NCTA: Cable Wi-Fi Pushes Past 200,000 Hotspots

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NCTA: Cable Wi-Fi Pushes Past 200,000 Hotspots

Number of U.S. ‘CableWifi’ Hotspots Rises From the 150,000 Reported in June
By: Jeff Baumgartner Sep 30 2013 – 05:14pm

U.S. cable operators have deployed more than 200,000 Wi-Fi hotspots, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association estimated in a blog post Monday.

That’s up from about 150,000 in June, the last time the NCTA offered a count, and up from 50,000 in May 2012.

The NCTA is also revealing the new figure as the House Energy and commerce committee gets ready to discuss next-gen “Gigabit” Wi-Fi Tuesday. The cable industry has been urging the government to loosen restrictions on the 5GHz band if Wi-Fi is to meet the anticipated demand of wireless broadband access.

The bulk of those 200,000 hotspots come from cable operator members of the “CableWiFi” roaming alliance – Cablevision Systems, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks.

Those operators have primarily used their hotspots as a free add-on for cable modem customers, though some operators also support pay-as-you-go plans for non-subscribers.

Comcast, meanwhile, has also kicked off a program that envisions turning millions of DOCSIS-powered wireless gateways in customer homes into quasi-public hot spots, hitting on a trend that is already well underway in Europe. When equipped with the right firmware, those gateways use a new “xfinitywifi” signal, or SSID (service set identifier), that are accessible to authenticated, roaming Comcast broadband subs. Comcast’s Xfinity WiFi site estimates that the operator now provides access to more than 300,000 hotspots through its upgraded gateways and  partnerships with other MSOs.

 

Comcast Names Mary Stutts To Newly-Created Position Of Regional Vice President of External Affairs for California

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COMCAST MARY STUTTSLIVERMORE, Calif., Sept. 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Comcast has named veteran communications professional Mary Stutts to the newly-created position of Regional Vice President of External Affairs for California, it was announced today by Hank Fore, Regional Senior Vice President for Comcast California. Stutts will report directly to Fore, and will oversee all aspects of Comcast’s communications, government affairs, community investment and telecommunications policy matters throughout the state. She will be based in the company’s Livermore, California office, and will manage a recently merged team of government affairs and communications professionals.

“Mary has a proven track record as an external affairs executive, strategic thinker, trusted advisor and a motivational leader,” said Fore. “Her understanding of corporate social responsibility and experience in directing large public affairs teams, make her the perfect choice to tell Comcast’s story to our external stakeholders.”

For the last 23 years, Stutts has held a variety of external affairs leadership positions at Fortune 500 pharmaceutical and health care companies, including Genentech, Kaiser Permanente, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Bayer and UnitedHealth Group. Most recently, she served as the Vice President of Corporate Communications at Bristol-Myers Squibb, and she was previously the Senior Vice President of Corporate Relations at Elan Pharmaceuticals where she led a combined government affairs and communications organization.

A long-time Bay Area resident, Stutts previously worked in broadcast and print media and served as the producer of “The Informed Viewer” — a current affairs program that aired on KFCB/KTNC-TV in Concord, California.

Stutts is a founding member of the Communications Executive Council of the Corporate Executive Board, a leading member-based company that provides research and advisory services to businesses worldwide. She is also a member of The Arthur Page Society and The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).

The Network Journal named her to the publication’s 2012 list of 25 Influential Black Women in Business, and, in 2010, Black Health Magazine named her as one of the 25 Most Influential African Americans in Healthcare.

A native of Chicago, Stutts is a graduate of the University of Louisiana – Monroe and received a Master of Arts in Health Care/Hospital Administration from the University of Southern California. She also completed the Executive Program in Organization and Strategy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Stutts and her family live in Fairfield, California

Rep. Eshoo Proposes Retransmission Bill

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Draft Bill Would Let FCC Grant Interim Carriage Of Station In Retrans Impasse
By: John Eggerton Sep 09 2013 – 02:24pm
Rep. Anna Eshoo of California

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) Monday released a draft of retransmission consent legislation in advance of a hearing this week dealing with that and other video regulation issues.

