Tom and Jim Gleason
Interview Date: July 30, 2019
Interview Location: Chicago, Ill USA
Interviewer: Lela Cocoros
Collection: Hauser Collection
LELA COCOROS: Hello. I’m Lela Cocoros for The Cable Center. It's July 30, 2019, and we are in Chicago at the Independent Show. This is the oral history of Tom Gleason, who is retired from Vast Broadband and has recently retired from the board of NCTC [National Cable Television Cooperative], and Jim Gleason, who is the CEO of Vast Broadband and a member of the ACA Connects board. So, gentlemen, thank you for joining us.
TOM GLEASON: Thank you.
JIM GLEASON: Thank you.
LELA COCOROS: Let's start out with your early years and a little bit about your childhood and where you went to school and just your early years.
TOM GLEASON: I was born in Pittsburg, Kansas, and over the years, we migrated to Kansas City and then to York, Nebraska, where my dad built the radio station up there in 1952, and so he was in the radio business for a long time. In 1962, he got the cable franchise for York and built the first -- his first cable system. And that summer between '60 -- in '62 summer, that was between my junior and senior years of high school, and I worked on the construction crew and learned how to climb a pole and lash cable and splice cable and do drops and whatnot. So I was one of the few people in the country that knew how to do that stuff, and so in 1968, I got me a job with Telesis Corporation. They were in Evansville, Indiana, and they were building systems in central Missouri, and I got on their construction crew and was building systems in Warrensburg and Knob Noster and Whiteman Air Force Base. They moved me to Evansville a little later than that after that was all built, and I was a field engineer for them. I did headend work to climb towers. I remember climbing a tower out in Western Nebraska about -- it was, oh, about an 800-footer, and we were hanging two great big parabolics on there to get the only ABC affiliate there was in Nebraska at the time -- it was about 120 miles away -- and I'll be damned if we didn’t drop it! That made a racket, (laughter) but anyway. (laughs) In about '78, I went to work for Essex Wire. They had bought Amphenol Cable in Chicago, so I moved up here in Chicago, and I was a product manager for Essex for quite a while until they put the satellites up. They had moved to Sikeston, Missouri, where we live now, and Dad sold that system and wanted to build some others, so I started a construction company and started building for him and for Gerry Gill in Central Illinois. Gerry ran out of money and gave me some franchises, and that became Galaxy Cablevision, those two areas.
LELA COCOROS: OK. Well, great. Jim, why don’t you give us your history?
JIM GLEASON: So that segues nicely. So I'm slightly younger than Tom. In any way, so exactly what Tom was saying, we -- I grew up in Sikeston, Missouri, and I still live there. Dad had run the cable systems after getting out of the radio business some years before in Southeast Missouri and went out on his own. So in the summers in high school, and in college for that matter, I built cable systems, construction, climbing poles in western Kentucky and Southern Illinois. And that was the beginnings of Galaxy Cablevision, which I guess, went on until --
TOM GLEASON: 2001.
JIM GLEASON: 2001. I mean, after I went off to college, came back and got into the business, and did a variety pack of things including IT and sales, training, customer care, building system, etc., etc. And then throughout -- we've actually started really four companies throughout the years including Galaxy, a company called Cable Max, which is a wireless cable venture in Texas, and then NewWave Communications that we started in 2003 and sold in 2013, and then started Vast in 2014. So a variety pack of things all cable. I think when you talk to all these people who’ve been in the cable business for a long time, most have done about everything there is to do in cable. And I think that's probably unique to this industry because it was really entrepreneurial, and there weren’t people that knew a lot of -- a lot about it to the extent that you could find other people to do it, so...
TOM GLEASON: The Galaxy and NewWave, I always called -- I said we were the Bob Vila of the cable industry because we bought everybody's junk and fixed it up and then sold it, you know? (laughs)
LELA COCOROS: Yeah.
JIM GLEASON: That's really been everything we --
LELA COCOROS: You were the original flippers, right?
TOM GLEASON: Yeah.
JIM GLEASON: Yeah, we were the original fixer-uppers I can tell you that.
LELA COCOROS: Fixer-uppers, right, right.
JIM GLEASON: At one time at Galaxy, we had systems all the way from Wyoming to Florida and damned near anywhere in between in Texas.
