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News summary for 9/05/07

Wed, 09/05/2007 - 9:00am
CED staff

ACA trying to head off disaster of FCC triple-carriage rule
By Brian Santo

Independent cable system operators are trying to head off the devastation certain to result should the Federal Communications Commission formally adopt the must-carry rules the commission seems to be leaning toward. 

The American Cable Association (ACA) said it met with the FCC on August 30, trying to convince the government body that its so-called Triple-Carriage Order, a proposal the FCC first floated in May, is “both fiscally and technologically infeasible for all small cable operators.”

The proposed rule would have cable operators transmit must-carry channels in digital high definition, digital standard definition, and analog.

The measure would ensure that every extant TV would be able to display at least one signal when hooked up to cable. But it would also compel cable operators to devote extra bandwidth to simultaneously broadcasting the same channel thrice. Few small operators have extra bandwidth.

The ACA said the order would force operators of small systems to either drop other channels to buy room – reducing their competitiveness - or shut down their systems altogether. Should an operator be forced to shut down, consumers would still have the option to subscribe to DBS video, but in many rural areas, that would eliminate the only broadband provider.

The ACA cited reports that the triple-carriage order is now being circulated among FCC Commissioners in advance of the next Open Commission Meeting on September 11 where a vote on the matter could occur.

In the ACA's Ex Parte FCC filing following the August 30 meetings, the association said the equipment and labor costs of complying with a triple-carriage obligation is likely to exceed $100,000 for most cable systems.

“For a system that serves only 5,000 subscribers, these costs are significant. For smaller systems, the cost per subscriber to comply with a triple-carriage obligation would exceed the asset value of the entire cable system,” the ACA said.

Matt Polka, president and CEO of the ACA, suggested that rather than mandating triple carriage, the federal government should allow the marketplace to dictate which formats independent cable operators provide to their subscribers and the timetable for small operators to transition into all-digital services, among those that can do so.
 
“It’s unfathomable that the Federal Communications Commission would require approximately 7,500 cable systems to purchase the same expensive equipment to reformat the signals of about 850 broadcasters from high definition to standard definition and analog,” said Patrick Knorr, chairman of the ACA and general manager of Sunflower Broadband.

“Tens of millions of dollars could be saved if these 850 broadcasters were required to deliver their high definition signal in standard definition to the cable systems whether over the air, by IP, or by fiber. For some operators, the cost savings could allow them to continue providing service in their market."

Comcast pairs with Amdocs, Ventyx for mobile workforce solution
By Traci Patterson

ComcastAmdocs and Ventyx are collaborating on the deployment of a mobile workforce management solution that supports new handheld devices that are being used by Comcast technicians.

Amdocs’ billing, ordering and customer management platform supports video, high-speed Internet and voice services for Comcast in about half of the markets the MSO serves.

Amdocs’ system will be integrated with Ventyx’s enterprise workforce management Service Suite 8 software, which offers a scheduling engine and dispatch systems that let workflow coordinators schedule, dispatch and route work orders - via wireless mobile devices - to technicians in the field.

“As more people take our triple play of video, voice and high-speed Internet services, these devices will help us deliver faster, better service to our customers,” said Greg Dudkin, SVP of Technical Operations and Fulfillment for Comcast.

DirecTV taps Harmonic’s encoders for HD expansion 
By Mike Robuck

Cable and satellite operators are going toe-to-toe in the battle to offer more HD programming to their subscribers. Lacking a true triple play of its own, satellite providers such as DirecTV have made HD content, particularly sports programming, a high priority.

DirecTV announced today that it will be using Harmonic’s HD MPEG-4 H.264 encoders for its national HD channel expansion effort. DirecTV has Harmonic’s DiviCom Electra 7000 HD encoder in its stable, as well as Harmonic’s ProStream 1000 stream processing platform with DiviTrackIP distributed statistical multiplexing and Harmonic's NMX Digital Service Manager.

"The Electra 7000 enabled us to provide superior video quality for the latest expansion of our HD channel lineup that will include up to 100 national HD channels by year-end," said DirecTV CTO Rômulo Pontual, in a prepared statement.

Harmonic said seven of the 10 largest satellite operators worldwide currently use its compression systems, and the majority of these customers have also selected the Electra 7000 to power their HD H.264 services.

Concurrent releases tool to build VOD navigation apps
By Brian Santo

After conducting a trial of the tool with Japanese operator Jupiter Telecommunications (J:Com), Concurrent is now making its HTML-based VOD application-authoring platform commercially available.

