Last year, a local exchange carrier (LEC) tried to reach the business community with radio spots in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan market that conveyed this frightening message: cable operators were offering commercial services. That campaign was short-lived, leading me to wonder whether it backfired. Could it have been that instead of screaming out in horror, business managers in the area asked themselves: "You mean, I have a choice?" True enough, the hapless cable-guy stereotype endures. Moreover, the memory or continuing reality of poor customer service lingers among many current (or former) cable subscribers. The problem with that ad campaign, however, was that the MSO launching commercial services in metro D.C. (on the Virginia side of the Potomac) was Cox Communications. As we have documented for years, leading-edge MSOs such as Cox are no longer just ‘cable companies.’ For instance, Cox launched its business services unit in 1997. Since then, the cable industry has upgraded itself to a point at which it has become increasingly difficult to spook the public. "Anytime a technology is mentioned, even negatively," says Cox Business Services VP Jason Welz, "it can have a positive awareness benefit." The growing sales team that Welz has hired in Cox Northern Virginia is following up. "What we’re doing alot of is educating customers on the independent (Cox) network," he says. As facilities-based providers, MSOs can offer all sorts of services to the business community. To cite an innovative example mentioned in this month’s cover story, Charter Communications’ DOCSIS-based MPLS VPN network enabled one corporate customer to use an IP PBX to provision its own SIP-based phones. To some LECs, that’s downright scary.
Jonathan Tombes
Editor
jtombes@accessintel.com

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