CableLabs has a Web site (https://locator.go2broadband.com/) where potential broadband customers can search for a provider in their areas. (For more, click here).

Go2Broadband has been around for 10 years, but is it effective?

Larry Gowin, senior product manager at CableLabs, said, "We have seen a steady growth of users and queries throughout the life of Go2Broadband. Last year, more than 3 million leads came across the platform, and we’re seeing a significant upward trend so far in 2010."

But Go2Broadband has some new competition from BillShrink, a company that originally made its mark providing customer referrals in the mobile space. (For more, click here).

In May, BillShrink announced it was offering a free search engine to help consumers find the best pay-TV option. "Due to the complexity of TV channel packages, consumers often purchase many more channels than they watch," according to the BillShrink announcement. "The new TV vertical brings an increased transparency to opaque billing practices as BillShrink analyzes viewer preferences and then calculates all introductory and promotional rates over one or two years."

Bill Shrink CEO and Co-Founder Schwark Satyavolu said his company’s geo-aware data is coded by Java. The BillShrink software gathers information about product pricing, packages and equipment from multiple data sources. And it takes a consumer’s specific TV genre preferences into account.

Satyavolu said BillShrink uses a two-step process to locate providers. First, the software checks to see which providers are available in the consumer’s zip code. The second step uses the consumer’s exact address to confirm or deny serviceability.

"In a lot of cases, we don’t work with the cooperation of all these folks (providers)," said Satyavolu. "It takes time and investment on their part to leverage the existing Web interfaces. Providers authorize data because they make it available on their websites. Over time, we expect more structured feeds like we have on our wireless products."

According to Gowin, the process is similar at Go2Broadband: "Go2Broadband determines the cable operator based on the zip code of a potential subscriber’s address and sends a query to the identified operator. The cable operators typically do another serviceability query on the discrete addresses. They are the ultimate authority on what can or can’t be serviced."

Some folks who work in the geographic information systems (GIS) areas at MSOs would like to see more granular data provided to Go2Broadband.

James Pierce, senior director/HFC engineering and GIS at Charter Communications, said Charter’s GIS system has expanded from just the zip code to include franchise information and, more recently, to include node boundary information.

"Not every cable operator has done everything we’ve done,” said Pierce, adding, "We’ve encouraged CableLabs to go back to MSOs" to get the most current data.

Chris Nelson, senior manager/GIS with Time Warner Cable, said, "We need to move quicker on Go2Broadband and support CableLabs. They have to work with disparate databases. We don’t have a uniform standard. We (Time Warner Cable) are going through an exercise right now in how to define homes passed."

Large MSOs that have acquired many of their properties through trades and acquisitions have a difficult time mapping the exact boundaries of their own plant. And it’s a constant evolution as they build new plant and continue to sell or trade systems. Add to that the complexity of pricing structures, and Go2Broadband has its hands full trying to stay up-to-date.

"We view companies such as BillShrink as potential affiliates," said Gowin. "Cable operators can gain access to any retail or e-tail outlet that leverages Go2Broadband through a single connection. Conversely, affiliates who’ve established a cable-operator business relationship can use Go2Broadband to connect to those cable operators."

From BillShrink’s perspective, it may be beneficial to establish an affiliate relationship with Go2Broadband, but BillShrink provides referrals for non-cable video providers as well.

-Linda Hardesty

The Daily

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