Buckeye's Joe JensenTier 2 and Tier 3 cable operators face a whole range of problems that their larger brethren don’t have to consider, but their smaller footprints can also make them more nimble when it comes to some deployments.

The opening general session, “Mid-size insights: Challenges faced by Tier 2 and 3 cable operators – CTO Panel,” delved into the successes and frustrations of not being Comcastic. Moderator Ken Wright pointed out that while the cable operator industry traces its roots back to family owned systems, there are still roughly 1,000 independent operators that serve tens of millions of subscribers despite the consolidation.

On the cutting-edge side, Armstrong Group of Companies CTO Mike Giobbi said his company kicked the tires in rural areas of Pennsylvania with a fiber-to-the-home service in 2006.

“We did our first fiber-to-the-home with micro nodes, and it was a learning process,” he said. “We built some acquired systems with fiber, and everything but the laterals was fiber-to-the-home. What we were doing then is now called RFoG.”

Being a smaller cable operator also means being more inventive, and on that note, Buckeye CableSystem CTO Joe Jensen said his company came up with a tool kit for the technicians that were doing the home networking installs.

Massillon Cable technical operations manager and general manager Kelly Rehm said his company worked with CableLabs on a TV Everywhere authentication process that was so successful that the NCTC is making it available to its members.

Giobbi said Armstrong started a TV Everywhere trial last year for on-demand and live-streaming content and worked with an app vendor on deploying the service across iPad, Roku boxes and Android devices.

“We thought we would be doing on-demand second-stream content this year, but so far not yet,” he said.

Giobbi said Armstrong is still debating whether it wants to write its own app for live streaming or use a vendor. On the downside, once the internally developed app goes live, Armstrong would have to update and maintain it, so it continues to work with various devices.

Jensen said he looked at the challenges as opportunities to provide better services to subscribers.

“The application development will be a challenge for us,” Jensen said. “Hopefully we’ll see tool kits to make it more effective. In 2006, we started an applications group, and that has given us some opportunities to experience and do customization. There are challenges, but we have the opportunity to collaborate and get our core capability refined.”