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ABC Communications: Making Connectivity Easy as ABC in B.C.
ABC Communications (ABC) has emerged as a leader in bridging the digital divide for rural British Columbians, delivering exemplary service from its eight locations for the northern part of the province, the Lower Mainland and everywhere in between. The company’s four divisions – NET Link, WEB Link, VOICE Link and MOBILE Link – provide Internet, telecommunications and mobile communication services, including ADSL, wireless, fibre optic, smartphones, domain names, web hosting, commercial phone systems and more to connect users.
Growing through a series of strategic partnerships and proactive acquisitions, ABC is a full-range company that owns and operates its own network with over 160 wireless microwave sites across the interior of British Columbia. Needing technicians to keep the network running, ABC maintains a workforce of 50 that is split between various communities, including Penticton, 100 Mile House, Burns Lake, Quesnel, Prince George, Vancouver and Kelowna.
A Byte of the Action
An interest in computers and deregulation of the telephone industry in the late 1980s led founder and CEO Bob Allen to start the company with his wife Christine in 1989. They went on to build the company into its current state – an award-winning, $6 million-a-year success. Allen was an electrical contractor in the 1980s when the first retail personal computer came on the market, sparking his interest and pointing him toward the path that would lead to ABC. “Computers fascinated me!” Bob shares. He bought one, explored how to customize it, and set out to learn programming. He was hooked, and went into business selling computers.
“In the beginning we sold computers and installed Toshiba office phone systems,” recalls Bob. “Then dial-up Internet started in 1994 and we jumped into that with enthusiasm.” But ABC’s true success – its existence really – was made possible by deregulation. “It goes back to the dawn of deregulation of the telecommunications industry, which was a monopoly,” shares Bob. “In the mid-1980s, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission [CRTC] deregulated the installation of office and telephone equipment so that you could purchase it from someone other than your local telephone provider. We’ve followed the competitive twists and turns of the communication’s industry over its history since then. Today many, many aspects of the industry are deregulated and we operate in most of them.” Indeed, Bob has led ABC through the industry’s many twists and turns, growing the company into the largest privately held provider of integrated telecom services in British Columbia’s Interior.
The TELUS Partnership
Along with deregulation, strategic diversification paved the road for ABC’s expansion. Allen always had the drive, but he realized ABC was initially a David among Goliaths so he quickly forged a significant strategic partnership with Canadian telecom behemoth and household name TELUS Communications, a company that has provided phone service to Canada for more than a hundred years.
“Rather than being a new competitor, instead of going head-to-head, we chose the path of partner,” explains Bob. “We formed a niche partnership with TELUS. TELUS is a great partner and very progressive. By supplying a mix our products along with our partner’s products, we have brought high-quality Internet service to many rural and First Nations communities throughout the province. We also use our fibre and microwave network to supply British Columbia’s resource industry’s urban and remote locations.”
License to Kill
In addition to its successful partnership, ABC has its own large rural broadband network. “Spectrum in Canada is awarded through an open auction process, and ABC is fortunate to have won spectrum in two spectrum auctions,” explains Bob. “With access to LTE spectrum across most of British Columbia, ABC can provide Internet services that match those of the larger carriers. We’re a small-business success story.”
ABC holds spectrum ranging from the 3.5 GHz Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) bands to the high-frequency 38 GHz bands, where Gigabit speeds are available.
A sense of community is imbued in both ABC’s corporate culture and its activities. Allen is passionate about being both a community and industry leader, and sharing his years of experience and knowledge. For example, he enjoys serving as current president of the British Columbia Broadband Association. “That’s a group of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) here in British Columbia,” he shares. “By combining our voices we are able to communicate effectively with TELUS, the CRTC and the provincial government.”
ABC has big heart and is dedicated to community, service and family. The company was nominated in December 2012 for the Prince George Chambers Service Excellence of the Year Award. It was recently thanked for its Gold Sponsor support of Operation Red Nose, a public-safety program that provides rides for impaired drivers during the holiday season. ABC also works closely with The Salvation Army. And parents applaud ABC’s mailsanta.ca effort, where kids can email and receive email back from Santa.
“We value our worker experience here at ABC; it’s a good environment,” states Bob. “We like to have long-term employees. It’s better for business.” Operating with a friendly, knowledgeable, reliable approach has allowed ABC to establish a substantial roster of repeat residential and business customers.
After 23 years, Allen is proud that ABC continues to be a family affair. His son, Chris, who has been with the company for more than a decade, has taken the reins as president while Allen sets in motion plans to transition from active day-to-day management to Chairman of the Board. “I want to support and direct and remain an investor, but I would like to let the younger guys step up,” shares Bob. “It’s a good family business, it’s solid financially, and we have a great partner in TELUS.”
When asked about the opportunity, Chris beams, saying, “Sometimes, when I step back from the day-to-day operations and really look at what we’ve built together, I’m amazed. I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to continue to grow the family enterprise. We have a great team at ABC and I’m ready to lead it into the future.”
As the broadband and telecommunications industry continues to grow, ABC Communications is sure to remain in the game, adapting to new developments in technology and reinforcing infrastructure that benefits its communities.