Connecting Communities Through 5G

Internship Pitch Project
May '18— Aug '18
user research // concept pitch // internship project
Brian Flynn + Vikram Kumar

During the summer of 2018, I interned at Spectrum (Charter Communications). I split my time between working with the Kite Design Systems team and working with my fellow interns on a pitch to “Beat the Best”. Originally, "Beat the Best" was a call to help make Spectrum #1 in the cable industry. However, this evolved into more of a question of "How can we be better?" Our task was to gain a thorough understanding of the cable industry over the span of 10 weeks through desk research, customer surveys, and Subject Matter Expert (SME) interviews, and then propose an innovative solution to the problems we identified.


May '18

Jun '18

Jul '18

Aug '18

Problem Identification
Card Sorts
Customer Survey
Interviews with SMEs
Concept Strategy Development
Strategy Refinement
Prep Pitch
Final Pitch


For three interns with no previous experience within the cable industry, it was a significant undertaking to understand the problem space and come up with a specific solution. ​First, we sent out an experience survey to over 200 actual cable and internet subscribers to understand their pain points. In one key question, we asked participants how they'd describe the cable industry in three words— the resulting word cloud is shown below:

While expensive was the most common word, a lot of the negative terms used to describe cable are about industry perception rather than cable experience. Further investigation revealed there was also a big satisfaction disparity between people in rural and urban locations. Those in rural locations identified internet speeds, choice, and price as their biggest pain points, while those in urban location were generally happy with their cable and internet experience.

"While cable coverage is great, there is limited internet packages in our area. I called... I was informed that I have the highest internet speed available in my area. With two kids always on phones, Netflix and video games our internet wifi gets bogged down" (survey participant)  

In parallel with our customer research, we also looked internally to see what experts in the industry believed the cable's biggest problems were. The SME's we interviewed included Senior Directors, Vice Presidents, and even an Executive Vice President. These conversations helped us develop our understanding of the cable industry, the breadth in problem spaces that we could look into, and a general idea of Spectrum's future strategies.


Scanned photos from one of our many brainstorming sessions.

Throughout our research, we held several team brainstorming sessions that primarily consisted of post-it generation and card sorting. Some of our prompts included company mindset, customer perceptions, customer complaints, and any other problems and potential solutions we identified. We held several brainstorming sessions as we gathered information and refined the project scope.

Ultimately, we decided to center our ideas around the mantra "Empower. Connect. Entertain." to guide our final solution. Combined with our research insights, we focused on how we could change company mindset as well as public perception by making improved access to difficult to connect homes a more central component of Spectrum's business strategy.


As part of our research process, we also created several personas to help underscore our target markets. These markets included: 

  • Customers in rural areas
  • Customers in areas that do not meet Spectrum's commitment to 1 Gpbs speeds
  • New developments

The problem space we identified focused primarily on expansion, not replacing existing technologies. That meant our target markets did not include: 

  • Customers who already has Spectrum's 1 Gbps speeds through coax or fiber optic cables
  • Areas with strong cable competitor presence
Condensed persona profile for Jenny, who represents one of our target customer types. This slide is from the final pitch presentation.

The Solution

Our final pitch centered around passed homes in rural areas within Spectrum's network. These are homes that live within Spectrum's footprint, but cannot access Spectrum products because of the high upfront cost connecting the homes would require. This is colloquially known as cable's last mile problem. Our solution focuses on using 5G technology, or Fixed Wireless Access, to connect passed homes at a fraction of the cost so that they can receive the same high quality services that are available to the rest of Spectrum's network. This is a technology that Spectrum and its competitors are already developing, and it has the potential to be over four times cheaper than coaxial cable and seven times cheaper than fiber to implement to unconnected homes. However, by focusing distribution in typically overlooked regions, Spectrum can also improve its image as a cable company. ​

Simplified overview of how Fixed Wireless Access networks (5G) works in neighborhoods.


One of the biggest challenges we faced throughout the process was convincing stakeholders that 5G provided a viable alternative for homes where it is difficult to connect by cable, and many of Spectrum’s competitors were already investing in Fixed Wireless Access. This resistance mostly came from more senior executives. We did, however, take their points and end up reinforcing and strengthening our arguments. 

Days before our final presentation, the state of New York announced that it was going to ban Spectrum services from the state for not meeting its commitment to expand service to rural areas. This announcement only underscored the importance of the strategy we proposed. Ultimately this proposal highlighted the importance of designing for people, not for profits in my personal work, and has remained instilled in me to this day.