LELA COCOROS: So you really grew up in the industry then, and it's second generation basically, right?
TOM GLEASON: Yeah.
JIM GLEASON: Yeah.
LELA COCOROS: OK. Galaxy Cablevision was around for quite a while and then that -- now, that was rolled into...?
TOM GLEASON: No.
LELA COCOROS: No?
TOM GLEASON: We sold it. We sold the last vestiges of that in 2001 and then founded NewWave in '03.
LELA COCOROS: What kept you coming, going back and coming back for more?
JIM GLEASON: Well, I mean the cable industry has changed a lot over years and so the cable industry has been so resilient in reinventing itself. Like when we came back in 2003, it was the early years of “what's the internet going to be?” And so we thought, “Boy, there's just a tremendous amount of opportunity then,” so we've always been the fixer-uppers and in rural cable. So we would have been one of the first companies to ever launch internet over cable in rural markets or at all for that matter. We thought that the cable industry was upgrading in big markets to launch the internet, and we thought, "We'll, there's no reason why this isn't going to be every bit as popular in rural markets.” So that's why we started again and that was -- I mean, we launched internet in 2003 in Dexter, Missouri, and it kind of spread from there and then we grew that company substantially.
LELA COCOROS: You've always been at the forefront I think in the rural broadband business --
TOM GLEASON: Yeah, and --
LELA COCOROS: -- with technology and --
TOM GLEASON: -- as we talked earlier, we were one of the first companies to launch HITS back when that came out --
LELA COCOROS: Headend in the Sky.
TOM GLEASON: -- out, yeah.
JIM GLEASON: Yup.
LELA COCOROS: Yes, I remember that from my days in TCI.
TOM GLEASON: This is what I said, I remember when we launched digital cable with HITS, it was really hard. Man, it was really, really hard; and then the internet came along and that was really, really hard; and then we started with VoIP and that was really, really hard; and all that's really easy now. (laughter)
LELA COCOROS: Yeah, yeah. When you are kind of the pioneering companies especially in a rural environment, I would imagine it's a big challenge. So how many subscribers do you have now?
TOM GLEASON: We have almost 58,000, or almost 58,000 customers today, almost exclusively in South Dakota and southwest Minnesota, and are in the process of buying another company called NTS Communications in Lubbock, Texas, and they have about 22,000 customers.
LELA COCOROS: Wow, so that's a big leap.
JIM GLEASON: Yup.
LELA COCOROS: Big leap.
JIM GLEASON: It's almost a start over again actually.
LELA COCOROS: Right, right, right. That’s exciting. I guess, who in the industry has influenced you the most?
TOM GLEASON: Oh.
LELA COCOROS: Who has just kind of been an inspiration or...?
JIM GLEASON: I don't know. Who in the industry? Boy, there’s probably been -- if you look back in the ’80s and ’90s, you can probably find some real leaders that were pretty good for the industry, although I’m -- nobody’s coming to mind necessarily.
TOM GLEASON: No, not necessarily.
JIM GLEASON: I mean, there were a lot of real innovators that carried the industry through some of those early years. Boy, I mean Bill Daniels is probably one that would come to mind. He probably comes to mind for lots of people.
TOM GLEASON: I’ve got a Bill Daniels story by the way.
LELA COCOROS: OK, please. We’d love to hear it.
TOM GLEASON: I was in Denver at Daniels’. I don’t remember. We were either buying some or selling something, I don't remember. But, anyway, one of the guys said, “Bill’s here, let’s go upstairs and have lunch with him,” I said, “OK.” I had met Bill a few times, so I went up there, and he started asking me what we’re talking about here, and this was in 1988. He said, “When did you start?” I said, “Well, I got started with Telesis in 1968.” He says, “Well, heck, you qualify for the Pioneers.” He said, “I’m going to nominate you for the Pioneers,” and I said, “No, you’re not.” He said, “Why not?” and I said, “Because my dad’s not in the Pioneers.” So that year, he nominated Dad for the Pioneers who got in real easy because Bill Daniels nominated him. And the next year in about February, I get a phone call that said, “You’re going to get inducted into the Pioneers,” and I said, “I am?” I said, “Who nominated me?” and he said, “Bill Daniels,” so... (laughter)
LELA COCOROS: So he kept his promise?
