more on cable companies

Miles Fidelman mfidelman at
Tue May 8 01:30:36 UTC 2001

On Mon, 7 May 2001, RJ Atkinson wrote:

> In parts of the Boston suburbs, RCN has built a parallel cable
> TV system (with DOCSIS cable modem service also) serving houses
> that were already (and still are) servicable from Media-One
> (now part of AT&T Broadband).

I live in Newton, MA, and serve on the local cable board - and have first
hand experience with so-called competition in the cable arena. We are
served by ATT/MediaOne, RCN, and Verizon.

RCN is a well managed company and has built a system here that seems to
work at least as well as ATT's. And RCN is a lot easier to deal with (ATT
sends government affairs flunkys to cable meetings, RCN sends senior
operations managers who can make decisions. 

But.... ATT has started with the lion's share of the market and a profitable
position, while RCN is having trouble picking up market share and is in
financial difficulty.

And, more fundamentally, our overall telecom situation is not very good:

- Verizon purports to offer DSL, but just try to order it

- ATT offers cable modem service, but they have about the worst technical
and operational support I've ever seen: 

-- as far as I can tell, their network monitoring system consists of
waiting for customers to call and complain about outages (actually, the
folks in "the noc" can see outages, but the data isn't available to
front-line customer support)

-- customer support people from voice, data, video are in different
organizations - and have to request support from the folks who roll trucks
via a web form

-- as just one example of how bad it is: last week, two newly installed
ATT wires serving my house fell off the pole, onto a busy road - the
Mayor's office called Verizon, ATT, and RCN - only Verizon rolled a truck,
and all they did was cut the wires - ATT took until the next day to get
someone on site

- the poles in town are now full, all with obsolete technology (DSL and
HFC) - none of the current carriers are going to upgrade anytime soon, and
there's no polespace left for a new entrant to deploy something more
powerful (like gigabit ethernet)

Meanwhile, in my professional role of advising cities and towns on
telecom. policy, I get to watch other communities -  where the environment
isn't as attractive to "competitive carriers" - obtain far better service
than in our highly desirable "competitive" market. To cite two examples:

Harlan, Iowa: poulation 5000 (city) 13,000 (county-wide):
- Farmers' Coop Telco (user-owned coop): provides telephone in
city/county, cable in county
- Harlan Municipal Utilities (city dept., operates only within city
limits): provides water, sewer, electricity, cable tv, cable modems (2mbps
and 10mbps offerings, serves businesses as well as residences)
- jointly operated ATM backbone serving high bandwidth users

Grant County, WA Public Utility District: county-owned electric utility,
that's begun to deploy gigabit ethernet, and plans county-wide deployment
over about 3 years

Miles Fidelman

The Center for Civic Networking 	    PO Box 600618
Miles R. Fidelman, President &		    Newtonville, MA 02460-0006
Director, Municipal Telecommunications 
Strategies Program			    617-558-3698 fax: 617-630-8946
mfidelman at

Information Infrastructure: Public Spaces for the 21st Century 
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