A Hunter Communications Customer Success Story: Blackstone Audio

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Easy Listening: Blackstone Audiobooks & Hunter Communications’ fast, reliable fiber broadband and fiber powered voice services, backed by amazing supports

Customer: Blackstone Audio
Products & Services: Audiobooks, eBooks, print books
Industry: Publishing
Organization Size: 200+
Location: Main office in Ashland, Oregon with offices in Portland and New York City
Hunter Products & Services: 10Gb Dedicated Internet Access + Analog and SIP Voice Services

If you buy an Audible book on Amazon, there’s a good chance it was uploaded by Blackstone Audio. The largest independent audiobook publisher in the United States, Blackstone had its beginnings in 1987 in a small garage in Southern Oregon. The family-run company built the business one cassette tape at a time, always looking for creative ways to collaborate with publishers and booksellers to serve book lovers everywhere.

A few years ago, Blackstone expanded and began publishing print and eBooks as well. Audiobooks and digital publications have seen incredible growth, especially within the last year. Many industry experts view digital audiobooks as the fastest growing format in publishing, with no sign of slowing down.

For Blackstone Audio, sufficient bandwidth to handle gigabytes and terabytes of data is now business critical.

The Challenge: Unreliable and inadequate internet
In the past, Blackstone obtained fiber broadband internet from a local telecom provider. However as the business expanded, the publishing company was uploading higher and higher volumes of audio to their partners and websites. Problems arose as they experienced more and more issues with their existing internet, even though they were supposed to be receiving gigabit fiber the throughput would decrease dramatically under heavy load.

“Our connection would slow down and we didn’t feel we were receiving the amount of bandwidth that we were paying for,” stated Geoff Jukes, director of IT at Blackstone Audio. Jukes joined the company 10+ years ago and is responsible for all infrastructures and internally facing technology, including public web infrastructure and the information that drives it. While investigating alternatives, it was determined that the local provider was using Hunter Communications for their backend service – which meant Blackstone was essentially paying for a slice of a gigabit service that their provider was buying from Hunter.

“We went straight to Hunter and asked, what can you do for us?” Jukes stated.

Hunter Solution
Hunter provides a customized 10 gigabit dedicated internet solution, delivered over fiber optic broadband, and VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol, digital telephone service.

Seamless transition to Hunter fiber
One of Blackstone’s biggest concerns was losing their internet connection.

“The transition to Hunter was seamless. There was zero downtime. Hunter was able to take up the existing fiber and provision our circuit within 10 minutes. Literally a flip of a switch,” says Jukes.

Reliable VoIP services with high bandwidth availability
Like many businesses, it’s extremely important that customers can reach Blackstone via phone. VoIP systems offer attractive cost savings compared to traditional phone lines. A typical concern moving to VoIP versus traditional telephone service is availability. If Blackstone uploads terabytes of data to its partners, how will that affect phone service? What happens to call quality? What if the internet goes down? Blackstone tapped into the fiber already provided by Hunter and added fiber powered VoIP services. Blackstone runs their own PBX internally and by adding Hunter’s VoIP services, they are able to expand service capabilities at a moment’s notice.

“Over the years our phone lines have never gone down and we’ve never had a call quality issue,” says Jukes.

Through the COVID-19 pandemic & Oregon’s wildfires
Blackstone now distributes all their audio, along with some of their partners’ audio, to third parties through an audio delivery system that pushes out hundreds of gigabytes a day through the internet connection from Hunter. When the COVID-19 pandemic unexpectedly forced businesses to close and employees to work remotely, Blackstone was ready. They switched 150 employees from working in the office to remote working over a single weekend.

According to Jukes, “At no point did we worry that our internet connection wouldn’t be able to handle that. Which was amazing, honestly. Our productivity was not impacted at all.” Audiobook and book sales have risen dramatically, as a consequence of the pandemic. Blackstone has since been expanding, hiring additional engineers, sales and exhibitions staff and acquired more production facilities.

“Hunter made this possible because we have not even once worried about our internet connection,” says Jukes. The devastating Almeda Fire that spread through Ashland, Oregon during September 2020 consumed 3,200 acres, nearly 3,000 structures and at least three lives. Hunter lost infrastructure, yet Jukes is impressed with how Hunter responded to their customers. “Hunter was able to get our service back up in less than half an hour — it was amazing!”

Like others, Jukes followed the media updates on the wildfires closely. “Hunter was out there rebuilding their network and getting internet connections set up for first responders and people who’d lost their homes and businesses. That is huge. It makes me feel valued. It makes me feel Hunter values their partnership with Blackstone, as opposed to just being another customer.”

About Hunter’s approach
“As a small IT department, one of the most important things for us is that we need to reduce our headaches. We don’t have a team of 20 to monitor everything. With Hunter, I never worry about our internet connection. I never worry about our voice services. Hunter has been amazing.”

—Geoff Jukes, Director of IT, Blackstone Audio
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