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Nov 17, 2023
15 min

The Broadband Market Disruption Is Here: Community Is the Winning Playbook

Thank you to the nearly 300 CEOs, GMs, and COOs who joined us at Calix ConneXions 2023 this year. Many who took part for the first time told me it was the most valuable leadership event of the year, providing the opportunity to collaborate with ~3,000 attendees and engage with world-renowned authors Stephen Covey on trust, Daniel Pink on change and Michael Watkins on execution. 


At ConneXions we focused on how a broadband service provider (BSP) can move beyond speed with a “Grow Your Community” playbook. 


Almost every market will have two fast broadband providers—and if speed and price are the go-to-market strategy, commoditization and price wars are the only outcome—as we have seen in mobile. To compete and win, BSPs need a community strategy that empowers all aspects of the community: residential, business, education, multi-dwelling units (MDUs), and government. This community strategy will successfully add subscribers, margins, and cash flow (as every speaker on the ConneXions main stage demonstrated) as legacy network operators race to the bottom and fail. The market is ripe for the change that the Calix broadband platform is enabling.


Disrupting and Beating Legacy Network Operators: The Time Has Come

While legacy operators speak to investors about homes passed, the five customers who presented their stories on the ConneXions main stage shared how they are transforming their business and measuring success in a very different way. Those customers focused on connected subscribers, cash flow, subscriber satisfaction, and winning the community end to end. They shared how they focused on: 

  • Expecting to get more than 60 percent of passings connected across residential, small and medium business, MDU, education, and government. 

  • Reaching cash-flow positivity in two years and seven-figure profitability in just three years (achieved by the CEO of Tombigbee Fiber). 

  • Exciting customers to achieve a Net Promoter Score℠ (NPS®) of 70+, thereby enabling significantly higher profitability and the opportunity to expand services.

  • Winning the community’s hearts and minds by being the brand that bridges the digital divide—providing educational opportunities for students (via Calix SmartTown™), boosting the local economy by enabling small businesses (via Calix SmartBiz™), and ensuring physical wellbeing and mental health for families and kids (via Bark social media monitoring, which Calix customers are launching in just 7–21 days, with only Calix Service Cloud required).  

All of this is possible based on the simplifying power of the Calix platform, which yields the highest margins and the fastest time to market—as evidenced by the ConneXions speakers and hundreds of stories that customers shared with each other at the conference. 


The “Grow Your Community” Playbook: Death of the Legacy Player

At the conference, we talked at length about how a BSP can now serve the entire community—residential, government, business, and MDU—by leveraging the Calix broadband platform. The platform model has incredible power. Using an analogy to illustrate this power, I borrowed from a question posed originally by David Goodspeed, president of OEC Fiber: “Is a pickup truck a consumer vehicle or business vehicle?”



The answer is both. GM, Ford, or Dodge pickup trucks are all built as a platform. The platform has common components that allow it to scale and be easily customized for business or consumer use. (In fact, in American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford, this move to a platform model was the most important shift that CEO Mulally made to save the company.)


This analogy applies directly to the power of the Calix platform and Calix GigaSpire® BLAST systems. Are they consumer or business? The answer is both. The platform enables them to be both consumer and business; it just depends on what software is running—SmartHome™SmartBizSmartTownSmartMDU™, or ManagedBiz™.



The days of a single Wi-Fi appliance serving everyone are gone. In the residential example, there are small houses and big houses—covering everything from the pool, to farms, home workshops, concrete-walled or drywalled rooms, apartments, duplexes, and on and on. A platform enables mixing and matching of Wi-Fi appliances—small, medium, large, indoor, outdoor—to meet all use cases while keeping it simple, because every GigaSpire works with every GigaSpire in a nearly infinite number of permutations.


This capability enables the community playbook: Expand your business across the entire community by mixing and matching Wi-Fi appliances, and then running the right software:

  • Calix SmartHome™ to provide an experience that earns high NPS, along with incremental capabilities to protect and delight the subscriber while radically expanding to cover farms with the recently announced one-mile-reach outdoor Wi-Fi system.
  • SmartTown to enable a ubiquitous mesh across the town and delight the permit-providing mayor by providing broadband roaming for children, coverage of the local football field, and free roaming for first responders.
  • SmartBiz to ensure that local businesses are secure and thriving, while expanding in the future to offer new capabilities through newly announced ManagedBiz™ .
  • SmartMDU™ to finally offer property managers the business model they want in a simple and exciting way. 


Customer-Led Innovation Is the Way Forward

As I said on the main stage at ConneXions, all this innovation comes from our partnership with BSPs. Your ideas inspire us to expand our SmartLife™ solutions to meet new capabilities as you mix and match the systems to meet the needs of the entire community.


