Broadband Background: Murphy’s history with the SCTE goes way back. He spent most of his cable TV career in the Los Angeles area where he was one of the founding members of the Southern California SCTE Chapter. He was affiliated with that chapter/meeting group for almost 20 years and during that time served in various capacities from event planner/fundraiser, first and second vice president, to multiple terms as president. He was also elected to the Cable TV Pioneers in 2003. Our sister pub Cable World named Patriot Media as its Independent Operator of the Year. What would you say were the biggest technical achievements over the past 12-14 months? There were two major achievements that were accomplished in the last year. The first was increasing the speed of our HSD product (broadband data service) from 5 Mbps/768 kbps to 12 Mbps/2 Mbps and offering an even faster speed of 20 Mbps/2 Mbps. To accomplish this, Patriot had to re-engineer, rewire, do a significant number of node splits, and add a substantial number of new ports of our data network to support the speeds. Patriot felt that these speeds gave us a competitive advantage in the immediate future against other broadband providers. The second major accomplishment was launching a Digital Phone product (aka VoIP). Patriot Media’s digital phone network utilizes an advanced phone service architecture that is part PacketCable and part SIP, allowing the company to offer the features and reliability of PacketCable along with the advance routing capabilities inherent in SIP. Patriot Media was able to do this by entering into third-party agreements and purchasing a Nortel CS2K softswitch. Cable World reported that you were serving 41 percent of homes passed with high-speed data. How do you explain your HSD success from a technical standpoint? As I stated in my response to your first question, we offer a very robust high-speed data product that is perpetually being scrutinized by Patriot Media to ensure that we’re meeting the customers’ demands as well as staying ahead of the competition. I would also add that it doesn’t hurt to operate in four affluent counties centrally located in the state and within commuting distance of New York and Philadelphia. How do you account for your low numbers on service calls and failed installs? Patriot Media’s success on a its service call rate and failed installs is the direct result of in-house technical training, a formal quality assurance program, establishing installation standards, pre-qualifying contract installation personal prior to them working in our system, tracking and reviewing technical employees performance on a weekly and monthly basis (providing positive feedback and identifying additional training opportunities on a regular base), and encouraging technicians to seek certification through NCTI and SCTE programs. What have been the keys to establishing “Four Nines” network reliability? Lots of fiber helps; approximately 24 percent of our system has fiber over-lash on it. This network feeds 727 nodes with an average home count per node of less than 165. We also have a NOC that is able to monitor power supplies, nodes, CMTSs, circuits, routers, servers, and our telephone components; this group ties this information together and helps our engineers and technicians to respond to problems and fix them most of the time, before they affect customers. In addition to this, we track outage response times and do a post-mortem review on an outage to enable us to improve are response in the future. How do you instill owner Steve Simmons’ “customer comes first” rule among your technical teams? Being in the technical side of this business for over 30 years we (engineers) can make very basic principles very complicated; yet making the customer come first is actually a very easy thing to do. We accomplish this by explaining how important the technicians’ role is to our customers and what an important responsibility they have in responding to customer requests and ensuring that video voice and data services are working. Patriot Media put a tremendous amount of trust and confidence in our technical staff to take care of our customers and to take care of each other (which by the way are also part of our mission statement). Customer service is emphasized through training every chance we get. I like to use the term “Winning friends one customer at a time.” A columnist for another sister pub, CableFAX Daily, recently lamented the loss of “fun” in the cable industry. But “have fun” is part of Patriot’s mission statement. How does this work in practice? Patriot is always looking for ways to promote fun competitions that ultimately benefit our customers. We’re constantly running different types of promotions that promote interaction between different groups within the company. There are also special events such as barbecues to reward reaching customer plateaus or significant department goals. We also sponsor various sports teams made up of our employees such as a coed softball team. I guess besides contest and parties our philosophy at Patriot Media is to celebrate our success no matter how small they are! This is practiced all the way up to our CEO Steve Simmons. What are your biggest technical challenges going forward? Offering cellular telephone to our customers (maybe with a partner), offering a wireless data service (in our area), and how fast is fast enough for our HSD customers in the future and what will need to be done to our networks to support it. Digitizing 100 percent of our analogs within a few years, deploying switched video, offering a centralized DVR or maybe even letting customers store all types of files at a centralized storage facility that Patriot Media operates. Are there advantages to working for a small, privately owned operator? There are many advantages to working for a small privately owned operator: The amount of time spent on budgets would be the biggest advantage. Typically our budgets take less than six weeks to compile, review and approve so that we can get back to running the business; having worked for a larger MSO, this process sometimes took six months! Decisions are made easily through group discussions with our management team. There is also a tremendous sense of accomplishment since you don’t have to look far to see the benefits that your efforts have made.