Elastic Networks: Speed Up America
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Elastic Networks: Speed Up America

In early January 2000, Elastic Networks charged GCI Group to develop a program that would bolster attention for its technology and initiatives, while simultaneously capturing the mind share of key industry analysts, trade media and customers.

Paul Holmes

 

speed-up AMERICA is an initiative from Elastic Networks to help accelerate the deployment of high-speed Internet access.  The program features a mobile van, equipped with Elastic Networks’ EtherLoop, next-generation DSL technology, that travels cross-country to telcos, competitive local exchange carriers, and Internet service providers, demonstrating its high-speed access solution to help bridge the digital divide. The mobile demo station is part of nationwide tour that allows potential customers to experience hands-on Elastic Networks’ next-generation DSL technology.  The speed-up AMERICA tour began at a “Digital Divide” summit in Washington D.C. with representatives from the FCC, industry organizations and Internet service providers.

When Elastic Networks spun-off from Nortel Networks in 1996, it had developed a high-speed Internet access solution that could be deployed easily and cost-effectively and travel further distances than traditional high-speed options.  Elastic labeled its technology “next-generation DSL.”

Understanding that the Internet service provider (ISP) market is a competitive and densely saturated industry, Elastic Networks needed to creatively distance itself from other DSL providers while demonstrating that the technology was a viable option in the high-speed Internet access market.  

In early January 2000, Elastic Networks charged GCI Group to develop a program that would bolster attention for its technology and initiatives, while simultaneously capturing the mind share of key industry analysts, trade media and customers.

RESEARCH

Through several briefings with Elastic’s engineers and executives, GCI quickly understood the advantages of Elastic’s technology over other DSL solutions.  For example, it could be deployed easily and cost-effectively to rural areas that were typically neglected by larger service providers who felt that the complexities associated with long distance deployment were not worth the potential financial gain.  Also, Elastic’s technology could travel farther, faster than the existing services, making it a great Internet resource alternative for communities that were further away from the central office of service deployment.  GCI began researching information that could help Elastic develop a program initiative that would promote these benefits.    

GCI located a report commissioned by the United States Commerce Department that discussed a disparity in Internet access between urban and rural communities – the “digital divide.”  The issue was becoming a hot topic with regulators, analysts, media and Internet/DSL users – Elastic’s target audiences. 

PLANNING

Since Elastic’s DSL technology could potentially provide a technological solution to the “digital divide” issue as it applied to the hurdles associated with rural communities, GCI Group proposed that Elastic position its technology as a means to help bridge this technology gap by fulfilling the need for sufficient high-speed connections in smaller communities.  By tying in with an important social issue and having an educational platform for support, GCI rationalized that Elastic could elevate all of its future announcements beyond traditional product launches.

GCI named the program speed-up AMERICAÔ and recommended that Elastic Networks create a mobile demo station that could travel across the nation, bringing its DSL technology solution and educational program about the “digital divide” to analysts, trade media and current and future customers for an understandable, hands-on experience.

The objective of the speed-up AMERICA program was clear - to generate industry awareness for Elastic Networks in a six-month time frame by briefing analysts, media and customers about the benefits of Elastic’s technology as it applied to the “digital divide issue.”  

Elastic budgeted $105, 000 to GCI for the conceptualization and coordination of the speed-up AMERICA launch.  An additional $35, 000 per month would be allotted to support industry outreach efforts as the mobile demo station traveled across the country to meet with media, analysts and customers.

EXECUTION

On March 9, 2000, GCI Group assisted Elastic Networks with its speed-up AMERICA launch event: the “Digital Divide” summit in Washington, D.C.  GCI secured representatives from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), prominent industry organizations like the United States Telecom Association (USTA) and the National Telephone Cooperative Association (NTCA), as well as executives from Internet service providers (ISPs) to attend the summit and participate in a panel discussion about the disparity of Internet access between rural and urban communities.

Concluding the event, the speed-up AMERICA RV was unveiled and set out to tour America – starting first in New York, followed by travels to Boston, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Phoenix, Missouri, Kentucky and Ohio, visiting trade shows, industry events and customer sites where GCI helped promote Elastic Networks’ initiative and services by securing media and analyst appointments.  

EVALUATION

With only one month of planning/program development, GCI successfully launched the speed-up AMERICA initiative and RV, taking the program on its six-month tour of 13 tradeshows and nearly 100 customer visits.  

GCI also led Elastic executives through more than 50 interviews with top analyst and media, including meetings with reputable analyst groups like Gartner Group, Yankee Group, Jupiter, and Forrester, as well as top tier media including The Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger Washington Letter and Fortune.  As a result of the briefings, news stories about Elastic Networks, speed-up AMERICA and the digital divide are appearing in many high visibility media outlets that include Forbes, Boston Globe and CNBC, and industry trades like Telephony, eWEEK, Inc. Technology, Internet Week and Rural Telecommunications.  

To date, the speed-up AMERICA initiative is the platform from which Elastic has released more than 25 product and partnership announcements.  The program also proved useful in gaining momentum for Elastic as it moved forwarded filing and announcing its initial public offering (IPO).  Since the its inception, speed-up AMERICA has helped secure more than 115 media placements in top-tier national and trade media.

In December 2000, the International Association of Business Communications (IABC) awarded GCI Group and Elastic Networks with a Silver Flame award for media relations supporting the speed-up AMERICA program.

According to Wireless Telecommunications, “This was the best PR tour so far this century!”
To date, the speed-up AMERICA RV continues touring the country promoting Elastic Networks’ technology and IPO.

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