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Behind the list with Allen Deckert

Chief executive officer of CTI Networks Inc./Pa.net

Q: How did you get into Internet services?
A: We started in 1995. I was a consultant at the Army War College planning their war games. Denise was a nurse. We wanted a change, and we just saw the opportunity that existed to be an Internet entrepreneur.

Q: How challenging is this business?
A: It’s always been difficult. Most of it in the beginning was technology related. At this point, we’ve converted about a third of our customers to broadband, which is a huge percentage.

Q: Is it difficult to get people to switch over from dial-up?
A: It isn’t available everywhere. And there’s certainly a price point. When you order bundles, you get services and taxes that add to the price. There’s a price and convenience to dial-up. There are also some people who live in a high-pressure technology world at work, and they don’t want that at home.

Q: What’s driving consolidation of Internet service providers?
A: The phone companies entered the market. They weren’t in it in 1995. There were too many computer issues. Today, the computers are better, and the Internet is not regulated the way old voice lines were. Sixteen of the top 25 companies on the Internet are cable and phone companies. Today, you only have consolidation and (customer) take-aways, but you need a really good marketing strategy to get people to switch. It’s not easy.

Q: How do you expand your business?
A: There was a time when we had many customers in Perry County. But you’re not going to have 50 or 60 percent market share anywhere now. So you have to expand geographically. Having ads in the phone book has helped with that. People don’t believe you’re real until they see you in two different places. Name recognition is a big way to gain market share, new customers. Most of our new customers are coming from outside Pennsylvania.

Q: Where do you see ISPs in 10 years?
A: There will be fewer. The ones left will be the ones like us that have reached a critical mass. They’ll have the ability to provide broadband, be full-service providers and be open seven days a week. The competition with the phone and cable companies will be similar.
-Jim T. Ryan

About Allen Deckert
Allen Deckert, 53, and wife, Denise, live in East Pennsboro Township, Cumberland County. Deckert spent 13 years as an officer in the military. Denise is Pa.net’s human resources manager. The Deckerts have lived in Central Pennsylvania since 1985. From October to March is the busiest time of year for Pa.net, with the Deckerts working 12- and 14-hour days. When they get some time off, they visit a summer home in Dubois, Clearfield County. The Deckerts have three children: Danielle, 21, a physical therapist; Brandon, 19, a business major at Kutztown University; and Andrew, 17, a student at East Pennsboro Area High School.

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