The bill, The Video CHOICE (Consumers Have Options in Choosing Entertainment) Act, “Gives the FCC explicit statutory authority to grant interim carriage of a television broadcast station during a retransmission consent negotiation impasse.”

According to Eshoo the bill also:

  • “Ensures that a consumer can purchase cable television service without subscribing to the broadcast stations electing retransmission consent.
  • “Prohibits a television broadcast station engaged in a retransmission consent negotiations from making their owned or affiliated cable programming a condition for receiving broadcast programming.
  • “Instructs the FCC to examine whether the blocking of a television broadcast station’s owned or affiliated online content during a retransmission consent negotiation constitutes a failure to negotiate in ‘good faith.’ ”
  • “Calls for an FCC study of programming costs for regional and national sports networks in the top 20 regional sports markets.”

Eshoo is the ranking member of the House Communications Subcommittee, which is holding a hearing Sept. 11 on video regulation that is expected to feature retrans and satellite licensing issues, tied to the 2014 expiration of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA).

Also expiring as part of that bill, unless Congress renews it, is the FCC’s authority to enforce retransmission consent good faith negotiations.

Distributors — cable and satellite operators — have been pushing the FCC to use more muscle in enforcing good faith, including blocking blackouts and perhaps requiring third-party arbitration of impasses.

The bill comes as little surprise. Last month, during the recently resolved CBS/Time Warner Cable retransmission blackout, Eshoo, a long-standing retransmission blackout critic, signaled that she “intend[ed] to carefully examine whether changes to current law are needed to adequately protect consumers and prevent the reoccurrence of blackouts.”

Broadcasters argue that blackouts are rare, and are part of a marketplace negotiation that should not include FCC intervention. Distributors point to must-carry, network non-duplication and syndicated exclusivity rules and say those are a government thumb on the scale that makes it far from a free-market negotiation.

Eshoo’s action drew plaudits from the American Cable Association, the trade group representing small to mid-sized cable operators and an open advocate of changes to retransmission-consent regulations.

“ACA applauds Rep. Eshoo for having the vision and courage to offer a timely and thoughtful plan for addressing serious problems causing harm to consumers related to the broken retransmission consent and sports programming markets  — highlighted by a record-number of broadcaster signal blackouts and skyrocketing retrans fees that push up monthly pay-TV bills,” ACA said in part. “To her great credit, Rep. Eshoo has proposed a set of common sense reforms. ACA agrees that the nation’s top media regulator – the Federal Communications Commission — should have the authority to prevent TV signal blackouts as part of its mandate to protect the public interest, convenience and necessity. We also agree with Rep. Eshoo that consumers should not have to buy local TV stations that elect retransmission consent as part of their pay-TV package.”

“We applaud Ranking Member Eshoo for her leadership and her legislation to address the myriad problems with our retransmission consent system,” said The American Television Alliance, whose members include the American Cable Association, Time Warner Cable, Dish and DirecTV. “Her voice is the latest in an ever-growing chorus calling for retrans reform and her bill is a step in the right direction. Consumers continue to be hit with more and more blackouts and we encourage Congress to consider reform immediately. We look forward to working with Ranking Member Eshoo and other members seeking to update our video rules into this century.”

Cox Joins Cable WiFi Club

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Joining its cable brethren, Cox Communications Inc. is now offering free WiFi access to its broadband customers at nearly 150,000 hotspots across the US.

More than a year after it enlisted in the landmark cable WiFi alliance, Cox officially opened up access this week to free, out-of-region WiFi for subscribers to its Preferred, Premier, and Ultimate High Speed Internet tiers. Users can sign on to hotspots with the “CableWiFi” identifier using their Cox login credentials. (See Cable WiFi on a Hot Streak.)

