Five Questions With: Levi C. Maaia

Levi C. Maaia, vice president for Full Channel, talks to PBN about his company’s 30-year anniversary and the challenges and benefits of being a small, locally owned business among giant cable providers. More

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Five Questions With: Levi C. Maaia

COURTESY FULL CHANNEL
“The trick is to prove that bigger doesn't always mean better.”
Posted 7/4/12

Levi C. Maaia, vice president for Full Channel, joined the Warren-based cable provider in 2004. Under his leadership, Full Channel has successfully turned around a declining subscriber base while making its first forays into digital and high-definition television, IP telephony and renewable energy solutions.

The company, Rhode Island’s only family-owned, independent broadband provider, celebrated its 30th anniversary in June.

PBN: You just celebrated your 30 year anniversary in mid-June, what do you think has led to Full Channel's success?

MAAIA:Beginning in the 1990s, cable providers in Rhode Island began to consolidate. Through a series of mergers and acquisitions, the original regional companies that provided television services to different service areas around the state began to disappear. My grandfather John Donofrio, refused to sell Full Channel and in 2001 became the first small operator to compete against a large provider like Cox Communications. This highly competitive environment has actually led to the continued success of the company. With pressure on all sides to provide the best possible services, Cox, Full Channel and now Verizon (the telephone giant began offering FiOS TV and Internet in some parts of the state in 2007) are held to an even higher standard by their customers. Many industry insiders did not think Full Channel could rise to that challenge but the company's existence today and continued success for more than a decade after the increase in competition is proof that we can compete.

PBN: Full Channel currently has 22 employees at its Warren headquarters, how has the company grown in its 30 year history?

MAAIA:My grandfather incorporated Full Channel in 1965 and spent almost 20 years as the only family-owned company lobbying for a cable franchise in New England. It would not be until 1982 that the State of Rhode Island would assign him Bristol County. Over the years the company has evolved from primarily a cable television provider into a full-service communications company. The continual evolution and increasing sophistication of services in the industry requires Full Channel itself to continue evolving. Full Channel has been known as a trailblazer since the 1980s when it launched addressable set-top converters to allow for the delivery of then-new premium channels. In 2002, Full Channel was the first in Rhode Island to lead with second-generation cable modems. Today, we are preparing to launch online streaming video coverage from the London Olympics games next month.

PBN: You tend to see tons of ads for the big cable service providers. As a smaller operation, what does Full Channel offer customers that the big providers can't or don't?

MAAIA:Full Channel has always been and continues to be locally owned and operated. When you call our office you can speak with someone in Warren who actually knows the technician who installed your services by name. They might have even had lunch together that day! Last year when the local broadcasters told Bristol Parade committee that there was not room on broadcast TV for the Fourth of July Parade, Full Channel stepped in, as a community service, to stream it for the first time live online to the world. Big corporations talk about being "local" but Full Channel truly has its roots in Rhode Island and continues to serve its customers and communities with an immediate responsiveness that only a small business can.

PBN: Have you done any recent updates to your infrastructure?

MAAIA:When the company started offering services in the early 1980s, there were just a couple dozen channels of cable television. Since then, the expanse has grown to incorporate hundreds of channels, digital TV, Internet and telephone services. Most of the infrastructure upgrades to accommodate these new services – such as our conversion from all-copper cable to a rich fiber-optic network in the early 2000s – are invisible to our customers. We always adding new capacities to our network to offer the fastest speeds for video streaming and provide for the increasing number of connected devices like tablets and smartphones that users are bringing into their homes. Full Channel’s HD lineup is always growing with new channel launches always on the agenda. Our newest phone services, launched last year, connect our residential customers to the world at a fraction of the price using advanced digital networks. And we are launching the new Full Channel Digital Phone for Business platform this summer.

PBN: What advice to you have for small businesses in a market dominated by big companies - like the cable market?

MAAIA:The key to Full Channel's success has been its ability to define itself as a local, family-owned business and living up to the demands of that reputation by going the extra mile for customers. Our competitor has a good reputation for customer service nationwide but Full Channel has the agility of a small company, which provides personalized services. Every small business needs to define itself in a way that potential customers can easily see the benefits of choosing it. For every mom and pop shop around, there is a big national competitor vying for its customers. The trick is to prove that bigger doesn't always mean better.

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