Navigating the Minefields of Sourcing New Internet Services

Navigating the Minefields of Sourcing New Internet Services

Contributed by Michael Starr

Sourcing an internet circuit for your business is straightforward task, right? After all, all bandwidth is created equal – a connection is a connection. You pick up the phone, call your local provider, and they send an installation technician out the following day. The technician is friendly and knowledgeable. They install carrier-grade equipment along with a dedicated UPS in your network rack on the 14th floor, exactly where you want it. They wire it up to your network, ask you to make a couple of changes to your firewall, walk out to a cubicle, and confirm you can access all your business-critical applications before they ask for a signature and head out the door, right?

Well, not exactly.

Sourcing business class internet services can be a minefield. With monthly costs ranging from $100 per month to $5,000 per month, where do you begin? What questions should you be asking to ensure your business has exactly what it needs? Understanding SLAs, equipment requirements, wiring requirements and where the carrier responsibility ends and yours begins (hint, it’s often nowhere near where you expect it) can get very tricky—and very costly—if the right questions aren’t asked up front.

Navigating the Minefields of Sourcing New Internet Services

Map It Out

Let’s say you decide on ordering a dedicated internet service from a top ISP. You sign a contract and the “Wheels of Provisioning” start turning. What happens now?

First, more paperwork! Complicated IP Justification forms, BGP configuration forms, verifying local contacts, bandwidths, correct and complete addresses including suite and room identifiers, etc. It’s important to know that a harmless mistake here may not be so harmless after all. Missing a suite number, making a wrong assumption on an IP form, misunderstanding what parts of the building a tech needs access to can all result in costly change fees and delays in delivery timelines. Keep in mind that any promises not in writing in your contract probably won’t be upheld! You may want to consult someone with prior experience before putting a signature on that 3-year contract.

Survey the Land

OK, paperwork is done. Next, a technician is going to come to your building to perform a site survey determining what needs to be done before a successful installation can take place. The survey often results in a “EUCR” document being produced, or “End User Contingency Requirements.” Sounds fun, right? Typical requirements before installation are power, space, and wiring. 

Do service providers expect you to hire an electrician, provide a dedicated electrical outlet, mount fire-rated plywood backboard and install a few hundred feet of conduit? Well, the answer unfortunately is, “it depends.” Some carriers will complete these requirements for you. Some will do it free of charge. Some will do it for a fee. Some won’t do it at all. Some will even consider any delay to be affecting their bottom line and start billing you for services that are not even installed! 

Sometimes the survey shows that the closest fiber optic line is a few hundred feet from your building. It’s important to know that if there is any construction required, especially if permitting is involved for access to public telephone poles, city manholes, or the dreaded “running new wire across a railroad track”, the provider’s timeline goes out the door, so it’s important to have a backup plan ready. 

One thing is for sure: Service providers make lots of mistakes! It’s a full-time job to ensure the carrier adheres to the correct details of your order. This means constant follow-up and radical accountability.

Understand the Plan

At the end of the day, no one likes surprises. The key to navigating this minefield is understanding the intricacies before you decide on which provider you want to partner with and educating your stakeholders on what the process is going to look like. The least cost option from a monthly perspective may end up costing several thousand dollars more that you expected. It may make more sense to agree to a slightly higher monthly to ensure the carrier does all the work up front. 

Having managed and implemented thousands and thousands of circuits on behalf of our clients over two plus decades, we have walked this path countless times. Our dedicated SMEs guide customers to a smooth and as predictable experience as possible.

Don’t walk into a minefield alone. Bring someone you can count on with you. Someone who’s got metal detectors.