Cox customers now have access to WiFi hotspots in regions served by three other members of the club – Comcast Corp.Cablevision Systems Corp., andBright House NetworksTime Warner Cable Inc. is the fifth member of the WiFi club, and a Cox spokesperson said he expects TWC hotspots to be integrated into the Cox service before the end of the year. Charter Communications Inc. is the only top-five US MSO not participating in the WiFi alliance yet. (See Charter Goes Own Way on WiFi.)

Current “CableWiFi” locations open to Cox subscribers include areas of metro Washington D.C.; Boston; Richmond, Va., Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Time Warner Cable would add hotspots in Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York City.

Cable companies have numerous reasons for wanting to add WiFi access to their service portfolios. Not only does free WiFi offer customers more incentive to pay the monthly cable bill, it’s also a brand extension for operators outside the customer’s home. Cable operators are looking at monetizing new hotspots as well, in part by offering paid access to non-subscribers. (See Cisco ‘Heats’ Up Hotspots.)

But there’s a cost side to the equation too. In addition to the capital expense of installing new WiFi access points, there’s also the issue of increased network traffic from users who switch to WiFi on mobile devices to avoid costlier mobile broadband services.

At the Cable Show, Cox CTO Kevin Hart told Light Reading that new WiFi hotspots affect network planning strategies. With WiFi roaming agreements in place, operators now have to account for traffic from out-of-region cable customers, in addition to their own subscribers.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable

 

CableLabs aims to boost industry profile with Sunnyvale outpost

 Real Estate Reporter- Silicon Valley Business Journal

You may have never heard of CableLabs, but it’s safe to say that its inventions are probably living inside your home.

From its Colorado base, the nonprofit industry skunkworks — sometimes called the Bell Labs of the cable world — has developed many of the technologies that power the country’s $97 billion cable industry.

Now the organization has its sights set on Silicon Valley in an effort to draw more talent, investor and corporate interest into the cable ecosystem.

CableLabs, founded in 1988 and funded by cable operators, is building out a 17,000-square-foot space at 400 West California Ave. The office at Sunnyvale Business Park is located in the same building that Twitter leased this spring, and will consolidate a smaller office that was opened two years ago in San Francisco.

On tap: a combination R&D lab, outreach center and “co-innovation space” for potential tech partners that CEO Phil McKinney says will boost the industry’s presence here.

It’s not lost on McKinney, the former chief technology officer of Hewlett-Packard who took the CableLabs job last June, that the Valley is commonly associated with the disruption of the cable industry (just witness Los Gatos-based Netflix’s, or San Bruno-based YouTube’s role in the so-called pay-TV “cord cutting”).

The increased visibility, he said, is designed to show investors, tech companies and engineers that cable as a platform is not too shabby, thank you very much.

“We want to expose the unique capabilities of cable infrastructure (to the Valley), and educate all companies large and small that cable is a great platform to innovate on top of,” McKinney told me earlier this week. “It touches 90 percent of U.S. homes. If you want to offer that kind of service, not a bad platform and reach.”

In fact, suppliers such as Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corp., Broadcom and others are major partners in the industry. Their presence here made opening the office something of a no-brainer, McKinney said.

“We looked at the Valley, plotted out all the companies large and small that have interaction with the cable industry, and that drove us to narrow down the search parameters for the space,” McKinney said. “There’s probably three dozen companies today that are already engaged with the cable industry based in the Valley.”

CableLabs’ importance to the cable world is hard to overstate, said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst of Leichtman Research Group Inc.

“With consolidation in the industry, there are fewer players than in the past,” he said. “So having an organization focused on the current and future technology is important to the industry.”

Staking a claim in Silicon Valley is the right move, Leichtman said, who also said it’s time for the industry to take credit for fostering much of what makes high-speed Internet possible.

“The reality is, without cable, broadband wouldn’t be that far,” he said. “For as much attention as Netflix gets, it’s miniature to where the cable industry is.”

His research shows cable subscribership relatively flat — the 13 largest multi-channel video providers in the U.S. lost roughly 345,000 net video subscribers in the second quarter, LRG said. But those providers still boasted nearly 94.6 million subscribers.

