There’s a point in Ron Hranac’s column this month about an operator who has deployed 64-QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) in the upstream that bears repeating.

"To understand what it takes to make upstream 64-QAM work," he writes, "we have to go back a few years to when a decision was made by this cable operator to get serious about preventive maintenance."

Getting serious about PM. That’s like getting serious about eating right or exercising or spending more time with friends or family. Irreproachable as goals, they can be fiendishly hard to implement.

That’s partly because urgent tasks have this tendency – familiar enough to editors – of crowding out the important ones. Answering a triple-alarm fiber cut or addressing a triple-play customer’s complaints (or hitting multiple deadlines) are urgent tasks. But putting out fires can divert time and resources from daily activities that lead to network (and personal) health and productivity. In turn, such neglect only increases the odds of facing another meltdown scenario.

It all reminds me of something that Comcast SVP Len Rozek said last year about the "virtuous cycle" in which Comcast Seattle, our 2006 System of the Year, had found itself. "It’s nice … to be in and really hard to get there."

Breaking a vicious cycle takes multiple steps. On the workforce management side, it could entail making dispatch more dynamic, along the lines of what Charter‘s Tom Gorman and Valerie Hartman are writing about this month. It could involve deploying more automated workforce tools, such those that Cox is using from TOA Technologies and Time Warner Cable from CSG Systems.

Whatever path it takes to get there, a cable system running efficiently on all cylinders is a thing of beauty. It’s something we like to put on our cover. So here’s this month’s call to action: If you’ve seen an outstanding system lately – or work for one – send me a note. We’ll consider it for this year’s System of the Year award. Jonathan Tombes

The Daily


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