Cox CTO: Let’s Get Innovative6/13/2011 12:01 AM Eastern
Kevin Hart, the new chief technology officer for Cox Communications, has a mandate that’s unusual in the
He oversees both the internal information technology operations and the engineering group that builds and
manages the networks and systems which provide voice, video and data services to customers — roles handled
by two separate executives in most other MSOs.
Hart joined Cox after serving as chief information officer at broadband wireless provider Clearwire and network services provider
Level 3 Communications. Before those stints, he worked for Capgemini Consulting, International Paper and Southwestern
Bell Communications (now part of AT&T).
Hart, 44, started at Cox on April 25. He spoke last week with Multichannel News technology editor Todd Spangler.
Multichannel News: What’s your
general assessment of Cox’s overall
Kevin Hart: Before I dive into the
technology team, let me say at a
high level I’m very impressed with
the Cox organization broadly … The
support I’ve been given by [Cox president]
Pat [Esser] and the executive
team to make the investment and
improvements we need in the technology
team has been outstanding
and I welcome it.
I think the technology team has
done great work over the years. We’ve
been known as being entrepreneurial
and innovative. I think we need to
rekindle some of that activity, particularly
given the competitive environment.
We have some improvement to
do with respect to end-to-end development
— normal challenges in any
MCN: Cox has a consolidated
information technology and cable
engineering group. Aren’t those really
two very different organizations?
Does it make sense to have them
combined under one roof?
KH: I think it makes a lot of sense. A
little bit of my background: I’ve done
engineering at large companies. I’ve
managed field operations. I have
done some major OSS/BSS [operations
support systems/business support
systems] transformations, and
I’ve been part of a 4G wireless rollout.
A lot of the experiences I can bring
to bear drive convergence around IT
and the network … As we look at some
of the newer next-generation products
and services, really having the intelligence
and correlating back to the customers
are some things we need to do
… I’ve worked with a lot of great CTOs
and CIOs, and I see more similarities
MCN: What are your priorities for
the next 12 months?
KH: First and foremost is developing
our architecture road map. Obviously
it has to be informed by the
mission of the company. The product
road map, understanding the nextgeneration
services we’re trying to
enable … will inform the IT road
map and the investment in OSS/
BSS transformation and our migration
to [Internet protocol]. It’s a
multi-quarter effort to generate the
deliverables and a multiyear effort to
deploy. We’re going through a pretty
big strategic review right now.
Another priority is preparing ourselves
to deliver on these large, transformational
initiatives. We have lots
of legacy investments, but how do we
prepare ourselves to invest in the network
of the future?
MCN: You came from Clearwire,
which is working with Comcast,
Time Warner Cable and Bright
House in a wholesale model. Cox
Wireless had been building its own
3G network, but has shelved those
plans to partner with Sprint. Is
wholesale the long-term solution for
MSOs in wireless?
KH: A lot of companies are still
thinking through their models for
the future, but from my standpoint,
partnering with a company that has
expertise operating wireless towers
makes a lot of sense. Clearwire built
10,000 cell sites in just over a calendar
year. That’s hard work. But that’s
their focus … We’re still evaluating
our models, keeping our options
MCN: Among other projects, Cox
also has outsourced guide development
[to NDS]. What are the core
technology assets that make sense
for a cable operator like Cox to keep
KH: I’m still going through all our
various projects and initiatives.
We’ve tried a variety of scenarios
and we’re evaluating the best path
forward not only on the guide but
MCN: What are your impressions of
cable, now that you’re on this side
of the fence? Historically, cable has
been a very collegial industry.
KH: I’ve had the opportunity to work
with [Time Warner Cable CIO] Frank
Boncimino and [Comcast CIO] Andy
Baer even prior to Clearwire, and
I’ve made connections with other
executives. All the better that it’s
collegial. The companies have done
outstanding job with being able to
learn from each other.
MCN: What are your thoughts on
the dispute between Comcast and
Level 3? [Last fall the cable operator
asked Level 3 to pay interconnection
charges after Level 3 landed a content
delivery contract with Netflix to
deliver streaming video; Level 3 has
refused to pay what it calls a “toll”
to access the MSO’s network.]
KH: I’m aware that those companies
you mentioned are deep in their various
discussions. … At the end of the
day, you have to do what is right for
the customer and make it work for
all parties involved.
MCN: Have you finished relocating
from the Seattle area to Atlanta?
KH: It’s a multiphase process, just
like our IP evolution. [Laughs] We
have a place here in town. Our
kids are finishing up school and
then we’ll all be together in about a
MCN: So are you now a Braves fan?
KH: Well, I grew up in St. Louis, so
I’m a Cardinals fan. But I’ll be cheering
for the home team when they’re
not playing the Cardinals.