read more

Group SMS Patent- earned its first patent for the Group SMS technology. Read more

Inc. 500/5000 List- We placed no. 1,296 on the 2013 Inc. 5000 list and no. 262 on the Inc. 500 List of America’s Fastest Growing Private Companies.  This was the third year in a row that we received this illustrious honor.  Read more

Awesome Customer Service- We won the NYER Customer Service Best Practice award due in large part to our awesome customer service team and the work of Communicate Better BlogRead more

Additionally, this year was highlighted by a new website, improved signup process, updated blog, and network upgrades to ensure increased stability and reliability.  As we look forward to 2014, we eagerly anticipate the release of many new features that will make even more valuable to you as you do business.

I am truly grateful to our customers, employees, partners and investors for making 2013 a success.  At, we are committed to making 2014 even better.

Being Prepared for the Next Natural Disaster

by Ari Rabban

NDLast year the Eastern seaboard of the US was pummeled by Hurricane Sandy, harshly affecting millions of people.  Businesses were destroyed, offices and entire metropolitan areas flooded, and homes left uninhabitable. The aftermath left businesses that were unable to reopen and employees searching for a place to live for themselves and their families. With Hurricane season upon us again and the massive Colorado flooding going on right now as a reminder, I thought I would share some proven suggestions from the folks at

  1. Protect Your Property

The best time to protect yourself and your possessions is BEFORE an event – long before! That means careful consideration of potential threats and what should be done to minimize their impact should they occur.

a.    Secure your building or office space – Be sure to listen to weather reports and if an event seems likely, make sure that all potential “missiles” such as tables, chairs, flower pots, and planters are brought inside. Make sure that windows and doors are properly secured depending on your area. If you do not live in the coastal Southeast or Gulf Coast, you may not be familiar with hurricane shutters and boarding up windows, but that did not stop Sandy and we need to take every threat seriously!

b.    Store your merchandise and equipment – Whether you operate a wine shop, restaurant, or clothing store, make sure that flooding or damage to windows and doors will have the least impact on your business assets.

c.    Have clean up material on hand – This seems like common sense, but what do you need? Make sure you are ready regardless of what happens.

2.    Protect Your Team

.      Encourage employees to prepare their families – Employees are primarily concerned with their loved ones. Businesses need to recognize this and be supportive.

a.    Establish an emergency plan – Understanding what to do in the event of an emergency is essential. More important is ensuring that all employees understand the policies and procedures, and that these are actually practiced beforehand to ensure that, during a crisis, everyone knows what to do and what is expected of them.

b.    Stock up on provisions – This includes flashlights, batteries, radios, water, and other provisions that might be needed for a prolonged event.

c.    Follow the news – Some situations can change dramatically in a short period of time. Knowledge is one of your best defenses against surprises!

3.    Protect Your Assets

.      Invest in off-site backups of important documents – Identify critical business documents, such as contracts or personnel records, and ensure that these are stored elsewhere in case of a catastrophe.

a.    Make an emergency contact list – In the midst of an emergency, it is important not to be scrambling for local emergency telephone numbers or even the contact information for key personnel.

b.    Update your insurance policies – Make sure that you are properly covered for any anticipated events.

c.    Create and have available emergency action plans – This is where we know what we will do, why we will do it, who will implement it, and when!

d.    Record the damage – Identifying what occurred will be important foir the recovery process.

I’m not going into details on this list because different parts of our country have very different natural disasters.  Additionally, keep in mind that your business may not be based in the disaster area but could still be affected.  Customers, remote workers and suppliers that are out of commission need to be considered.

These are very good points to use for preparation.  There’s no way to predict what will happen but being prepared saves money and lives. The hosted phone service is designed with the flexibility and adaptability needed to prepare for emergency events, For example, creating a preset Greeting to be used during and after a disaster is very useful. It is also important to carefully consider the call queues and handling rules so that, regardless of the event, your customers and suppliers will be able to reach someone and your business can continue without interruption. Keep in mind that it does not take a Hurricane Sandy to knock out your business systems. If the business on the floor above you has a sprinkler malfunction, your computers, servers, printers, and other office resources can just as easily be flooded with no warning! Remember that the time to prepare is not during an event but long before!