Choosing the Right Internet Provider for Your Community

Choosing the Right Internet Provider for Your Community

By Marcy Kravit, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, CFCAM / Published January 2022

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As a community association manager, there is no shortage of influential decisions you’re expected to make on behalf of your residents. Among the most important are ensuring that residents have the resources and amenities they expect for a comfortable life and that their HOA or condominium association fees are being well spent. Over the past few years, one of the most important factors CAMs have had to consider is internet service, which has emerged as a fourth utility. Homeowners, tenants, and prospective buyers and renters now consider fast, reliable internet to be so crucial that according to a Verizon study, 90 percent of homebuyers prioritize it when searching for a home!

     This shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who have been paying attention the past few years, considering how important internet and Wi-Fi are to nearly every aspect of our lives. Remote work has increased substantially, with Global Workplace Analytics estimating that 25–30 percent of the workforce will work from home for several days a week in 2021. A separate study from Upwork predicts that 22 percent of the American workforce will be entirely remote by 2022. According to the same study, 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely by 2025, an 87 percent increase in remote work from pre-pandemic levels. Based on this, it’s likely a good portion of your residents account for that remote work statistic, meaning it’s absolutely vital that you ensure they have the internet connectivity they need. 

     Add to this a myriad of other considerations such as online schooling, streaming entertainment, keeping in touch with family and friends, staying up to date with the news, and controlling Wi-Fi enabled household appliances, and it becomes clear that internet services should be a top concern of any community association manager.

     A good internet service provider (ISP) will offer a suite of services including gigabit-speed internet, HD and 4K capable IPTV, voice, and home security & automation to a growing portfolio of high-end residential communities, businesses, local governments, schools, and healthcare customers across the United States. More than that, a company shouldn’t just offer these services but should be an expert on what residents’ needs are and how they’ve changed over the last two years.

     We’ve established that it’s important to pick the right partner, but there’s something equally important to consider: what kind of service agreement should your community sign into? One of the most popular options is a bulk service agreement, which bundles numerous services together into one all-encompassing contract. However, it’s important to consider that the contracts for bulk service agreements must last for a minimum of two years but often last far longer than that. How long? Hotwire Communications signs contracts providing bundled, wholesale commercial services with long-term contracts of 10 years or more, meaning that when signing with any bulk services provider, it is absolutely vital that communities are sure they’re making the right choice. 

     Fortunately for us, Hotwire’s communities are overwhelmingly pleased with the services they receive, and 96 percent of our customers choose to renew their contracts for an extended period of seven or more years. But what happens if a community signs a long-term contract with a service provider that fails to meet their needs? The only options are either to break the contract, usually at great financial cost, or to simply wait several years until the contract expires and a new service provider can be signed.

     If you want to make sure your community is partnered with the right service partner, that your residents are receiving the services they need, and that you’re signed into a contract that’s right for your property, here are five things you should keep in mind:

  1. Make sure you know what your residents need
            Before you even start looking for a service provider, you need to know exactly what your residents need. A good place to start is by getting an idea of what they use their current services for and how they feel those services might be falling short. Maybe their internet connectivity is unreliable, and it’s resulting in unstable Zoom calls, slow download times, or a poor streaming video experience. 
            It could be something as simple as wanting a better customer service experience—a good ISP places an emphasis on making sure everyone it serves receives concierge-style, white-glove customer service, but some ISP providers aren’t quite as focused on building that relationship.
  2. 2. Include experts in your decision-making process
            Every community is different, with unique features and considerations that will need to be accounted for. Sometimes, this can present problems that might not immediately be considered, such as structural or environmental features that could negatively impact the construction process necessary to install equipment and infrastructure or, later on, the actual delivery of services.
             Consulting with an expert can save you time, money, and frustration when it comes to considering options, helping you to not only deter-mine what to look for in a service provider but also enabling you to present potential partners with the precise details of the job they’re bidding to take on.
  3. 3. Properly vet potential partners
            We’ve established that some contracts for internet and other tele-communications services can last for 10 years or more, so it’s absolutely paramount that you pick a partner that can actually meet your residents’ needs. When requesting proposals, make sure you ask service providers to prove they have the skills, capacity, and personnel necessary for delivering services to your community.
            Treat it almost like a job interview—what case studies can they show you that demonstrate an ability to serve communities similar to your own? What industry accolades have they recently been awarded with, if any? Do they have a list of impressive references you can reach out to and ask questions about their experience with the company? Like Hotwire Communications, do they have a history of adopting emerging technologies, implementing innovative solutions, and being among the first to deliver cutting-edge services, or are they more of the follow-the-leader sort?
  4. Think long-term—think fiber
            As important as your community’s needs are today, it’s equally important to consider what your community’s needs may be tomorrow. When it comes to internet and other telecommunication services, the best way to do that is through a fiber optic infrastructure. Fiber is considered to be future proof since it’s not only incredibly durable but also scalable, meaning future upgrades can be easily made through the simple installation of new equipment. 
            More than that, the presence of a fiber optic network can actually boost the present and future property value of your owners’ home or units. According to the National Apartment Association, apartment rental value can increase by up to 11 percent if gigabit-speed fiber-to-the-unit connectivity is present.
  5. Don’t be afraid to make a switch.
            Your relationship with your service provider is just like any other relationship: sometimes it just isn’t working out, and it’s time to say goodbye and maybe meet somebody new. If your current service provider isn’t meeting your residents’ needs and your contract is ending soon, it may be time to start thinking about making a switch.

Marcy Kravit, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, CFCAM

Director of Community Association Relations

     Marcy Kravit has 20-plus years’ experience managing community associations in south Florida. She has established a reputation as being passionate about service, driven by challenges, and undeterred by obstacles. Marcy is committed to providing five-star service and educating others in raising the level of professionalism in the industry. She works for Hotwire as director of community association relations. Marcy has earned every higher education credential offered by CAI and is recognized by Florida Community Association Professionals (FCAP) as a CFCAM. Marcy is a contributing writer to the Florida Community Association Journal (FLCAJ) and serves FCAP as their Education Program Director.