The AT&T Corp. executive leading his company's
broadband-telephony operations has covered a lot of ground with the old
Tele-Communications Inc. since taking his new post several weeks ago.
So far, he likes what he's seen.
Gerald (Jerry) DeFrancisco is the 15-year AT&T veteran
who was named March 2 to succeed TCI's retiring Marvin Jones as head of wireline
strategy for the newly merged companies' local-telephone-service rollout, reporting
directly to AT&T Broadband & Internet Services CEO Leo J. Hindery Jr.
DeFrancisco's charge is to deploy telephony
infrastructure that is good enough to capture and keep customers who will not tolerate
phone-service outages, lousy voice quality or installation and billing problems.
Despite speculation that AT&T is in for some nasty
surprises when it gets a close look at TCI's cable plant, DeFrancisco stressed that
he has been impressed with TCI's telephony executives and by the state of the parts
of its network that have already been upgraded to carry two-way traffic.
"The goal is still to have 10 pilots running by the
end of the year," DeFrancisco said in an interview. "The plant is more than
adequate to do that."
"The big challenge for us is to build infrastructure
that supports a very large-scale rollout of telephony," he said. "A number of
cable companies have gotten into it, but on a small scale. We want to deliver on our
chairman's [C. Michael Armstrong] goal to have 10 million to 15 million customers on
it over the next three to five years."
AT&T zealously guards its brand. This means that the
new cable-telephone service -- initially a standard circuit-switched platform, but
eventually an Internet-protocol-based service -- must meet the same performance metrics
that the company applies to its huge long-distance and network-services businesses.
To pass from design and testing to commercial deployment,
the cable-phone service must meet quality standards that include network availability,
response times for trouble reports and the percentage of appointments that installers make
"It's kind of standard to the AT&T way of
doing business," DeFrancisco said. "Similar metrics have been used in the cable
industry, but what we're trying to do is to put together the best of both
He knows both worlds well: Before taking this job,
DeFrancisco was vice president for cable telephony in AT&T's corporate-strategy
and business-development unit, where he worked on cable telephony as part of
AT&T's overall development of a nationwide local telephone platform.
Previous posts included a stint turning around the
performance of Alascom, AT&T's wholly owned Alaska affiliate.
So far, testing the new circuit-switched cable platform on
AT&T Broadband's Fremont, Calif., system has turned up what DeFrancisco said are
only the bugs that trials are supposed to uncover. "So far, we haven't turned up
anything that we couldn't fix," he said.