TOM GLEASON: He did, he did. Yeah, yeah.
LELA COCOROS: That doesn’t surprise me about Bill Daniels. Well, that’s good. That’s a great story.
TOM GLEASON: But, anyhow, I was only 44 years old at the time.
LELA COCOROS: Well, yeah, makes you -- you’re still a pioneer if you’ve been in the industry for as long as you have, and we don’t count the age -- you know we don’t mention the age.
TOM GLEASON: One of the... (laughter) No, that’s right.
JIM GLEASON: Young or old.
TOM GLEASON: You don’t have to give your age.
LELA COCOROS: That’s right. That’s right.
TOM GLEASON: One of the things that we’re most proud of is that we were one of the eight companies that started this NCTC, and I was on the original board of directors. The infamous poker game that everybody talks about actually occurred, and so... (laughs) Well, it was 1984, we were in Kansas City at the Mid-America Show, and every year at that show back then, somebody would have a suite and a poker game would break out after dinner. This particular year, the conversation got started about how the programmers were really putting it to us, you know? And so we said, “What about if we just pool all our subscribers then we’ll just buy it all together?” And we said, “Well, that sounds like a great idea. How do you do that?” And so from that, the -- what is now the NCTC... We couldn’t even agree on what to call it because some people wanted to call it the Mid-America Cable Television Association, or the Mid-America Cable Co-op Association. And we said, “Well, we don’t want to just big Mid-America. We want to be national,” so that was a big argument. “My golly, Mid-America started this, and we’ve got to have the name in there,” you know, (laughter) and so that was -- and that’s how it started.
LELA COCOROS: And that was in ’84?
TOM GLEASON: That was in ’84. Now, we had a meeting, and these eight companies had a meeting the next day in a conference room. We formed a committee of some -- one person off of each company, and that’s where it started.
JIM GLEASON: ACA [American Cable Association] was very similar. It was a bunch of mad cable operators, and after we got -- after some bad actors got the industry reregulated and a bunch or several smaller operators in Kansas City. I don’t know why it all starts in Kansas City. I guess it’s in the middle.
TOM GLEASON: Yeah, I was at that meeting too.
JIM GLEASON: And everybody, “Man, what are we going to do?” because the...
TOM GLEASON: TCI made everybody mad.
JIM GLEASON: And so here, we went and --
LELA COCOROS: Don’t I know it.
JIM GLEASON: -- started a whole new organization because they -- we said that NCTA [National Cable Television Association] and CATA [Cable Telecommunications Association] weren’t representing us effectively enough in Washington. And Matt Polka was at that meeting, but he was working at one of the member companies. And then eventually we said, “But we need to hire” --
LELA COCOROS: Somebody full time, right.
JIM GLEASON: “Somebody,” and there he was, and there he has been ever since.
LELA COCOROS: That’s great.
TOM GLEASON: Now, as far as Dad, he built that York system in ’62, and I had left. After I graduated in high school, I didn’t live there anymore, but at some point, he sold it to Midcontinent, remember?
JIM GLEASON: Yep.
TOM GLEASON: He sold it to Midcontinent, and my dad and my uncle were in partnership at the radio station. Well, Dad took the cable system and Uncle John took the radio station. And when Dad sold the cable system, then somehow, got a franchise in Beeville, Texas, right?
JIM GLEASON: Yeah.
TOM GLEASON: Then you moved to Beeville --
JIM GLEASON: I did --
TOM GLEASON: You all moved to Beeville, yeah. He half built the system in Beeville until somebody came along and bought him out before they ever finished it, and somehow got the franchise for Sikeston. Do you know that story?
JIM GLEASON: Nope, I don’t.
TOM GLEASON: Well, see, you lived there.
JIM GLEASON: I lived there, but I didn’t know what we were doing.
TOM GLEASON: So anyway --
JIM GLEASON: It was second.
TOM GLEASON: OK. So, anyway, he got that franchise for Sikeston and some of the towns around there and moved there and built that and then I told you what happened after that, so... That was in 1970, I think.
JIM GLEASON: Mm-hmm.