In this issue of the Leadership Beacon, we share video presentations from the leaders who spoke onstage at ConneXions. This year, Tombigbee, United Fiber, Hunter Communications, ALLO, and Lumos shared what is possible with the “Grow Your Community” playbook.   


If you joined us at ConneXions 2023, thank you. The feedback was so positive that we are going to open registration for the 2024 October 12–15 ConneXions Leadership Track (CEO/CFO/COO/GM) in December. Click here to save the date in your calendar now.

I do hope that I can host you at the next Leadership Track within ConneXions.


As always, I invite you to connect with me directly on LinkedIn or email me at if there is any way I can assist.

Wishing you continued success, 



President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

Michael is the president and chief executive officer (CEO) and is on the Board of Directors at Calix. He brings over 20 years of experience leading growth, strategy, and transformation. Michael served as the company’s president and chief operating officer. Over his career, he has held executive positions in North America, Europe, and Asia in leadership roles at Salesforce, Bell Mobility, and Microsoft. Michael received his B.A. in Business Administration from Brock University, supported by ongoing executive education at Queens, Wharton, and USC.

Leadership Lineup: Scott Hendrix, CEO, Tombigbee Fiber

Cash-Flow Positive in 2 Years With Calix: Tombigbee’s SmartTown & Differentiated Services Revolution in Rural Mississippi

Just a few years ago, I set a bold goal for our company: to show the world that rural Mississippi could lead the way in bridging the digital divide and transforming lives for the better. Our partnership with Calix has allowed us to bring that vision to life. From the start of our journey, we understood that offering just internet services wouldn’t cut it. Differentiated services like Calix SmartTown™ made us stand out. We even got amazing local news coverage for using SmartTown to get our high school football stadiums connected. Our communities—students, local leaders, families, and more—have had wildly positive feedback on the managed services we provide. 

Our remarkable results include:

  • Achieving cash-flow positivity in just two years—and seven-figure profitability in three years. This financial stability has allowed us to reinvest and serve our community in more advanced ways. 

  • Attaining a Net Promoter Score℠ (NPS®)* of 91. On the Friday afternoon we launched our NPS survey, we were told we might not even get 500 results. To our amazement, we had 500 results in the first 30 minutes and reached 3,000 by Monday. We decided to stop the survey on Monday afternoon, and our remarkable score is a powerful testament to our dedication to customer satisfaction and the effectiveness of our partnership with Calix.

  • Quickly launching Bark. With this social media monitoring tool, we are ensuring the safety of children against the harms of cyberbullying. As I shared onstage, Bark is not intended to generate revenue. If we can save even one life, that is priceless.


Keeping Kids Safe by Preventing Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying can have terrible consequences for kids, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. On this Connected Nations podcast episode recorded at Calix ConneXions, Matt Collins, chief commercial operations officer at Calix, and Scott Hendrix discuss how Tombigbee leveraged the Calix broadband platform to quickly launch Bark, the social media monitoring tool that helps parents detect and stop social media-based cyberbullying.


Leadership Lineup: Darren Farnan, General Manager, United Fiber

By Differentiating With Calix Managed Services—Securing 60–70% Take Rates—United Fiber Will Grow to 50K Residential and Business Subscribers in the Next 18 Months

United Fiber has been attending ConneXions for over a decade. This year, I was proud to share our story of incredible growth on the main stage. Starting in 2010, we developed a vision to serve our members and improve their rural way of life—turning up our first subscriber in 2013. Supported by $60 million in funding, we’ve grown to 45 communities, investing locally and partnering closely with city representatives and residents. Today, we are dominating the residential subscriber experience for our Missouri communities. How? We provide differentiated value with managed services.

That’s how we’re achieving great results such as: 

  • Getting 60–70 percent take rates in competitive communities where we’re up against copper cable providers. 

  • Beating our projections. For the first 5,000 homes we served, we had projected a 12-year return on investment. With the services we’ve provided, however, we achieved that goal in just four years. 

  • Giving $9 million back to our members in the past five years through rate discounts and advanced capital credits. Our last rate increase was in 2015. That’s unheard of for electric cooperatives and has really transformed our community—areas with some of the highest rates of poverty in the country.

  • Growing by 800–1,000 subscribers every month—and planning to be at 50,000 customers over the next 18 months.  


Taking the Next Step With HomeOfficeIQ™

As United Fiber continues to deliver value for their community, they plan to make HomeOfficeIQ available to deliver an exceptional work-from-home experience for their residential subscribers. Watch Michael Weening’s announcement about HomeOfficeIQ, which offers a wireless failover in the event of storms or cable cuts—enabling home office workers to continue to seamlessly stay engaged in their workflows. 


