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2007 Top Ten: Cable Fables & Lessons Learned

Jeff Baumgartner
12/24/2007

Capacity crunch? Surging satellite and telco competition? Plummeting stock prices? Regulatory jihad? Lawsuits? Angry Net Neutrality zealots? A hammer-toting granny with 'tude? Yeah, it's fair to say that the cable industry faced a wide swath of issues in 2007.

And that made it difficult to filter it down to just 10 cable "fables" and "lessons learned" this year. But, darn it, we gave it the old college try, anyway.

See any glaring omissions? If so, share your thoughts on the message boards.

But, in the meantime, please take a gander at our some of our cable highlights and lowlights for the year:

No. 10 (Lesson): Take the digital high road
This year's No. 10 is a strong candidate to be next year's No. 1. Cable has already tried to go out of its way to help consumers understand what the February 2009 digital television transition means, especially for those among us who still get TV over the air. While those folks will need a new converter box affixed with a ho-hum logo to ensure that their old analog sets don't show snow the day of the transition, cable's key message to its customers is fairly straightforward: "It's all good!"

No. 9 (Fable): Docsis 3.0 is breaking through
Okay, so this doesn't mean 100 Mbit/s services fed by the cable operator are coming soon to a node near you, but at least the cable industry took a big step forward with Docsis 3.0 developments before the end of the year.

CableLabs awarded its first-ever Docsis 3.0 qualification stamps to three cable modem termination system vendors, taking the industry one step closer to a high-speed Internet platform that can compete with services piped in through fiber-to-the-home systems. (See Cisco, Arris & Casa Make the CableLabs Grade.) No cable modem vendors made the grade that round, but the cable industry would be served well if something breaks through by March.

No. 8 (Lesson): Don't mess with P2P traffic
Unless, of course, you don't much mind the Net Neutrality mob coming after you with pitchforks and sickles, not to mention lawsuits.

The cable industry, led by Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), received a huge black eye over P2P traffic policies this year. While Comcast has denied blocking such traffic, it did get taken to the woodshed over claims that it undermines a customer's ability to host and serve P2P content for other users. (See Comcast's P2P Problem.)

A subset to this category is the use of byte caps. If you cap, cap carefully. The biggest complaint isn't that a capacity cap exists, but that some operators (again, Comcast) do not say where that threshold is, primarily to keep this small number of power users from abusing the policy. (See A Tip of the Broadband Cap.)

With Joost , Hulu, and a massive number of other over-the-top video services on the way, the P2P and cap battles will only grow wider. Among the two, expect plenty of activity next year with caps. We may soon see the days of the all-you-can-eat Internet go away in favor of services that charge by the pound.

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