Look eyes high-speed for growth

Look Communications Inc. Wednesday made what its president called the most important launch since the firm emerged from creditor protection earlier this year.

The Toronto-based Internet service provider introduced a high-speed

wireless service called UltraFast for small and medium businesses in Ontario and Montreal. The company is specifically going after under-served pockets of the country, industrial parks and commercial districts. Ultrafast’s 750 Kbps and 1.5 Mbps options include wireline 1.5 Mbps and 3.0 Mbps ADSL and ISDN high-speed Internet access for customers that require it.

Look went through a major overhaul over the course of last year after suffering more than $100 million in losses in one quarter. The company reduced staff, reprioritized and presented a plan under the Companies’ Creditor’s Arrangement Act that was accepted in December and carried out by February.

Paul Lamontagne, the company’s president and CEO, said Look will continue to change revenue mix by promoting its products in the small enterprise segment while growing its digital television business in the multi-dwelling unit (MDU) area. He said the firm knows of at least 5,000 Look-ready buildings with a potential customer base of 200,000 in Ontario and Quebec.

“”This company has learnt from the lessons of the past,”” he said. “”It will not make the same mistakes again and is, quite frankly, uniquely positioned with its balance sheet, the resources and the focus of its team to be able to meet its business objectives.””

The restructuring taught Look a lot about the kinds of customers it serves, Lamontagne said. At the height of its financial difficulties, Lamontagne said he issued a letter to customers with his personal e-mail address and set up a 1-800 direct line to his office where they could share their concerns.

“”I got hundreds of calls,”” he said. “”The fact that the president of the company was interested in knowing — I want to hear the bad news. I want to hear when there are issues, because we’ll fix it. And once it’s been fixed, I think the customer appreciates the fact that they’re not just a number. They’re a name.””

Core 7 Technologies Inc. in Campbellville, Ont. is one of the Look customers that has stuck by the company through its transformation. David Dawe, the system builder’s vice-president, said it had a contingency plan to move to another provider, but in the end it never made the switch. “”Their price and what they deliver for the product — for our needs, anyway — has been really good,”” he said. “”Not to say that they had a few days — or a month, actually — where you’d have an outage for a little bit each day.””

Lamontagne said 85 per cent of Look’s customers told the company it had offered very good or excellent service in a customer satisfaction survey. Dawe said the company’s support system could still use some work.

“”If you’re phoning in and trying to get some questions (answered), yeah, that’s a real bad area. It takes a long time,”” he said. “”We’re pretty technically savvy, so we don’t usually phone if we’ve got something. We just look at it ourselves.””

In Ontario, UltraFast will be available to customers in Ajax, Brampton, Burlington, Dundas, Hamilton, Markham, Milton, Mississauga, Oshawa, Oakville, Pickering, Richmond Hill, Toronto, Vaughan and Whitby. Quebec regions include Montreal Island, North Shore and South Shore.

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