CableLabs’ vision

The organization is working on new technologies that are speeding data transfer, network capacity and picture resolution.

To that end, a portion of the Sunnyvale outpost will serve as development labs, where CableLabs engineers can work with vendors building products.

“We literally have one of everything used in the cable industry worldwide, so a tech company can come, sit down, and say, I want to test it against a Comcast infrastructure or a Time Warner infrastructure,” McKinney said.

Another piece of the lab will serve as “flex space” for tech companies and startups interested in applying their product to a cable platform, McKinney said. Space for meetings and events will occupy another sizable chunk.

Overall, CableLabs has 175 employees, with 110 of them engineers. McKinney said the Sunnyvale office would have perhaps three dozen staff there, up from the five that were in San Francisco.

Its biggest project right now is “Docsis 3.1,” a new specification that will support speeds orders of magnitude higher than what’s currently standard. That will help drive adoption of thinks like 4K-resolution television, a much higher-quality resolution TV experience.

“Our biggest challenge is to convey a message of innovation around the cable platform,” McKinney said.

Comcast Names Area VP In Sacramento Valley

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BJ Daisey To Oversee Northern California Territory

By: MCN Staff Jul 19 2013 – 11:23am
BJ Daisey To Oversee Northern California Territory

Comcast said BJ Daisey has been named area vice president for Comcast California’s Sacramento Valley area, reporting to Marty Robinson, VP of operations for Comcast California. Daisey will oversee all aspects of Comcast’s operations in Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto, Chico, Oroville, Grass Valley, Marysville and Yuba City. He will be responsible for a team of 575 employees, and will oversee a key Northern California territory for Comcast.

Daisey, who will be based in the company’s Sacramento office, most recently served as the director of technical operations for Comcast’s West Division in Denver. In that role, he was responsible for leading the fulfillment and dispatch workforce for 6 million subscribers. He first joined Comcast in 1999 in Maryland as an install technician, and has previously held both supervisor and manager roles in Maryland and Fort Myers, Fla. Prior to joining the West Division, Daisey held the position of director of technical operations for Comcast’s operations in Savannah, Ga.

Charter Brings 185 HD Channels, Improved All-Digital Network

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Charter Brings 185 HD Channels, Improved All-Digital Network

to Customers in Long Beach, Glendale and Burbank

 

Digital equipment for all TVs required beginning in August

Irwindale, CA

– Charter customers in Long Beach, Glendale and Burbank will soon enjoy access to 185 high definition (HD) channels – more HD than any satellite television provider in these communities* – as part of an all-digital upgrade to Charter’s Southern California network.

In August, Charter will begin clearing all analog signals from its local network, making way to add 80 new HD channels in Glendale and Burbank along with 79 new HD offerings in Long Beach. Customers in all three communities will have access to a total of 185 HD channels once Charter completes its move to an all-digital network in October.

“By removing outdated analog signals, we gain back a tremendous amount of bandwidth in our network,” said John Owen, vice president of Charter’s Southwest Region. “In the space we previously needed for a single analog channel, we can now provide multiple standard definition digital channels or HD channels. It’s a great opportunity for us to maximize value for our customers.”

Disney Junior, Hallmark Movie Channel, DIY Network, FX Movie Channel, CBS Sports Network and FOX Soccer are just a few of the new HD channels that will soon be available in crystal-clear digital picture and sound.

Plus, with digital set-top boxes, Charter customers will gain Video On Demand (VOD) access for every television in their homes. With more than 10,000 VOD options, including more than 1,800 HD titles, Charter is setting a new standard for digital video entertainment.

Customers must take action to ensure they continue receiving Charter programming on all of their televisions. Those not currently equipped with Charter-issued digital set-top boxes or CableCARDs must acquire them for each of their TVs; and Charter is making it easy for

customers to obtain digital boxes at no cost. Customers may visit

www.charter.com/digitalnow or call 1-888-GET CHARTER (1-888-438-2427) for more information.

