Ohio Ops Score With Cable Modems

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Operators in Ohio are deploying cable-modem service at twice the national average, according to an economic study of the state's ability to capitalize on electronic commerce.

Ecom-Ohio, an initiative from the Ohio Supercomputer Center on behalf of nearly two dozen telecommunications-related businesses and organizations, found that consumers have reacted enthusiastically to cable's introduction of high-speed Internet access.

The recently released report indicated that cable's "aggressive" rollout of broadband services has resulted in penetration rates that exceed the national average.

On the downside, the study found that only 15 percent of Ohio businesses have a presence on the Internet, and just 3 percent use that presence to sell products.

Although no figures were provided detailing the actual number of cable modems introduced since 1996, the study noted that almost half of the state's households own personal computers, and 43 percent have access to online services.

It also echoed the sentiments of the Ohio Cable Telecommunications Association in concluding that competition-and not government mandates-will drive network deployment statewide, especially as "more carriers enter the market and new technologies become available and less expensive."

"Ohio's policies should boost competition among network providers and develop market-led solutions to imbalances in network access and capabilities," the report said.

OCTA executive vice president Ed Kozelek said the survey was designed to provide data on what Ohio will have to do to cash in on the developing e-commerce "explosion."

"[The study was meant] to find out where we were, where we are, and where we're going; to make sure that Ohio is a leader in e-commerce," he said.

But even though Ecom-Ohio found that local-exchange carriers are doggedly marketing digital-subscriber-line (DSL) service, the state's telcos have pushed for deregulation legislation in the Ohio General Assembly that presumably would provide LECs with the needed incentives to invest in broadband services.

"Their intent is to get out from under oversight by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio," Kozelek said. "Our view is that they're going to have to build these networks anyway, because if they don't, they're going to be at a competitive disadvantage."

The explosion in cable-modem deployment in Ohio has been across the board, from the state's dominant operator, Time Warner Cable, to smaller outfits like Buckeye Cable in Toledo.

"A rising tide lifts all boats," said Steve Fry, president of Time Warner Cable's northeast division, which first introduced Road Runner Internet service in the state in its Akron system in 1996.

Speed is not the only feature that has made cable-modem service a hit with some 30,000 subscribers serviced by the Northeast Division, according to Fry. The provider's ability to package analog- and digital-cable service with high-speed Internet access and content has also been key, he said.

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