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