LELA COCOROS: So being in a cable family, tell me a little bit about that.
JIM GLEASON: Well, so there are upsides and downsides. All the rest of your extended family, you’re their tech support whether you own the cable system or not. (laughter) So anything that goes wrong with any device in the home, that’s my job to go work on, particularly over my in-laws, or anybody else who calls and said, “Why does it work like this?”
TOM GLEASON: And every time something happened to the cable -- if you happen to live in the town where you own the cable system -- that’s a bad thing. (laughter) Because everything that goes wrong is your fault, you know? I think Dad built -- one of the things they did is they built a microwave, the old CARS-band microwave from Perryville, Missouri, down to Sikeston to bring the St. Louis channels down, import the St. Louis channels so that they could watch the Cardinal ballgames. Every time it rained, that old CARS-band, it’d get fade -- (laughs)
LELA COCOROS: Rain fade?
TOM GLEASON: Yeah, in the middle of the ballgame and --
JIM GLEASON: So you kind of forgot that you didn’t get the Cardinal games before.
TOM GLEASON: You did, yeah, right. (laughs)
LELA COCOROS: Which is a very important part of this puzzle basically.
TOM GLEASON: I was privileged to serve as acting president and CEO twice between hiring new CEOs and it just so happened, it worked out with NewWave. The first time, NewWave only had 17,000 customers, so --
JIM GLEASON: Wasn’t too awful challenging --
TOM GLEASON: And the next time, we just felt that it was more important -- that the co-op was such an important part of our business that we had to make sure it ran right.
JIM GLEASON: Well, if you think about it now in the industry today, now that’s a lot different back in the late ’80s with the co-op just starting, but it actually fulfills the same need that it started. When you think about the industry now, it’s kind of essential because from programmers and or member companies alike, neither one could do deals like they did back then on their own. I mean it just -- it’s essential. And so we also were one of the first companies attend the first ACA meeting or what has now become ACA Connects, and that was a similar deal, it was filling a void. But interestingly now if you look at it, I mean we really can’t afford not to exist. We’ve now filled a complete void in Washington, that is really the story of the needs fulfilled for member companies. It’s really the only organization that does that now.
LELA COCOROS: It’s essential to have a voice collectively in Washington.
JIM GLEASON: At one time, Tom was chairman of the NCTC, and I was chairman of the ACA at the same time.
TOM GLEASON: Same time, yeah. That’s right. Another Pioneer story, he’s 18 years younger than me and 18 years after I got in the Pioneers, I got two guys to induct him, so he got in exactly 18 years after I did.
LELA COCOROS: Oh, that’s fine. That’s great.
JIM GLEASON: Very interesting.
TOM GLEASON: Yeah.
JIM GLEASON: I would say that all of our companies that we run have always been involved in the industry. I guess we’ve always taken an idea that if you want to get things done and you want to have things happen for the industry, you can’t just rely on other people to do it. And so that’s kind of the founding of NCTC, that’s kind of the founding of ACA and being involved in those organizations is pretty critical. Now, there are some great things that come along with it because you learn a lot as you go along that you might not otherwise find out. But those have been two super important organizations, and I would probably argue that had neither one of them been created, there would have been some probably interesting ramifications. Without NCTC representing members for deals with programmers, I would venture to say that independent cable operators probably would be fewer and farther between today than what there are simply because I think those deals would’ve forced them out of business at some point. I think with ACA that is probably true too, in that there would have been other regulations or maybe not had some waivers that were independent cable --
LELA COCOROS: That were favorable.
JIM GLEASON: Yes. So I think if those two things not happened, the industry would look a lot different, especially in the independent operators group.
LELA COCOROS: Exactly, exactly.
TOM GLEASON: And the programmers. I mean back when we started the co-op, the programmers had how many affiliate reps? They had affiliate reps all over the country. Now, they don't have any to speak of, you know?
LELA COCOROS: That’s right. I remember there were several that were based in Denver. Yeah, they’re all gone, right. Can you talk a little bit about financing and how that all worked for your companies?
