FinePoint Tackles Provisioning

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FinePoint Technologies, which has provided self-installation and software services to Internet service providers and digital subscriber line providers, hopes to use that experience to help cable operators as they gradually move toward self-installation of cable modems.

Last month, the company exhibited at the Western Show for the first time, which CEO John O'Keefe called "the best show for us in two years in terms of traffic."

"On the broadband side, we have CyberTruck, which allows MSOs to deploy a CD-based, fully branded, self-installation service," he said. With that, FinePoint will be entering a domain largely inhabited by BroadJump Inc., among others.

FinePoint's software breaks down into four phases, O'Keefe said. During the qualification phase, "we make sure the in-home equipment meets service specs."

Phase two centers on the initial installation, covering the deployment of device drivers and USB device drivers. It also self-configures the email and network card.

Phase three is verification. "The CyberTruck validator runs silently in background." O'Keefe said. "With DSL, we'll performance test in line, test the external network etc. We're able to perform tests from the customer premise equipment to the network, and detect line lengths, bridge taps, signal degradation. Then we can give them red light or green light status."

For DSL providers, such internal provisioning can save upwards of $400 in truck rolls and testing costs, O'Keefe said.

"Service activation also is part of phase three," he said. "After we validate the connection, we take the user's info and, through back-office integration, insert the data into billing database."

At that point, the DSL provider knows the installation has been successful, he said.

O'Keefe calls phase four the "customer retention phase."

"It's making sure we keep the service interesting for them," he said. "We provide messaging through a push technology, and a desktop portal interface for content that the service can dynamically change from their service side." Applications include a built-in MP3 player and Microsoft's Windows Media Player.

O'Keefe said that more than 350 ISPs serving several million subscribers currently use its CyberTruck, WinPoET and ServPoET software, including AOL, Earthlink, Verizon and Century Telephone.

FinePoint believes it can bring the same operational efficiencies to the cable market and provide an alternative to Broadjump. Companies like Cablevision Systems Corp., where the majority of cable-modem subscribers are self-provisioned, are clearly in FinePoints sights.

FinePoint's ServPoET for point-to-point protocol over Ethernet (PPPoE) could serve to obviate the need for many DSL routers, O'Keefe said, significantly lowering DSL costs for telcos.

Currently, telcos have to send a technician to a digital-subscriber-line access multiplexer (DSLAM) to halt service to a customer who hasn't paid their bill. FinePoint's ServPoET's software would allow telcos to turn service on and off without a truck roll, vastly improved the economics of DSL, O'Keefe said.

Typically, telcos used Cisco Systems or Redback routers for their PPPoE DSL connections. O'Keefe said the servPoET software, at one-tenth the cost, obviates the need for many of those routers.

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