Great Basin widens its reach
In a price war among its competitors,
Great Basin Internet Service would be a
Instead, the Reno-based company
believes its customers are willing to pay
premium prices so long as they get premium
service to match.
The company’s price for basic dial-up
service $21.95 a month is nearly
double what some local competitors
charge for a roughly similar connection.
Netzero, the national Internet service
provider, continues to provide a limited
Internet connect for free, and a fair number
of Internet providers hover around
the $15-to-$20 monthly price point.
Julie Robertson, Great Basin’s chief
operating officer, leaves no doubt about
her company’s strategy:
“We do not compete on the basis of
price,” she said in an interview a few days
ago. “We try to provide good value for
What constitutes good value?
Employees of Great Basin Internet
will go out to the home of a customer
who is having trouble getting his computer
to make connections.
It’s not uncommon, meanwhile, for
customers to unplug their computers and
bring them down to Great Basin’s new
office on Moana Lane for technicians to
look things over.
Customer-service employees pride
themselves on their ability as teachers,
helping customers learn to navigate the
‘net and their own computers.
“Everybody in this company is a customer-
service person,” said Robertson.
The strategy worked.
With 9,000 subscribers, Great Basin’s
reach stretches beyond northern Nevada
to include customers in Las Vegas and
throughout northern California as well.
As a regional Internet service provider,
it’s smaller than the big players the
AOLs and Earthlinks of the world but
bigger than the mom-and-pop shops that
continue to find a place in the business.
And more important than the customer
numbers is this: Great Basin
Don’t look, however, for Julie
Robertson and her husband, Bruce the
company’s chief executive officer and
technical heart to sell their company.
Instead, they want to solidify Great
Basin’s position as a one-stop shop for
Need a DSL line? Design of a Web
site? Help getting your firm registered on
search engines? Assistance with a local
area network? Great Basin markets itself
as the “Internet Solutions Provider.”
That’s a role the company has tried to
fill since the early 1990s when Bruce
Robertson pretty much was the Internet
for a hardy band of followers in Reno.
A software consultant, Bruce Robertson
had been messing around on the early,
text-only Internet through a connection
at the University of Nevada-Reno.
UNR kicked all the non-university
users off their connections. Robertson
found a Bay-area company that would
run an Internet connection to Reno and
promised his wife that he’d round up
three or four people to share the expense.
By 1994, he was ready to launch Great
Basin Internet Services.
That was only months before the
introduction of the World Wide Web, the
first time that graphics and pictures were
available on the Internet.
“Once pictures were an easily accomplished
feature, that was when everything
went boom,” recalled Julie Robertson.
“We were the first true ISP in the area.
Once the word got out that by calling
Bruce, you could get access to the
Internet, people found us.”
The company’s growth in the mid-
1990s was eye-popping.
Monthly subscriber counts grew by
40 to 60 percent. Nevada Bell was adding
a new line to Great Basin’s main office at
the time an old bakery on Fifth Street
every couple of days.
“It was craziness. It was all we could
to do to sign people up and get them on
line,” said Julie Robertson.
And while the company was making
money in those days, it needed to pour
cash into upgrading its services as fast as
the dollars rolled in the door.
In 1997, it took a big step toward
widening its footprint in the market when
it acquired Spider Internet ommunications,
a Web-design firm.
Never has the need for great customer
service been more evident than during
those crazy early days. One customer
called the company for help making a
connection to the Internet.Whenever he
called the access number, he explained, all
he got was an unusual sound. After some
conversation, Great Basin employees figured
out what the customer needed: He didn’t have
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