“More than 93 percent of Charter customers in California have adopted digital devices for at least one television in their home,” said Jean Simmons, vice president and general manager for Charter in California. “Now, we can give customers in Long Beach, Glendale and Burbank even more of what they want – a superior digital image, better audio and a diverse selection of HD programming.”

 

*Excludes On Demand and Pay Per View

 

###

 

About Charter
Charter (NASDAQ: CHTR) is a leading broadband communications company and the fourth-largest cable operator in the United States. Charter provides a full range of advanced broadband services, including advanced Charter TV® video entertainment programming, Charter Internet® access, and Charter Phone®. Charter Business® similarly provides scalable, tailored, and cost-effective broadband communications solutions to business organizations, such as business-to-business Internet access, data networking, business telephone, video and music entertainment services, and wireless backhaul. Charter’s advertising sales and production services are sold under the Charter Media® brand. More information about Charter can be found at

 

charter.com.
Media Contact:

 

Brian Anderson

817-945-1833

Brian.Anderson@charter.com

Cox Targets Cord-Cutters With Internet TV Test in Southern California (Exclusive)

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Operator offering beta version of lower-priced flareWatch service with 97 channels, cloud DVR service and Fan TV set-top

Digital Editor, New York@xpangler

Cox Communications is the first major U.S. pay TV operator to explicitly aim at cord-cutters, launching a test of a lower-priced TV and cloud DVR service in Orange County, Calif., delivered over its broadband pipes.

The operator’s flareWatch service is $34.99 per month, with access to 97 live channels and 30 hours of network DVR storage. The service is currently available to Cox broadband subscribers in the Orange County market.

The flareWatch service is part of “a small trial” in the area, according to Cox spokesman Todd Smith. “Results and customer feedback will determine if we proceed with future plans,” he said.

The Cox Internet TV service uses Fanhattan’s Fan TV set-top, which provides iPad-like navigation via a touch-sensitive remote control that has no buttons. Subscribers can connect up to three Fan TV boxes, which cost $99 each, to the service. While it’s unlikely that Cox or any other pay-TV provider will adopt the approach to deliver their primary TV services, Fan TV and similar boxes could find a home on the Internet streaming front.

FlareWatch does not provide access to over-the-top streaming-video services, such as Hulu or Netflix.

“Finally, a simpler, easier way to get the entertainment you love,” Cox says in a promo for the service.

Cord-cutting has been a growing concern among pay TV providers, which risk losing price-sensitive video subscribers who instead opt for free, over-the-air TV and cheaper streaming options like Netflix.

SEE ALSO: Top Wall Street Analyst: Pay TV “Cord-Cutting Is Real”

One of the key attributes of Cox’s flareWatch is that it delivers a healthy mix of popular programming but at a lower price than traditional cable TV packages.

Beta version of flareWatch provides local broadcast TV and cable nets such as ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Fox Sports West, TWC SportsNet, CNN, CNBC, Nickelodeon, A&E, Discovery, Bravo, USA, TLC, MTV, Fox News Channel, FX, Food Network and Syfy. About 60 of the channels are in HD, according to Cox.

Ordinarily, to get most of those channels, subscribers must purchase Cox Advanced TV service with 300-plus channels, regularly priced at $63.99 per month.

Cox does offer a $24.99-per-month TV Economy package, but that excludes regional sports nets and most of the cable channels in the flareWatch lineup. Nets available in TV Economy include CNN, Nickelodeon, Discovery, History, Fox News, Food Network and USA.

While it is experimenting with Internet-delivered television, Cox is more focused on rolling out the personalized Trio video guide across all its markets along with a related tablet app for in-home streaming video, set to launch later this summer, according to Smith.

Cox’s Flare brand also includes “MyFlare,” a cloud-based media storage service the operator launched in April for hosting personal photos, videos, music and documents. Future offerings in the Flare family are slated to include streaming music and games, according to the MSO.

