Bluebird Looks to Grow its Agent Channel

Up until now, Bluebird Network has lacked an agent channel. According to president and CEO Michael Morey though, this is no longer the case.

“Something’s changed in our business strategy,” Morey explained when we sat down with him at Metro Connect in Miami. “We’ve created a methodology where we identified our near-net fiber buildings and determined how much it will cost us to get to these. Now, if you can get somebody who wants to buy these speeds at a certain location, you can go do it. That’s an environment that can work for agents as long as there are enough buildings and opportunities to do that.”

As it turns out, Bluebird now has over 70,000 near-net buildings, along with a new simplified ordering process. The company updates its list four times a year, which they currently provide in the form of an Excel spreadsheet—a process that’s also about to change. According to Morey, Bluebird will soon put their KMZ file onto the web to simplify the search process for agents.

“If you’re an agent and you are looking at a certain area, you’ll be able to go on our website and take a look to see if we’re near your destination,” Morey said. “Then you can go to our spreadsheet and see whether or not that address is there. Every agent will have an assigned account representative that will work with them. If it works, I’ll tell them, yep, we’ll add it onto the list next quarter. They can go ahead and sell that on standard pricing. If it doesn’t qualify for the simplified order process or standard repricing, we will in fact do a special quote for it—going back to the old days. We’ll take a look, determine what the cost is, and get back to you.”

So in addition to providing fiber—the company is now sitting on a network that spans 9,500 miles and growing—Bluebird is working to make it easy for agents to locate potential destinations.

The company is expanding its scope, too.

“Bluebird has historically been focused in Missouri and Illinois and we’re using a strategy we call “dig in.” In other words, we’re looking to go deeper and deeper into Missouri and Illinois and edge out, which means we’re going to start trying to grow into the surrounding states. We already have services in some parts of Kansas, some parts of Iowa, some parts of Kentucky, some parts of Tennessee, and some parts of Indiana. And we plan to expand into Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin.”

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Yet while Bluebird traverses many rural areas, the company doesn’t necessarily classify itself as a rural network provider.

“We build fiber across rural areas to get to many second, third, and fourth tier cities, and so a lot of people say that Bluebird has a substantially rural network,” Morey continued. “And it’s true, we do cover a lot of rural areas—in fact, so much so that in the state of Missouri, we’re the second largest provider of internet access to secondary education schools. So we’re in a lot of places where other people aren’t. If you want to go to Kirksville, Peoria, the Quad Cities, Jefferson City, Columbia or Springfield, Illinois or Springfield, Missouri, you’re going to go through a lot of rural places to get there. But in places like Jefferson city, we are building our fiber deep and long.”

So a sales agent in Jefferson city, in other words, will have an abundance of resources to expand and grow their network.

“Our goal is to have 80 percent of all the potential businesses in any densification market to be one of our near-net, simplified order process buildings,” Morey said. “That’s now the case in Jefferson City and Springfield, Missouri. We’re hopefully going to be finished with Joplin, Missouri soon. And we have about 20 to 25 other cities that we plan to announce this year and next year that we’ll be doing additional densification work in.”

In addition, Bluebird offers a powerful data center in Springfield, Missouri.

“It’s a substantial data center,” Morey continued. “It is now full, and we are building 11,000 square feet of white space, so it’ll have 26,000 of white space. The facility itself is about 80,000 square feet. But if there’s somebody in Southwest Missouri looking for a lot of space, it will be coming online shortly. So if somebody wants to come take the whole thing, let’s do it. And we will pay agency fees on data center sales as well as fiber sales.”