While the need to cost-effectively evolve the present infrastructure to deliver next-gen video is a top-of-mind priority when it comes to bolstering public stocks, there’s a more pressing need on the cable home front when it comes to maintaining a happy base of subscribers: home networks.

Home networking had its proponent companies at the CableLabs Summer Conference Innovation Showcase with players like 4HomeMedia grabbing attention for its "four-screen approach for managing security and home monitoring services," according to David Reed, executive vice president and chief strategy officer of CableLabs. "That’s a rich area of innovation right now, and 4HomeMedia represented a lot of those different concepts in this showcase."

While cable is being attacked outside the home by new pipes entering subscriber homes, it’s under even wider attack inside the home. Someone has to manage those home connections among computers and entertainment systems and routers and high definition TV sets. It could be a profit area for the cable operator; it could be a financial and customer relations drain if consumers are forced to do it on their own; or it could be, like TiVo, an opportunity for someone else to make money off cable’s pipe now because consumers want it now.

"Home networking is going to be one of our great points of emphasis going forward in the next few years," said Steve Craddock, senior vice president of new technology for Comcast.

As is its wont, Comcast is looking at the problem from the financial angle, as well. What consumers want "With the proliferation of devices, consumers are going to want to consume their content in different ways, different content in different ways on different devices," said Louis Toth, managing director of Comcast Interactive Capital. "An operator isn’t really just going to be able to service the consumer on one particular platform; they’re going to need to look at it in a holistic fashion, be able to manage the content as it moves across."

That’s the idea that’s driving 1-800-905-GEEK into the home networking space. A provider of on-site computer services, the GEEKs (if we may shorten that horrendous name) are now invading the home with an offer to tie everything together using Telkonet‘s in-building broadband access over electrical wiring technology.

Telkonet was not among the 12 companies highlighted during the Innovation Showcase. Its technology, though, was enough to cement a business relationship with a firm that’s serious about getting into and controlling the home network – no matter the pipe that gets the content there – for a fee. It’s not just for those dumb homeowners who don’t know how to network their computers.

"We’re selling the Telkonet hardware, the iWire system that’s been designed for the SMB," said Richard Cole, CEO-founder of – and this is the last time you’ll have to read this name – 1-800-905-GEEK. "With our franchise system, we are in literally tens of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses providing computer solutions."

Now the GEEKs want to add networking to that support, along with residential, which is "a huge play," he said. The cost savings Speaking in a language that should make the new breed of cable technologists stand up and take note, Cole added, "Think of the cost savings to the builder who’s building the house or the residential owner who doesn’t already have CAT-5 cable in the house. The cost savings (for using the electrical wiring) are just huge."

Once there, with their powerlines humming and the connections connected and the computers and TVs and phones all working, the GEEKs need only sit back, support and collect the monthly revenues.

"Every time we install this product, we’re installing it with the assumption that whomever is sophisticated enough to need this connectivity also has computers that provide Internet connectivity," Cole said.

Those computers could probably be fed video using Harmonic‘s innovative edge QAM technology, and the GEEKs would still be around to handle the "environmental solution … security solution and all that needs to be maintained under a managed service plan," said Cole. "That’s where we come in; we’ll proactively manage that technological convergence that has occurred either at the SMB level or at the residential level."

1-800-905-GEEK (OK, I used it again) doesn’t have the ring of TiVo, and it will obviously never be turned into a verb – can you imagine telling your neighbor you 1-800-905-GEEKed your home network? – but it is a concept that cashes in on what’s being delivered by the cable and telco pipes. – Jim Barthold

The Daily

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