Title: Network engineer, Time Warner Cable

Broadband Background: Bandlow got started in electronics during high school and began her career working in video engineering for a media center at a junior college. She now works for Time Warner Cable in Cleveland doing (and teaching, see photo above) voice, data and video engineering. She received her FCC First Phone license in the ’70s and currently holds a Cisco CCNA as well as an amateur radio license.

You started out in local content origination, didn’t you? Could you tell us about your career?

I started back in 1981 as the LO studio engineer for Viacom Cable in Cleveland. I had a lot of fun working in the baseband world of cameras, switchers and TBCs. In the mid-80s, I got into addressability, microwave AMLs, and I managed a crew of headend techs.

What are your main responsibilities now?

These days I work in network engineering. I get involved in myriad things involving LANs/WANs, voice systems, HD, and other things that go blink in the night.

Your current article for us is about HDMI. When did this topic surface as a hot button?

Ever since HDTVs started to take off, really in the last couple of years. Home theater installations are getting pretty complex these days, and these intelligent connections between devices bring their own set of challenges as the industry provides new spigots to squirt out their content in more sophisticated ways.

This is partly a matter of techs keeping up with early adopters, isn’t it? Any similar issues?

Gosh, it’s the early adopters that keep us on our toes! We’ve been fortunate to have many tech-savvy customers who have been willing to work with us on hammering out the issues with these technologies. The early adopters tend to be the ones who challenge us in ways that we haven’t seen before as they build their home theater systems with the goal of having a totally immersive cinematic experience. As a result, they present a unique combination of CE devices to us, which ultimately helps us to grow in proficiency as well as them.

What about CableCards, which you wrote about for us last year? Is that heating up again?

Yes, it is – in a big way. With the FCC’s July deadline for separable security looming, all new set-top boxes will contain a CableCard slot to provide a means of meeting this requirement. This is a learning curve for techs as well as CSRs. There are many other developments riding on the coattails of separable security, including DCAS and the new OCUR PCs. More new gadgets to keep us on our toes!

Any areas that call out for more training among cable’s technical teams?

Yes. There’s an urgent need for installers, service techs and CSRs to understand the new OCUR CableCard-enabled PCs hitting the streets. This is a monumental development – for the first time in the cable industry’s history, we will have a consumer device that will contain a CableCard-equipped tuner as well as all of the traditional trappings of a PC in a single box. This is going to make for some interesting times. Think about the likelihood of having a PPV movie, Web browser and a Word document open at the same time and you’ll get the idea.

How has cable network engineering changed for the past few years?

As the cable industry marches toward the triple play and beyond, IP-delivered services are really taking center stage. The wide-area video transport backbone has already migrating from analog to IP; we’ve been pushing digital video packets to customers for some time now; and switched digital video is poised to take those streams all the way to the set-top in a manner that looks and behaves a lot more like a WAN than an RF headend. A good knowledge of IP and networking is becoming more and more important, as many of the analog "tweaks" have been replaced by SNMP. My little green screwdriver has much less to do these days.

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