Dear Valued Customers,
After a particularly challenging year, I want to update you on where we are as a company and our path forward. But first, I want to personally acknowledge that I understand our business challenges with Sprint have also greatly affected you.
LTE Transition: Our Commitment to Keeping You Connected
It may feel as if our transition to Sprint’s LTE network has dragged on endlessly. With limited public views into the source of the delays,1 I know you endured months of uncertainty about the status of your Internet service through Mobile Beacon. During this time, I felt your frustration and it continued to add to my own when I couldn’t answer even your basic questions about next steps.
Although we worked earnestly to reach an agreement with Sprint directly, when resolution did not come, their decision to turn off the network you currently use for service escalated the situation to a public interest crisis. As someone who works closely on digital inclusion efforts, I’m well aware of the high costs of being disconnected.
After we informed you about a potential lapse, reduction, or loss in service, your stories kept pouring in. Many of you said you faced a total loss of Internet service, reinforcing how few affordable broadband options are available in our country. Your loss alone would have been huge, but the ripple effect in your communities added to the severity. Libraries were afraid they would have to shut down their Internet hotspot lending programs. Parents feared their children’s education would slide backward without Internet access at home. Nonprofit case workers would be greatly limited in their ability to provide services in the field.
As the founder of Mobile Beacon, our mission is extremely personal to me. Access more, reach more, help more. That’s the core of our service. It’s the thread that ties our mission to yours. Having served as Mobile Beacon’s first “salesperson” and “customer service representative,” I also have a personal connection to many of you. I know your names. I know how you use our service and what programs would no longer be possible without it. You were the ones who opened my eyes to the cycle of poverty that persists when people cannot connect to the tools and resources needed in the 21st century. You helped me shape the vision for Mobile Beacon and I have spent the last five years tirelessly trying to execute it.
Keeping you connected is precisely why we took your cause up to Sprint. And when that didn’t work, we pressed on, engaging advocacy organizations, the press, the Federal Communications Commission, and ultimately the court. Filing a lawsuit against Sprint was not a decision we made lightly. We had no illusions about how difficult it would be take on a corporate giant like Sprint; yet, there was no question in our minds that your access needs were — and are still — absolutely worth fighting for.
While our commitment to you has never wavered, the road hasn’t been easy. Like many of the nonprofit organizations we work with, we are a small staff (9 people) who do the most we can with what we have. We were not immune to the stresses of this situation. We stretched beyond our normal job descriptions to address the needs of the day. Many of us made sacrifices, including longer hours and missed family time, to fight as hard as we have (and continue to do) on your behalf. I’m truly grateful for the tenacity our team has shown throughout this process.
I’m also grateful to each of you who shared your stories, signed our petition, and trusted us enough to stick it out on this rocky road with us. I hope what we’re able to do next will demonstrate that your faith in us was not misplaced.
Our #1 priority continues to be taking care of you through a transition to Sprint’s LTE service. We finally started clearing several hurdles with Sprint. For example, they are providing our users with an LTE service plan without data caps. While we don’t have everything worked out yet, we are working feverishly in an effort to get each of you transitioned as quickly as possible.
As a thank you for your continued support and to assist with making this long-anticipated transition a reality, I’m proud to announce the Mobile Beacon “Convert & Connect” Device Donation Upgrade Program. Through this program, you will be eligible to receive a new LTE-enabled device at no cost to you for each active line of service you currently have with Mobile Beacon.
This one-to-one device exchange program is exclusive to our existing customers.2 As part of this program, you will need to purchase a one-year service plan for each LTE device you transition under this program ($10/month per device paid annually in advance). Each of you should receive an email from us with instructions for how to place your order between now and the first week of January.
To be clear, some challenges remain. I want to be upfront with you that there will be some bumps along the way. We are still defining and adapting processes behind the scenes with Sprint. They are working on resolving a number of functional problems with their ordering system, and we are laboring through some interim, manual workarounds to get things done. I cannot promise perfection, but I hope we’ve proven we will do all we can to get you to the finish line.
I hope this news helps you enjoy the holiday season just a little more. I wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a bright New Year from all of us at Mobile Beacon.
1 A description of our efforts to reach a resolution directly with Sprint are well laid out and publicly available. If you are interested, see pages 5-9 of John Primeau’s affidavit under “Timeliness of Application.”
2 This refers to our direct customers (e.g. schools, libraries and nonprofit organizations that we bill directly for service). We are currently in discussions with all our nonprofit partners (e.g. EveryoneOn, PCs for People, People’s Emergency Center) about next steps for their end users and hope to have an update ready to share early in the new year.