Concurrent’s MediaHawk Prism authoring platform leverages commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) Web-development technologies and standards. It is hosted on a Microsoft.NET Web server.

Operators can develop pages that could be used to promote time-shifted TV and network DVR content. Web pages are accessed over the DOCSIS network via a commercially available Web browser stored on the set-top box.

With MH Prism, MSOs (or third-party developers) may create custom, traditional VOD menu navigation including category-based menu navigation, jacket art display of VOD titles and launch of VOD titles and previews. It can allow the incorporation of scaled video in customer interfaces, and is capable of supporting marketing packages and special promotions.

"As the volume of on-demand content continues to explode, advanced navigation technologies are needed to connect the consumer with the programming they desire," stated Michael Pasquinilli, vice president of engineering, On-Demand, Concurrent. "MH Prism represents the next-generation of VOD navigation application development, targeting a new generation of IPTV, OCAP and DOCSIS enabled set-top boxes.”

C-Cor launches CableEdge Hosted Services package 
By Mike Robuck

C-Cor unveiled a new monitoring platform for network service providers that serve small and midsize markets.

C-Cor’s CableEdge Hosted Services is a Web-hosted package that tracks key customer experience metrics for services such as high-speed Internet and voice. CableEdge is part of C-Cor's ServAssure product line that monitors the entire subscriber experience from the headend to the customer's home.

C-Cor said CableEdge currently monitors more than 14 million DOCSIS devices worldwide.

With CableEdge Hosted Services, service providers can launch the platform in as few as 10 days, while reducing hardware and integration costs. Access to the CableEdge Hosted Services' console is available from any Internet connection via https or a VPN tunnel and is also available through mobile devices.

C-COR's CableEdge Hosted Services features the primary data and voice functionality of its non-hosted counterpart, including an assortment of bandwidth and network monitoring applications that can track activity in second-by-second intervals.

"Service providers of all sizes are running increasingly complex networks with devices that require vigilant monitoring and reporting," said Bailey Shewchuk, senior vice president, C-COR global strategy, in a statement. "By offering a hosted CableEdge service to our customers, we provide them with a full range of monitoring capabilities and 24x7 professional services support, all with a much faster deployment time and lower upfront capital investment."

Broadband Briefs for 9/05/07

* AmericanLife, TVN launch VOD service
By Traci Patterson
 
AmericanLife TV Network, through a partnership with TVN Entertainment, has launched a VOD service that is available to cable operators for no additional charge. The service, targeted to the Baby Boomer generation, is offering 20 hours of programming using TVN’s Adoniss asset delivery and management system.

* Cedar Point adds advisory board member
By Traci Patterson

Cedar Point Communications has added Walt Magnussen to the company’s advisory board. Magnussen currently serves as director of telecommunications at Texas A&M University, as president of the Association for Communications Technology Professionals in Higher Education and as director of the Internet2 Technology Evaluation Center.

* RGB Networks expands operations with new Silicon Valley HQ
By Brian Santo

RGB Networks said it has shipped a total of 2,000 units in two years, and has quadrupled its staff to nearly 100 employees since 2004. Growth compelled the company to move to new offices, from a 17,000 square foot facility in San Mateo, Calif., to a new 48,480 square foot building in nearby Sunnyvale.

*Charter selects VeriSign services for telephony offering
By Traci Patterson

Charter Communications Inc. has selected VeriSign Inc.’s VoIP and connectivity services to power its residential and business telephone products. VeriSign provides calling name and portability services, as well as SS7 connectivity, to power Charter's telephone service.

* Optimum Lightpath’s Curran picked for MEF board of directors
By Mike Robuck

Optimum Lightpath, a business unit of Cablevision, announced today that Kevin Curran was elected to the Metro Ethernet Forum’s board of directors. Curran, Optimum Lightpath’s senior vice president of marketing, is the first cable operator employee to be named to the MEF board, which also includes Ethernet co-founder Bob Metcalfe.

On the cable vendor side, PhyFlex Networks’ Louise Wasilewski was also elected to the board of directors.

* Cogeco promotes members of executive team
By Mike Robuck

Cogeco Cable President and CEO Louis Audet announced a re-organization of the company’s executive team today. Louise St-Pierre, formerly vice president and chief information officer, was promoted to the new position of vice president, customer services and Ontario operations.

Jacques Gravel, formerly vice president, Quebec, was promoted to the new position of vice president, network services and Quebec operations. Lastly, Francois Beaulieu, formerly senior director, IT planning and architecture, was promoted to the position of vice president and chief information officer.

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