That's beginning to change, thanks to the emergence of so-called multitenant broadband service providers.
These outfits -- typically start-ups -- work with landlords to wire buildings and offer tenants an alternative to services from the incumbent telephone company. The economics work out because multiple tenants share an access line, and because operators aim to address all voice and data requirements. This has been made feasible by the development of so-called multiservice provisioning platforms that funnel traditional telecom services such as Internet traffic and telephone calls on and off optical backbones. These platforms, which are typically SONET-based and incorporate DWDM technology, let carriers provision services rapidly from a remote console, and keep a log of the traffic they handle so they can generate bills for multiple clients.
Early users of these multitenant broadband service providers praise them for their fast installation times and excellent customer service. OnSite Access in New York, "just blew my socks off," says Deny Firebaugh, MIS director at Pace Communications Network, an investment bank in Encino, Calif.
The incumbent, Pacific Bell, repeatedly promised to install DSL service but kept moving the installation date back, month after month. Then OnSite turned up and got Pace Communications wired within a week.
Dan Lau, president of Phat Noise, a Los Angeles company that makes equipment for downloading music from the Internet and playing it in cars, reports similar experiences with his service provider, Eureka Broadband. Lau wanted scalability for his Internet connection to accommodate possible rapid growth of Web site traffic. "With Eureka, I can make a phone call and barely an hour later we can increase our bandwidth right up to T-3," Lau says.
It's a similar story elsewhere. Allied Riser Communications in Dallas "is a lot faster than the telephone company. It's been very responsive," says Ron Dukes, founder and president of Ron Dukes & Associates, an executive search firm in Chicago.
Still, finding a building that's already wired isn't that easy. Most multitenant broadband service providers are in the early stages of deployment. They cite plans for coverage in as many as 50 metropolitan areas, but it's tough to determine whether they're referring to general agreements with real estate companies, agreements with building owners covering specific office blocks, the installation of wiring or the actual service. At least one start-up, BroadBand Office in Falls Church, Va., refuses to giive information, saying rollouts are happening so fast that it can't give meaningful figures. (It could also mean it isn't as far advanced as it would like you to think.)