TOM GLEASON: Well, I can tell you the first time after Dad sold the Sikeston complex, and I couldn’t build for Gerry Gill anymore, he and I went down to the local bank and made an SBA loan, or handshaking at the time, and that’s how we go started with the financing. And then we went through that money, and we went to Daniels to help us raise some regular debt, and they put us with the Industrial National Bank, as I recall, which became Fleet, and we borrowed. Dad had to put up -- I don’t remember -- something like $200,000 or something that he got from that other sale. He had to put that in and I’ve never seen him so nervous. When we borrowed, I can’t even remember --
JIM GLEASON: That was a million dollars.
TOM GLEASON: Was it a million? Yeah, it was a million or two million or some -- it wasn’t much, but that was the first go-around with a big bank and grew after that.
LELA COCOROS: So lots of companies, independent smaller companies started with local bank loans, right? Is that accurate?
JIM GLEASON: I think that’s right.
TOM GLEASON: Oh yeah, yeah.
JIM GLEASON: There were some specialty finance companies way back then that financed cable. But you ought to -- you really ought to tell that story about -- and what was the rate on that first loan.
TOM GLEASON: Oh, my god, probably 20-something percent.
LELA COCOROS: Oh my goodness. (laughter) Wow.
TOM GLEASON: Yeah.
JIM GLEASON: And then over time you know --
TOM GLEASON: It’s easier to borrow $20 million than it is one, actually.
JIM GLEASON: Over time, I think cable has just become in more favor -- in more favor and is financed easier. But if you think way back then --
LELA COCOROS: Well, that’s what I mean. It was a big risk back then.
TOM GLEASON: Yeah, right.
JIM GLEASON: That’s right. I mean, it was unproven. It was not in the mainstream necessarily, so --
LELA COCOROS: It’s very capital intensive and --
JIM GLEASON: And so, what, you found some pretty maverick kind of guys, and I mean that’s why --
LELA COCOROS: Risk-takers.
JIM GLEASON: -- there are so many bold personalities I think if you go back in cable history.
TOM GLEASON: Galaxy Cablevision had several different entities, but we did business as Galaxy Cablevision. We had an MLP back in the MLP days, publicly traded MLP. We raised money for that and then we -- Cable Max was a public company. It was on the NASDAQ. I remember going on that roadshow. We ended up in Europe raising money for Cable Max and ended up flying the Concord home, which was fun.
LELA COCOROS: Yeah, I would imagine.
TOM GLEASON: And then what else did we have at Galaxy? I mean that was --
JIM GLEASON: Well, it was probably a succession of maybe a dozen companies.
TOM GLEASON: We had public bonds, you know, so we raised money any way you could.
LELA COCOROS: Any which way.
JIM GLEASON: So we got into business with Pamlico Capital in 2003 when we started NewWave, a really, very, very, very small entity, and that was 16 years ago now. Hard to believe a company can be in business with a private equity firm for that many years. It’s pretty unheard of but --
LELA COCOROS: Pretty rare.
JIM GLEASON: -- we’ve done -- we did more than a dozen different acquisitions at NewWave, ultimately selling it in 2013, and then reinvesting with them.
LELA COCOROS: And you sold it to Time Warner Cable?
JIM GLEASON: We sold one tranche to Time Warner Cable and the other to Rural Broadband Investments, GTCR here in Chicago, and they bought the name and everything, and then we restarted Vast about 18 months later again with Pamlico Capital and now --
LELA COCOROS: Well, they came back for more, that’s a good sign.
TOM GLEASON: Yeah.
JIM GLEASON: They came back for more, and now, Oak Hill Capital is investing alongside them for this acquisition.
LELA COCOROS: So what are your plans for Vast going forward?
JIM GLEASON: It’s interesting. So we are now which -- so this -- people listening to these historical recounts will think badly of this, but we’re an overbuilder now. We used to think that was a bad term but until we got in the game, and so --
TOM GLEASON: But we are one.
JIM GLEASON: We prefer to call us a competitive provider -- and that’s what Vast started as. We bought some competitive systems from WOW! and we’ll be doing the same thing with NTS. NTS serves several West Texas markets, but they only have service in about a fifth to a fourth of the markets, and we plan to build out the rest of the markets. It’s a tremendous period of growth over the next five years for building new fiber-to-the-home plant.
