CABLE FORMS BROADBAND GROUP TO COMBAT PR-MINDED RIVALS3/22/1998 7:00 PM Eastern
Cable has begun to go head-to-head against rival
high-speed-data alternatives by forming a new company, the Cable Broadband
Solutions Forum, aimed at giving new cable services a higher profile in the
The new group, incorporated as a nonprofit company in
January, sports a high-level board of directors comprised of senior executives from MSOs Tele-Communications
Inc., Time Warner Cable, Comcast Corp. and MediaOne,
as well as from high-speed-data company @Home Network.
The operators formed the CBSF as a way of combating
press-release momentum on the telco ADSL (asymmetrical digital subscriber line) front by
building a cohesive marketing and public-relations campaign about the benefits of
In part, the CBSF hopes to thwart any consumer perceptions
that ADSL technologies are more imminent than or superior to cable-modem-based services.
"There's a lot more than just writing a news release
-- the telcos have these armies of 'spin-meisters' who are trying to make their new
technology meaningful," said Dean Gilbert, senior vice president and
general manager of @Home and a member of the CBSF's board, "whereas cable is actually
doing something, by deploying and adding subscribers."
Over the past few months, a number of telcos and large
suppliers have announced plans to hone ADSL standards and to get the service in front of
customers. The telco pitch: A point-to-point, switched offering of high-speed data running
at top speeds of 12 megabits per second is a better option than cable's offering, which
runs at shared speeds of 27 mbps downstream.
BellSouth Corp., Pacific Bell and U S West Inc., among
others, have all announced intentions to aggressively deploy ADSL in their markets this
The CBSF will "evangelize broadband, in terms of
providing services to consumers," Gilbert said. "It's to get out in front of the
rhetoric of ADSL."
Rob Davenport, senior vice president and chief operating
officer of TCI.NET, the TCI division focused on launching @Home in its systems, said the
genesis of the CBSF was a public-relations problem.
"The acknowledgment that the general consumer
awareness of what we're doing, as an industry -- and what we're all so excited about -- is
at unacceptably low levels," Davenport said.
"We really need for the general populous to
understand, and we need to make it relevant to them, and not to come off that broadband is
some kind of newfangled, confusing technology," Davenport said.
Already, the CBSF has roused the support of 35 partners
representing MSOs, vendors and service providers, which will pay dues of $10,000 to
participate. Cisco Systems Inc. was to first to pony up, cable executives said.
Other vendors that attended two of the initial CBSF
Bay Networks Inc
Digital Equipment Corp.
General Instrument Corp.
Samsung Electronics America
Sun Microsystems Inc.
Terayon Communication Systems
The group, formed at the Western Show in December, has
since held one meeting at Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., headquarters.
Besides Gilbert, other board members include Davenport;
Mark Coblitz, vice president of strategic planning for Comcast Corp.; Jan Peters, CEO of
MediaOne; and Tim Evard, president of Time Warner Cable's Road Runner, among others.
Davenport said he holds substantial enthusiasm for the
success of the fledgling venture.
"I relate this to talking to people who don't
understand what it is that we do -- it winds up being a long conversation," he said.
"We live and breathe this [broadband services], but that's obviously not so with the
general public yet."
The CBSF plans to release specific action plans during the
National Show in May, when the company will hold its official "coming-out
party," executives said.
"Frankly, it's in the early stages," Davenport
said. "The manifestation of the activity will take place around public-relations and
marketing campaigns that are not branded from any particular MSO or vendor, but more as a
way to submit the industry's stance."
The campaigns, yet to be finalized, will likely focus on
telling consumers that broadband services are easy to use and ready for primetime, Gilbert