Amy Tykeson is a hybrid in the best sense of the word. She’s firmly ensconced in the independent camp, a steadfast champion for small and rural cable operators on retransmission consent, net neutrality and other sizzling issues.
Yet her knowledge of the business, her ability to articulate the issues and her passion have placed her in the national spotlight. You’re as apt to find her in Bend, Ore., as you are to see Tykeson in Washington, D.C., or New York, as she ministers to her duties on the boards of NCTA and the Kaitz Foundation, among others. She’s also one of the first to be called on to moderate panels at industry events.
"It’s a very challenging time with an FCC chairman who, for whatever reason, has a real dislike for the cable industry," she says. "But the good news is we are in an election year where the lawmakers are focused on the issues, and we have a real opportunity during this window to do a lot of educating."
Closer to home in Oregon, BendBroadband, which passes 65,000 homes in four markets, has thrived as a front-runner in tech adaptation. Tykeson has spent the past year leading the company through a full digital upgrade — 90% complete at press time. The upgrade provides higher speeds, more HD choices and more creative programming packages. The FCC set-top waiver BendBroadband was awarded stipulated that it sticks to the digital timetable, but Tykeson says, "We were going there anyway."
As of July 1, the company’s broadband customers leapfrogged from a 6 Mbps connection to 16 Mbps, with 8 Mbps download speeds. With the acceleration comes a move to metered usage. Subscribers are allotted 100 GB per month (plenty for 95% of them, she notes), but will be charged $1.50 per additional gig used.
"When we first launched high speed there was not a way to measure customer use," Tykeson says. "But the time has come. We pay a 40% premium to get connected to the Internet because we are out in the middle of the state, and every time we get a couple of heavy users we have to do a node split, which isn’t cheap."
The operator now offers close to 60 HD networks, which is "more than DirecTV is offering in our area," she notes. Prior to the transition BendBroadband offered one basic package for subscribers. From July 1 it was able to offer four packages. "This is all about flexibility," Tykeson says.
Amy Tykeson gleaned these and other pieces of wisdom from her dad, cable vet Don Tykeson, founder of Liberty Communications: