Board chairman pledges to answer critics on public blogs
DAVIDSON – The news coming from MI-Connection is good or not so good, depending on how you look at the first nine months of the 2011 fiscal year.
Compared to the first nine months of the 2010 fiscal year (through March), cash flow generated by the broadband company owned by Mooresville and Davidson has risen 204 percent in the same period of fiscal 2011 year.
Total revenues for that same period are up 4.2 percent and expenses are down 9.4 percent, General Manager Alan Hall reported to the MI-Connection board on April 28.
But MI-Connection is still reeling from the loss of service to six apartment complexes, including Marina Shores in Cornelius and Talbert Woods in Mooresville, representing roughly 500 subscribers. Those losses started in November – the middle of the second quarter of fiscal 2011 – and they’re just showing up on MI-Connection’s balance sheet in the third quarter.
• Revenue dropped 2.3 percent from the second quarter, ending in December, to the third quarter of fiscal 2011.
• Total “customer relationships” have dropped by 577 since July 1, 2010, and revenue units – a customer who pays for basic service, data and phone represents three units – has dropped by 204.
But besides getting “out-marketed in a couple of big complexes,” Hall and John Venzon, the new chairman of the MI-Connection board, said the company is holding its own with competitors and winning the fight with satellite TV.
MI-Connection recently signed a contract to provide “fiber to unit” broadband service to Lake Norman Cove at Jetton, a 171-home Cornelius community that has never had cable – only satellite dishes – before. “That’s a huge win for us,” Hall said, and revenue from that contract should arrive later this month.
Venzon said he’s frustrated because the publicly owned company still fights an image problem.
“With the improvements we made to the system, I thought that people would be lined up out the door,” Venzon said. “I thought they’d see this as ours, this is us, and it just bugs me that we get such poor PR out there. We have not won that battle.
“We have done nothing but accomplish what people asked: Give us better service. But I only hear griping.”
Venzon has decided to change tactics in this battle for the hearts and pocketbooks of Davidson, Mooresville and Cornelius customers. Rather than ignore the sniping, he told fellow board members he’s begun responding to critics on Davidsonnews.net’s public blogs.
“I’m putting my email out there, and I think we all have to become personal advocates for this company,” he said. “I cannot go out to dinner in Davidson, Mooresville or Cornelius without the topic coming up. And I don’t mind that because we’ve got a good product.”
If one problem is critics, MI-Connection’s other problem is awareness, board secretary Dawn Huston said.
“We have to get the brand out there,” she said. “… I can tell you that there are some out there who don’t know that MI-Connection exists.”
Huston, senior marketing manager for Deb Group, raised the marketing issue because Lowe’s YMCA in Mooresville and Lake Norman YMCA in Cornelius have offered the broadband company primary sponsorship of its programs, as well as getting MI-Connection’s logo on TVs at the Ys and a sales booth in the facilities.
No one in the meeting mentioned how much money the YMCAs want from MI-Connection. On Monday, May 2, Hall said the YMCA wants $47,500.
From information she’s gathered, Huston said the sponsorship would yield 150,000 “impressions” for MI-Connection at a cost of 30 cents per impression.
Huston also raised another concern: “What will the risk be if we don’t do this? Who else might be interested in this if we don’t take it?”
But Venzon worried about how MI-Connection would count the number of customers it picks up from the YMCA, and he noted, “I was a member of the YMCA for years, and I had no idea who the sponsors were.”