Monday, December 31, 2007

Siricomm Pinheads Run For The Exits

Either I or Matt have mentioned problems in the past with getting online while on the road, not having much in the way of good WIFI from which to choose. The few good choices remain the same...but they'll be a little more lonely. For the worst of them has declared bankruptcy!!!

They are/were the biggest truck stop WIFI outfit in the country, and the most expensive. But they were also the most unreliable and pathetic bunch of hacks in the industry. I am speaking of Siricomm, which, until recently, could be found at nearly every Pilot, Petro, or Loves truck stop in the country. As of 12-29-07 they are history, along with hundreds of employees, most of whom had not been paid in nearly a month.

So what happened? Well, like Boston Market...a good idea at first, they pitched their tents in too many places and let quality go by the wayside. Siricomm could be found in more than three times the truck stops as the nearest competitor, but had all kinds of technical issues, not the least of which was poor reception on mildly cloudy days. The problem was that everything was done via satellite. Some WIFI providers use cell towers, others use underground cables to connect the truck stops with the host provider before beaming the signals to individual customers (most of whom sat in their trucks in truck stop parking lots). Siricomm beamed from their base in Joplin to satellites, and from satellites to truck stops, who beamed to customers. Along the way any storm, or approaching storm, or clouds, or approaching clouds, or pooping seagulls, or lost parakeets flying by would interrupt the signal causing the trucker much anguish.

The other problem was the cost. Siricomm was charging $189.00 for a year's worth of WIFI when other companies were charging $120.00 to $150.00 with far better service and 54 Mbps (vs. Siricomm's mere 11 Mbps). The only question I have at this point is this: How did they last this long???

My thanks to Matt for doing the typing and most of the research on this while I ate my ProPlan Hairball treatment cereal. Yum-yum.


Anonymous said...

For the record, SiriCOMM never had more than 30 employees. And, while a few (2 to be exact) contacted the Joplin Globe to complain about missed pay, the entire story was not printed. Did you ever wonder why SiriCOMM management wasn't quoted in the article?

If you take time to read any of the documents published online, you will read that SiriCOMM's business was not originally intended to be Internet access. Instead, the company looked to use the network to transfer application data. Satellite is a great backhaul for this type of data. But, alas,, who was in the same truck stops (Pilot, Love's, Petro), as an Internet service provider, filed bankruptcy. SiriCOMM stepped in to file the gap but the technology was not optimal for Web surfing. The engineers were hard at work optimizing the network for Web surfing when the company cash out--according to tech support, beta version was working at a few truck stops.

Many customers were left hanging without refund or notice, but that doesn't make SiriCOMM a "bad guy." Just like the Joplin Globe article, it's important to consider the story from all sides...SiriCOMM was a public entity and thus had to look after not only its customers but also its investors. It was, after all, the investors that enabled the company to achieve the little success it realized. SiriCOMM was in a pickle, not being able to communicate too much to customers for fear that investors would pull out, taking any hope of salvaging the sinking ship. Perhaps management should have been insightful enough to realize that the money wasn't coming and taking a different course of action, on centered more around customers and less around investors and trying to save ship. But, what's a dying man to do?

It's now 7 months later and still no other Wi-Fi provider has opened shop at Love's or Pilot. Have you considered why that might be? In a nutshell, the Capital Expenditure of providing Internet access at truck stops far outweighs the revenue potential, i.e. it's impossible for that business model to make money. What's a trucker to do? Me? I opt for a wireless card from Verizon.

Hopefully you will publish this comment because, despite my many words, it's important to consider all sides of the situation and to not immediately jump on the "they're trying to screw another trucker" bandwagon.

Buster Kitty said...

That was nice of you to comment, but my manservant is still out $190.00 after only 3 months of service!

I still have no sympathy.