Privately held Cox is the third-biggest U.S. cable operator, with an estimated 4.5 million video customers.

Cox is providing demos of flareWatch at its five retail Solutions Stores in Orange County, according to the operator’s website.

Time Warner Cable to bring 300 channels to Xbox 360

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Later this summer, Time Warner Cable will launch its TV application on Xbox Live, bringing up to 300 live TV channels to the Xbox 360. The service will be available only to those who are current Time Warner Cable customers and who subscribe to Xbox Live Gold.

According to Microsoft, Time Warner Cable’s channel offerings will include AMC, Bravo, Comedy Central, and CNN. The app will also work with voice controls through the company’s Kinect sensor.

Microsoft has been making a strong push into entertainment with its Xbox 360, and hopes to continue that with the upcoming Xbox One. Last month, the company showed off several entertainment-focused features in the next-generation Xbox One, including one that overlays the Xbox interface over live television. Microsoft has promised that the Xbox One will allow users to instantly switch betweenwatching live TV and playing a game.

Details are a tad bit slim on the Time Warner Cable integration at the moment. However, the companies have promised more details before the Time Warner Cable TV app launches in the Xbox Live Marketplace later this summer.

Cable Show 2013: Broadband Pipe Can Fuel New Services

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Home Control, Energy Management and Health Services On Tap For Cable Ops

By: Mike Farrell Jun 11 2013 – 5:13pm
Washington, D.C. – The broadband pipe won’t just be the conduit for Internet content in the future, with cable operators working diligently to provide services like home control, energy management and home health services in the not too distant future, according to a panel session at the Cable Show Tuesday.
At a session entitled, Coming Down the Pipe: Emerging Businesses Powered by Broadband and moderated by Multichannel News technology editor Jeff Baumgartner, top tech executives from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Mediacom Communications and Bright House Networks, outlined their strategies for using the robust cable infrastructure for new services. While home security dominated the early part of the conversation – a product that each MSO on the panel has launched – each executive said that even those existing offerings are evolving to include capabilities like thermostat control and other types of home automation.
Time Warner Cable vice president, corporate and new business development Shanti Grandhi added that the push has been to provide services under a connected home banner, providing home security bundled with other products that set it apart from the competition. According to the panelists, about 20% of the home security market is controlled by one company – ADT – but the rest is split between small mom and pop operations that provide services to neighborhoods. Cable operators have been addressing that larger segment by offering products in addition to simple alarms. For example, at Comcast, senior vice president and general manager of new business Mitch Bowling said the MSO includes an Eco Saver feature as part of its XFinity Home Control product that allows customers to set thermostats and turn on and off lights remotely.
Comcast as well as other companies have been repackaging their home services – decoupling home automation products from straight security services – as a way to better tailor the service to customers needs.
Bowling said each MSO has multiple products they can pull together to create offerings that “can literally change the way people live in their homes.” And he added, these products can help drive growth in other segments of the business,
Bowling said that about two-thirds of Comcast’s security customers have never had a home security product before. About 40% of its security customers in Q1 were not prior Comcast customers, and of those 40%, 64% went from zero Comcast products to four Comcast products.
Cox executive vice president and chief strategy officer Asheesh Saksena said home security also improves customers’ perception of their cable provider. He said that Cox’s home security customers regularly give an 8-9-or10 out of 10 recommendation rating to the cable company.
As far as new products, each MSO executive said home healthcare could be a huge opportunity, both by providing connections between patients and doctors and for general health monitoring. Bowling said that on product Comcast is testing is a passive monitoring product for the elderly, which would track their movements patterns during the day and notify a third party when those patterns deviate form the norm.
Time Warner Cable is testing a televideo product that would allow patients to video chat with their doctors, as well as a biometric monitoring service that would allow doctors to receive real-time patient data like heart rates remotely.
Education also is a growth opportunity – Mediacom Business senior vice president Dan Templin said that the MSO is testing a distance learning offering that would give students access to classes they would not be able to access through their local school systems.

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