LELA COCOROS: Very exciting. Where do you see the cable industry going from here overall? Or let’s talk maybe a little bit about the technology. You have a TiVo offering?
JIM GLEASON: We do. Yes, we’re a big TiVo platform.
LELA COCOROS: You have that then?
JIM GLEASON: It’s gone great, our customers love it, it’s a great user interface, and it’s been really popular. But where we see the industry going is a lot like where everybody else -- we’re going to be certainly way less video-centric. And so I wouldn’t... Video is just going to change. These next five years while we’re building things out, video become less and less a component, and it’s really not a big moneymaking component anymore anyway. So it’s all about broadband. But I think -- we all think, like most that are here at the Independent Show and in bigger cable operators is that we’ve got the best internet pipe to the customer’s home or to the customer’s business, and that’s only going to continue to grow. The customers are only going to continue to use more bandwidth, and we think that that pipe, whether it be fiber to the premise or DOCSIS, is going to be hugely necessary for bandwidth intensive applications. I mean every time --
LELA COCOROS: The applications that are coming down the pike.
JIM GLEASON: That’s right. Every time we upgrade internet speeds and throughput, applications are developed that need all of that and more. The cable industry looks like they are better positioned than any industry to deliver that kind of experience to what customers need. You know, we’re just really bullish on where that’s going to go even though the video business is really going to change a whole lot. And then I say, well, we’re not really in the video business, but we are because 48 percent of the internet traffic that we’re delivering today is video. So it’s just --
LELA COCOROS: It’s just a different way of delivering --
JIM GLEASON: Different how we’re going to contract for it and how we sell it and how the customer consumes it.
LELA COCOROS: So you received the 2019 Cablefax Independent Operator of the Year Award this year.
JIM GLEASON: Yes.
LELA COCOROS: Congratulations.
JIM GLEASON: Thank you.
LELA COCOROS: That’s very cool. What makes Vast Broadband different or distinguished from, for instance, other providers?
JIM GLEASON: You know, I think we are really... We were customer focused before it became cool in cable to be costumer focused, so I think we’ve always had a history of being good at that. I think we’re also very employee focused. It’s kind of the happy employees will make happy customers, and I think people like working at Vast. As a result, I think we end up being very successful. So we’re a very detail-oriented company, and we are very innovative -- one of the first companies to launch digital cable, one of the first companies to launch internet, one of the first independent companies to launch TiVo in that particular case. We try to be at the forefront of things, and as a result, we have been really successful at what we’ve done. And so I think when we looked at our application, we thought about it for a long time. We won the award at NewWave too, going back several years, and we thought about it in 2016, and we fully admitted to ourselves, we’re -- we were not the independent cable operator of the year. We didn’t run things as well as we should, and we just got better and better and better at all the aspects of what you look at and feel like that -- that we really were deserving this year anyway.
TOM GLEASON: For a long time, I can tell you that we’ve really been hands-on in the field. Larry Eby, our COO is -- I mean, he’s out there all the time. And I know some of these other companies that have operations far afield like we do, their field employees never see the top management. They just don’t go there, and I don’t know how you can run a company that way.
JIM GLEASON: We’ve been to South Dakota every two to three weeks for the last four and a half years, so we’re there all the time. We told the employees when we bought it, “You’re going to see a lot of us unlike the prior owners,” and sure enough, they said, “Well, you’re right, we do see you a lot.” (laughter)
LELA COCOROS: Better get the lunchroom cleaned up.
JIM GLEASON: That was just good news and bad news. I don't know how -- different for different employees.
LELA COCOROS: Yeah, I remember going to systems from corporate, and everybody was a little nervous and all that, and then when you kept going back, it was a lot easier and people were like, “Oh, OK.”
JIM GLEASON: That’s right.
LELA COCOROS: That’s great advice actually. And speaking of advice, for somebody who is just coming into their careers and stuff, and what advice would you give about somebody joining the cable industry at this point in time?
JIM GLEASON: Well, I would say that it’s -- if you were young and you were looking at very vibrant industry, this is one. And we probably have not done ourselves as good a service as we should in terms of it being a technology -- a cutting-edge-technology industry and attracting that kind of talent like maybe Silicon Valley does.
LELA COCOROS: It’s a perception issue.
