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Cable Technology Feature Article

June 20, 2014

Cable TV's (Not So) Big Dig Deal

By Bob Wallace, Founder, Fast Forward Thinking LLC

There was a time when telco TV providers entering towns and cities to battle incumbent cablecos were met with ads claiming the newcomers would have to dig up your lawn to provide you service in neighborhoods with buried power lines – an effort designed to deter customers from changing providers.

While the ads are long gone, the issue has continued because it’s increasingly being encountered by cablecos as well. Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) still requires digging - but so can replacing and upgrading older connections from the street to the home.

Digging It

Here’s what happened. In countless cases, cablecos buried their cables to the home decades before the big telco TV providers even got into TV. As a direct result, the old connections have aged and are often not capable of comfortably exceeding the demands of today’s video and Internet services.

Customers shouldn’t be surprised if an upgrade of these cableco services requires the replacement of this road-to-house cable. In neighborhoods without phone poles, this means digging and later filling in a trench for the new cable run. That’s just as it would be for a ‘newcomer’ TV provider to run new cabling from the road to the customer dwelling.

This may seem like a captain obvious topic for those in the TV and service provider industry, but this knowledge likely hasn’t reached the masses, most of who don’t know but could care, about anything that impacts their property.

Lawn Job

For those that spend more time caring for their lawns than they do with anything else without a heartbeat, this is clearly bad news, whether you choose to upgrade with your current provider or switch to a newcomer who uses FTTH. Mowing dirt is no fun.

It gets worse if pay-TV providers need to replace or work on cables buried between the roadside and your property. Why? Because in buried utility neighborhoods and developments, replacing and/or upgrading the transmission facilities that are buried along the street is a complicated and disruptive process and even more lawn-unfriendly.

In cases where both competitors dig up the road for these reasons, the frustration is multiplied as pay-TV customers hope all parties dig safe, don’t tie up the road, and leave the area in as good as condition as they found it when the long line of trucks, equipment and diggers finally depart.

What else can pay-TV customers do? Seemingly nothing. digging is a necessary evil in these scenarios. What can service providers do to ease the sometime surprise and ensuing disruption? Not much either aside of being forthright and up front with customers about the digging so they know what to expect.

Picture This

It’s tough to paint a mental picture of these trenching and re-digging efforts for customers. Pay-TV providers, their contractors and subcontractors – and the town police almost always on the scene, want to spend as little time as is humanly possible on the cabling efforts as time (and resources) are money.

Upgrading outdated outside plans, while often required as technology advances, is better than the alternatives of TV and Internet access service degradation, outages, and the ability to benefit from new offerings and competition.

Collateral Damage?

With pay-TV providers - and often electric utilities - all looking to access roughly the same gear and property at different times, the best possible outcome for customer is going without follow up service/repair calls and enjoyment of new and enhanced services.

Any result short of that can turn a not-so-big dig, into a big deal.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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