The Cable Coverage Conundrum

Even the largest cablecos are not ubiquitous, serving a few states or even a few cities within each state. Because of cablecos’ spotty footprints, validating serviceability of prospective business accounts is critical. The process can be laborious and often ends in disappointment for the agent.

“It’s absolutely a hassle. It’s probably no more of a hassle than dealing with a CLEC,” said John Macario, president of Savatar, a consulting firm to the channel.

Cablevision solved this problem by establishing a hotline where agents can get serviceability checks immediately. This works great within its territory, which admittedly is fairly small compared with its peers. Cablevision serves the tri-state area, including New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Cablecos with larger footprints like Time Warner Cable Business Class and Charter Business – each with service in around 30 markets – stand to make this process easier by nationalizing their programs, which gives them access to databases for their entire footprints.

“We are not everywhere. We are highly localized.” said Steve Webster, director of sales channels for Charter Business. “We are highly localized. … We actually see it as a positive thing in that having a distinct local presence is a powerful selling tool for us.”

But, he admits that it’s important for his company to provide national master agents with quick serviceability checks. That is one metric Charter Business will be testing in its pilot during the second half of 2008 with master agency World Telecom Group.

But their footprints still have holes. So, some cablecos have established network-to-network agreements with their cohorts in order to extend their footprints. In this way, they can provide service off-network and be a single point of contact for the customer or sales partner.

“The golden goose here is to have cooperation amongst the MSOs so that they can service everywhere. Even the big CLECs can’t service everywhere,” said Macario.

Jack Gordon, channel sales manager for Charter Business, said his company has established a number of NNIs with other cablecos and telcos for its fiber-based services.

Some of the interconnection work is being fostered through the cablecos’ industry organization, Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM), and through technology organizations like the Metro Ethernet Forum, which works on NNI specifications for Ethernet networks.

“It’s a much more standardized and orchestrated approach to interconnecting to one another today. We have made tremendous strides in the last 12-18 months,” said Webster.

Ken Fitzpatrick, senior vice president of business services for Time Warner Cable Business Class, agreed the cablecos are working toward contractual and physical network interconnections. “It’s going to take a long time. It shouldn’t be something that people are looking at today, but as an end state, it would be nice to be able to have those network interfaces in place and those contractual relationships in place so that the enterprise customer that has 300 locations across five different cablecos could deal with one,” he said.

Fitzpatrick reminded that the relationships the cablecos have with aggregators like MegaPath Inc. and New Edge Networks Inc. already allow for customers and partners to have a single point of contact for buying most cable company network services.

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