John Schanz, Comcast executive vice president for National Engineering and Technology Operations, joined Comcast in early 2006. He had previously served as EVP network and data operations for AOL.

Any surprises or notable achievements in your second year?

The only true surprise in 2007 was a very pleasant one – Tony Werner joined our senior leadership team, and it has been wonderful getting to know and appreciate each other’s experiences and contributions to our going-forward strategy. As for notable achievements, there were many.

We have our backbone in full production, we’re the first in the industry to deploy 40 Gig integrated optics into production, we are IPv6-ready, and we are ready to deploy DOCSIS 3.0 technology.

On the video side, we met the separable security compliance with CableCards on time and have already deployed hundreds of thousands of CableCard-equipped boxes, expanded our video on demand capacity (views are now running 250 million per month), rolled out VOD-in-a-box service and have been testing switched digital video in a few markets. We also have OCAP trials in production and have maintained our superior video quality.

In the Comcast Digital Voice arena, we have scaled to exit 2007 as the fourth largest residential primary line provider in the country and introduced Business Class Voice services.

In the systems area, we have scaled our provisioning engine to handle 10 times the transaction volume of 2006, and all of our high-speed Internet and Comcast Digital Voice customers are provisioned via this system. Overall, we had aggressive plans for 2007, and we will continue to do even more in 2008.

How would you assess your campaign to promote operational excellence?

The operational excellence campaign is off to a good start this year, but has more work to do next year. We have made considerable progress in a number of our quality metrics, our approach to seamless maintenance activity, and in thinking holistically about what we deliver to customers as an end-to-end service, not just boxes and fibers.

In some of the regions where we’re firing on all operational excellence metrics, you can see the lift in customer satisfaction and improvements in our overall operating efficiencies. I’m very encouraged.

In looking at Comcast metro Boston in mid-2007, we found a system that had taken ownership of plant to a new level. Are you trying to replicate those practices?

Absolutely. A number of regions have taken the operational metrics to an entirely new level of ownership and service quality for our customers. Off the top of my head, I’d throw in Portland, Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis, North New England, Nashville, Jacksonville, and Central Pennsylvania just to name a few other regions that are breaking the mold.

We’ve seen a real hunger in top-performing systems to move into a proactive zone. What does it take to get there?

Proactive approaches and behavior are keys to any top-performing system. I believe that you must institutionalize this behavior, and it’s done through technology, process and people. The technology is critical in your designs, tools and metrics. The process must be lightweight, effective and focus you on what’s truly important. A culture of people who strive to find and fix issues before our customers even see them is the most important aspect.

How is the competitive environment shaping your work and priorities?

It’s exciting to be running against some of the largest competitors in the industry. The competitive threats are driving a passion in our business to innovate faster. I believe this will be the most significant contributor to our success over the next 18 months.

Convergence has been talked about for more than a decade, and it’s now complete. Video, voice and data converged on the same fiber-rich network is in production for millions of our customers. Our new focus will move to "Convergence Cubed." Now that the connectivity is converged, we must work to truly converge the video, voice and data applications. Let the competitors try to follow us there. Stay tuned.

The Daily


Push for Gigi

Public Knowledge is the latest public interest group to mount a campaign to push for the confirmation of Gigi Sohn as the FCC’s fifth commissioner.

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