Leadership Lineup: Brad Moline, President, ALLO Communications

Even the Best-Resourced Competitors Will Always Be Guests in an ALLO-Served Community: With SmartTown and More, We Are Everything for Everyone

ALLO’s journey, which I’ve had the privilege of sharing at Calix ConneXions over the years, began in a small Nebraska town of 2,000 residents. Thanks to our steadfast partnership with Calix, we’ve evolved into a prominent service provider, extending our reach across Nebraska, Colorado, and Arizona. We are now dominating our markets by expanding rapidly to grow all aspects of our community by delivering offerings that serve the needs of everyone—businesses, government, and residential subscribers. Onstage, I called this approach of being everything for everyone our “moat.” That means the bigger competitors, even those who have vast resources, can’t come in and take anything, because it’s our town; they are just guests.

And our strategy is working, as we are seeing: 

  • Residential take rates at 65 percent, business at 75 percent, government at 85 percent, and education at an astounding 90 percent.
  • 25,000 students in 21 counties will benefit from Calix SmartTown™ by the end of the school year, encompassing schools, neighborhoods, and community events. Thanks to Calix, we are also enabling our first responders with SmartTown—at no incremental cost to us.
  • Small business enablement in multiple states with Calix SmartBiz™.


SmartTown Has Multiple Use Cases That Expand Value to the Community

SmartTown community Wi-Fi can help first responders answer emergency calls even when no cell service is available. Watch Michael Weening at Connexions extend the applications for SmartTown, including longer-range Wi-Fi.  


Leadership Lineup: Michael Wynschenk, CEO, Hunter Communications

Hunter Communications Uses Trusted Calix Partnership and Innovation To Win Risk-Averse SMB Customers With Calix SmartBiz

It was an honor to join ConneXions this year and share the Hunter Communications journey on the main stage. Our “why” goes beyond serving investors and our board of directors. During the past 30 years, we’ve evolved from a construction company into an internet service provider, initially specializing in commercial accounts. However, we were acquired at the onset of the COVID pandemic. That spurred a profound pivot where we expanded into the residential market and aligned our mission around helping every customer create lasting and meaningful connections to each other, their communities, and the world.

Along the way, we’ve developed a deeply trusted partnership with Calix. In turn, that has enabled us to build and maintain trust with subscribers—including our highly lucrative and underserved SMB customers.

We continue to achieve significant success: 

  • Achieving balanced revenue streams. We transitioned from a company with no residential customers to a 50/50 split between residential and commercial revenue—aligning with our mission of connecting communities.

  • Expanding into residential. With a multimillion-dollar, self-funded fiber-to-the-home project, we achieved remarkable revenue diversification.

  • Positioning ourselves perfectly to win the SMB market with Calix SmartBiz™. Calix provides a purpose-built, secure, and simple offering with its award-winning SmartBiz. With this managed service, we are ready to win highly risk-averse small and medium business customers. 


Purpose-Built Offerings From Calix To Own SMB Markets 

Small businesses have enough on their plates without needing to worry about broadband service, cybersecurity, and consistent connectivity. Watch Michael Weening discuss SmartBiz, the only Wi-Fi managed service custom-built for small businesses, along with the newly announced ManagedBiz™ for larger enterprises with IT teams. 


Leadership Lineup: Brian Stading, CEO, Lumos

On Track To Connect 1 Million Homes Over 5 Years, Lumos Looks to SmartMDU From Calix To Fuel Aggressive Growth

It was a privilege to share the remarkable journey of Lumos at ConneXions this year. Created from the merger of Lumos Networks and NorthState, we set forth to build fiber networks across underserved regions. In 2022, we connected 68,000 homes with fiber, with ambitious plans to double subscriber growth in 2023, reaching more than 1 million homes in five years. Many things set Lumos apart, but I will highlight a few: our dedicated employees who go above and beyond for our customers and local communities, our ability to grow and innovate rapidly, and strong support from partners like Calix.

They have enabled us to:

  • Develop a cutting-edge OSS/BSS system in two years. This has provided us with the operational autonomy crucial for our continued growth.

  • Achieve an impressive Net Promoter Score℠ (NPS®) of +75. We are fully committed to improving customers' lives and making incredible experiences a reality. Our 100 percent fiber-optic network allows our customers to enjoy uninterrupted access to work, school, telemedicine, and more - every hour of every day.

  • Make SmartMDU™ a key part of our growth strategy. With this offering, we will successfully meet the complex needs of the multi-dwelling unit market. MDUs could represent 20 percent of the market we will likely cover in the next five years. With this purpose-built solution, we have a simple way to ensure success.


Announcing New Innovations in Multi-Dwelling and Multi-Family Wi-Fi Solutions

As a managed service fully integrated for the Calix broadband platform, SmartMDU enables BSPs to expand their business by seamlessly serving the needs of MDUs. Watch Michael Weening introduce SmartMDU at ConneXions 2023.


*Net Promoter®, NPS®, NPS Prism®, and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld. Net Promoter Score℠ and Net Promoter System℠ are service marks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.