Alacarte Cable and Geeks

Jeff Wheeler jsw at
Fri Dec 17 01:58:40 CST 2010

On Fri, Dec 17, 2010 at 12:26 AM, Jay Ashworth <jra at> wrote:
> the 80s when that practice got started -- having to account for each
> individual subscriber pushed the complexity up, in much the same way
> that flat rate telecom services are popular equally because customers
> prefer them, and because the *cost of keeping track* becomes >delta.

Having personally and solely designed and written a toll billing
system from scratch that directly exchanged billing and settlement
data (and end-user data) with hundreds of ILECs, I can tell you a
number of things I learned:
1) billing is only as hard as you (or your vendor) make it
2) if your company can't figure out how to bill for a new product or
service, blame the billing people, not the product
3) keeping up with taxes and fees consume a lot more resources than
calculating the net bills themselves; so adding products is really
trivial compared to dealing with every pissant local government that
decides to apply a different taxing method to your HBO (or your
telephone calls)

This is not to say the folks that handle billing at cable companies
are equally capable, but if they had legitimate competitors, they
would figure out how to run many parts of their businesses more
efficiently.  Imagine if Wal-Mart was the only game in town that had
bar code readers at the cash registers, and every other grocery chain
had to look up every item and punch in the price to check you out.
Other stores would quickly improve their technology or find themselves
out of business.

> 2) New networks prefer it, and the fact that it happens makes the
> creation of new cable networks practical -- you don't have to go around
> and sell your idea to people retail; you sell it to CATV systems (well,

My understanding is that networks/media giants like it because they
can force cable companies to carry 11 irrelevant channels to get the
Disney Channel that your kids want.  Would enough people really ask
for G4TV to make producing and syndicating shows for that channel
cost-effective?  I don't know the answer, but my suspicion is that
people who really just want CSN, E!, or the Golf Channel are
subsidizing G4 viewers.  I wanted BBCA a few years ago, but my cable
provider required that I buy 30 other channels I did not want or had
never even heard of to get BBCA, so I didn't subscribe to it.

I do not know if a la carte channel selection would be good for me, as
a consumer, or not.  I do think the reasons the industry does not want
to offer that to end-users are disingenuous.

Jeff S Wheeler <jsw at>
Sr Network Operator  /  Innovative Network Concepts

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