Cable Operators

Independent Ops: Big on Bandwidth

7/23/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Small and midsize
cablers want to go
large — as in offering
faster Internet, more
video and enhanced
products.

Just like their
larger MSO brethren,
independent operators are adding capacity with
capital-investment projects like migrating to alldigital,
upgrading plant and splitting nodes. The goal
is to stay competitive with satellite and telco rivals.

For Midcontinent Communications, a key technology
initiative through the end of 2012 will be completing
the all-digital project it started last year. The
operator serves more than 275,000 customers in 350
communities throughout North and South Dakota,
Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The MSO’s All-Digital Cable (ADC) project will
reclaim bandwidth by converting analog channels
to digital, to let Midcontinent deliver more than 100
HD channels and offer Internet
service at 100 Megabits
per second to all of its customers,
senior vice president of public policy Tom
Simmons said.

In addition, Midcontinent is expanding its Northern
Plains Network (NPNet) 100 Gigabit-per-second backbone
network. That will “connect the systems purchased
from US Cable [in June 2011] to our primary
network, expanding services for those customers to
the level, quality and reliability enjoyed by all other
Midcontinent customers,” Simmons said.

Massillon Cable TV in Massillon, Ohio, has been
all-digital since 2009. The operator is now working to
systematically reduce node sizes and service groups to
boost capacity, said president Bob Gessner.

“This is a dual pursuit to respond to greater VOD
use and the desire to offer higher-bandwidth Internet
packages,” he said.

Massillon will also continue its program of proactive
plant maintenance, which Gessner said has
reduced inbound calls and truck rolls.

“We are now calling customers to tell them we
want to come to their house
to fix a problem they haven’t
even noticed,” he said. “This
will continue to be our most important technology
project: making sure the plant works as perfectly as
possible.”

General Communication Inc. in Alaska — which
converted to all-digital in 2008 — is now looking at
upgrading systems from 860 Mhz to 1 GHz, depending
on market size, said Duncan Whitney, director of
product management.

Another big push for GCI will be to roll out DOCSIS
3.0-based data services, which would let the operator
offer 100-Mbps Internet service or faster. “We are
only D2 today,” Whitney said.

BendBroadband in Bend, Ore., is working to complete
a business-services buildout. The operator is
expanding its broadband project in three new cities
and four new markets with services including metro
Ethernet and fiber-based network services for a
“growing commercial presence in the outlying areas
of central Oregon,” said vice president of technology
Wade Holmes.

TAKEAWAY

Small and midsize operators
need to offer faster Internet
and more video, including TV
Everywhere, to battle satellite
and telco competitors.

September