Light Reading

Forget Google Fiber, Think Cable Fiber

Carol Wilson
12/11/2013
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US cities and towns are catching the gigabit fiber fever started by Google and escalated by AT&T, but they may be overlooking one obvious solution to boosting the local bandwidth and digital economy: their local cable provider. (See AT&T 1-Gig Fiber Live This Week in Austin.)

One cable operator, Mediacom Communications Corp. , felt strongly enough about what it saw as a growing dilemma to launch its own initiative, Mediacom Gigabit+, and to reach out to municipal governments to remind them of the resource cable operators can be.

"They see broadband as critical to the development of their communities," Dan Templin, senior VP of Mediacom Business, said at last week's Focus on Cable Business Services event in New York. "But they aren't looking to us as network providers, they see us as cable TV companies." (See Mediacom Names Head of Biz Services Unit.)

Despite the fact that cable operators have invested heavily in building fiber optic networks and continue to do so, both for their own video transport and for business and wholesale services such as wireless backhaul, they aren't viewed in the same way munis view Google Fiber Inc. , for example, or even government initiatives to push fiber.

"Frankly, I'm tired of hearing about Google," Templin said. "We are already building gigabit fiber networks, and wiring communities with the highest capacity fiber. We've already made the investment in the networks under their streets and passing their schools."

In Mediacom's case, that investment in fiber and hybrid fiber-coax networks has been made in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities, as well as in rural areas in between those locations. Much of that comes in the Midwest, what Templin termed the "flyover states" where Mediacom has "miles and miles of networks that go past nothing but a couple of cell towers."

The cable operator is talking to municipal leaders in the communities it serves and it is talking to and working with other cable companies to see if working together can create more powerful regional fiber networks.

One thing impeding that last effort is the lack of automated gear for provisioning services over multiple cable networks, a problem Templin is hoping the vendor community can solve.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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Greg Scott
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Greg Scott,
User Rank: Lightning
12/24/2013 | 3:10:31 PM
Re: Automated Provisioning?
But Google Fiber is pretty much a FTTH  (residential) video and Inernet service. Do we need or even want  bigger "regional fiber networks" for that? 
Aloysious
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Aloysious,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/16/2013 | 2:21:54 PM
Re: Smoking the Grass that Looks Greener
"I think that's exactly the kind of experience that has Medicom frustrated. I don't know its history in Columbia but I do think the chance to work with Google Fiber had a lot of communities swooning that might have been able to work out similar deals with their local operators."

Similar deals? What deals are there like Google Fiber before Google Fiber existed?

1? 2?

Hard to blame anyome but the ISP's for the utter garbage speeds most cities have today.
kevin.noll
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kevin.noll,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/14/2013 | 10:35:11 AM
Re: Automated Provisioning?
The cable industry (okay, a few of us working in Cablelabs) have spent the last 3-4 years developing a DOCSIS-based framework (DPoE) for provisioning advanced services (e.g. L2VPN) on EPON.  DPoE automates the bulk of those "spreadsheet" functions.

We intentionally tried to make it as open as possible while still meeting the specific goal of EPON support. We have DPoE qualified systems (EPON) on the market today and, in fact, there are implementations of DOCSIS-style provisioning for Active Ethernet and GPON. Marry that list of access networks with DOCSIS (i.e. CMTSes and CMs) and we have to ask which other network types need to be supported in a cable operators' network?

To your point, albreznick, the BSSes that most operators have need to be updated to support non-residential services like Layer-2 VPNs. However, that should be a pretty easy adapation to make because the data models are pretty well understood. Of course, getting such modifications completed has been a challenge for years.
albreznick
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albreznick,
User Rank: Blogger
12/13/2013 | 5:41:02 PM
Re: Automated Provisioning?
Yep, they do, Carol. And some of those back-office systems are pretty old and decrepit. They're a real detriment to the cable cos moving forward right now.
Carol Wilson
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Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
12/13/2013 | 3:43:57 PM
Re: Automated Provisioning?
He's talking about the ability to automate the processes required to interconnect cable networks - today that still involves spreadsheets and highly manual processes, apparently, in part because the different cable companies have very different back office systems in some cases. 
kevin.noll
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kevin.noll,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/13/2013 | 3:02:52 PM
Automated Provisioning?
"One thing impeding that last effort is the lack of automated gear for provisioning services over multiple cable networks, a problem Templin is hoping the vendor community can solve."

 

What is Templin asking for here that we don't already have? 
Carol Wilson
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Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
12/13/2013 | 9:28:15 AM
Re: Smoking the Grass that Looks Greener
I would generally agree about bigger carriers, but I think we also need to remember that many smaller and mid-sized carriers and they are different in their approach to the market in many cases. 
MAXOUT9
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MAXOUT9,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/13/2013 | 9:09:07 AM
Re: Smoking the Grass that Looks Greener
that's why i am willing to give Google Fiber a chance just bring more compitition to the table. IMO AT&T and other big players are not competing like they should be. 
Carol Wilson
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Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
12/12/2013 | 4:08:18 PM
Re: Smoking the Grass that Looks Greener
Tim,

I think that's exactly the kind of experience that has Medicom frustrated. I don't know its history in Columbia but I do think the chance to work with Google Fiber had a lot of communities swooning that might have been able to work out similar deals with their local operators.

I don't mean to let the network operators off the hook here - there are many ways in which they could innovate but don't feel the need to do so until threatened.  

 

Carol 
timkridel
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timkridel,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/12/2013 | 4:04:16 PM
Smoking the Grass that Looks Greener
Mediacom's challenge is that too many municipalities are clueless about telecom. I'll use my town -- Columbia, Missouri -- as an example not just because I live here but also because, thanks to Mediacom, it was one of the first markets in the country with 50 Mbps residential service (now 100 Mbps). 

 

Like many communities, Columbia bid for Google Fiber, dabbled in Gig.U and held endless roundtables about how to get Gig. Never mind that some local businesses already get Gig from Mediacom and CenturyLink.

 

Now Columbia has hired Magellan Advisors to come up with a broadband plan. Meanwhile, Columbia shoots itself in the foot by charging operators $1.91/foot/year to put fiber in municipal rights-of-way. (See the bottom of p. 23 and the top of p. 24 at http://gocolumbiamo.granicus.com/DocumentViewer.php?file=gocolumbiamo_bc45ec704737e7f2fa54df6db55919ce.pdf&view=1) When I tell that to Gig providers elsewhere, such as Sonic.net, they're either shocked silent or laugh out loud.

 

A community doesn't necessarily have to give away the farm like KCK did, but it also needs to listen when its incumbents say that its own policies are undermining its ability to get residential Gig and lower the cost of business Gig.
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