Time Warner Cable has set up a program to pay academic researchers for new ideas in advertising, customer premises equipment (CPE), digital programming, network design and a wide range of other topics.

The amount of the stipends will vary, but TWC said it will award up to $20,000 to scholars associated with academic and non-profit institutions for their research. The company did not specify the total amount of money it dedicated to the program. The program administrator, vice president for external affairs and policy counselor Fernando Laguarda, was not immediately available to respond.

The specific topics designated by TWC are:

  1. Advertising, Two-Sided Markets and the Role of Network Operators (ISPs, MSOs)
  2. Customer Equipment and Program Navigation Devices, Guides and Menus
  3. Video Programming in a Digital World
  4. The Future of Cable Networking and Infrastructure
  5. The Future of Local Programming
  6. Video Convergence and Internet Video
  7. Innovation in Broadband Networks, Network Design and Network Management

Each category has specific questions – basically sub-topics – that in total provide a fairly comprehensive survey of cable industry concerns.

A few samples include:

  • Describe a vision for the cable network of the future, outlining the physical infrastructure, engineering requirements and service capabilities necessary to maximize the advantages of hybrid fiber/coaxial infrastructure (HFC) design to deliver future-proof digital services.
  • Marketplace changes have led to increasingly contentious negotiations over retransmission consent terms. Is the retransmission consent system reaching a breaking point? If so, what changes would be required to avoid consumer disruption and increases in cable rates and ensure fair compensation to broadcasters for their signals? If not, what factors support keeping it as is, and when might changes be required?
  • What marketplace, legal and policy barriers stand in the way of wider deployment of online video offerings?

The company said it will entertain proposals on other topics.

The company is planning two rounds of grants, one with a deadline for applications of April 1, the next with a deadline of Oct.1. Researchers need to submit a proposal no more than three pages long.

TWC expects those selected to provide a 25- to 35-page report within six months of the start of the research.

Laguarda said: “Time Warner Cable believes that supporting research into the key issues confronting the digital communications industry will improve the public debate and understanding of the beneficial role that digital technologies have on our lives, whether at home, in business or in the community. We challenge those who have a great idea for research to come forward and be heard.”

Additional information, as well as a link to the application form, is available.

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