JIM GLEASON: It is, but you think about what the cable industry does, the cable industry provides most of the internet access in the United States, and the technology that delivers it is becoming increasingly complex and actually meeting the needs. I mean, if you think about where cable’s come from, it filled a void that was there in the industry. And had it not been for cable, I don’t know where that would have been. And I don’t think the industry gets enough credit, particularly in DC, for the type of network that’s been deployed in the United States, almost all with private capital.
LELA COCOROS: Private money, right, exactly.
JIM GLEASON: Which is totally different than the rest of the world.
JIM GLEASON: Yeah. They keep getting these Connect America Funds going at the FCC and all that stuff, and that stuff, 99 percent of it either goes to a telephone company or a rural electric co-op, and the cable industry guys were sitting here saying, “Wait just a minute you know? You’re overbuilding me with government money.” (laughs)
LELA COCOROS: Yes. I’ve heard that a couple of times. And yeah, it’s funny. I met somebody recently who said, “Oh, I don’t get cable anymore. I cut the cord.” I said, “Well, who provides your internet?” She said, “Cox.”
TOM GLEASON: Yeah, yeah. Yes. (laughter)
LELA COCOROS: It’s like, “Um,” --
JIM GLEASON: OK.
LELA COCOROS: “OK.” (laughter)
TOM GLEASON: We’re talking about innovations that -- I think one of the innovations that we started, and I don't know who did it first, but we started building these retail stores in the bigger communities that look like the old cell phone stores, you know?
LELA COCOROS: Mm-hmm.
TOM GLEASON: In fact, we got a guy that designs cell phone stores to do it, and we had these beautiful, offices or stores that would demonstrate all of the products and everything, and it was totally different than the old cable office. And, now, everybody does it. Spectrum has a store in Sikeston and the COX innovative stores in Omaha.
LELA COCOROS: Yes, they’re all over --
TOM GLEASON: They’re all over the place, you know?
JIM GLEASON: We started that in 2003 realizing that that’s a way to differentiate us and improve the image of what cable was in that community.
LELA COCOROS: Right. So, yeah, even the word cable is kind of -- it’s kind of hard to let go of it. On the other hand, because of the perception, it’s hard to just call it cable and have people understand what really is behind it.
TOM GLEASON: To your example of the lady that said I don’t have cable anymore.
LELA COCOROS: Right, exactly, (laughter) “I cut the cord,” and she was so proud of that. But, anyway, is there anything else you’d like to contribute, add to your stories here?
JIM GLEASON: Not really other than it sure is an interesting industry, and there sure seems to be a long way to go yet if you think about how the internet is going to transform things, even going to the future. I mean what we are thinking about now, so we’re -- we offer one-gig speeds throughout our network. OK, we’re thinking about 10 gig now, and I think you’ve got to think about 10 gig because if you think about wireless technology or satellite technology that’s being developed, 5G is all the rage... I remember when 4G was all the rage, that was going to put us out of business. WiMAX was going to put out of business.
TOM GLEASON: There’s something you don’t even hear about anymore is WiMAX.
JIM GLEASON: Yeah. So, to me, you, we -- the industry has got to think about 10 gig next because, as we said, the applications that are going to be developed that fill up that 1-gig pipe are going to force us to go toward 10 gig. I think it’s interesting that the industry and even in the DOCSIS world already contemplates how that’s going to happen.
LELA COCOROS: Right.
TOM GLEASON: I don’t know who said it. Yesterday, somebody said he counted up and he had 41 web-enabled devices in his house, and if you start thinking about that…
LELA COCOROS: And if you’re a family of four, it just seems -- it’s just multiplied --
TOM GLEASON: And 5G is probably going to be OK, but that is never going to have the throughput of a hardwired connection.
JIM GLEASON: Well, you saw in the seminar yesterday, Dave Heimbach is with Shentel. They have a cellular component that they sell and then a cable component, and the thing that he notes, even today, their broadband customers that are on cable consume 20 times more bandwidth than their 4G cellular customers. Well, that’s not going to get less than that.
LELA COCOROS: That’s right. Well, thank you, gentlemen, very much for your time. I know you’re very busy.
TOM GLEASON: You’re welcome.
END OF INTERVIEW