Ops: Good Help is Hard to Find

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Baltimore-As services grow more complicated, cable operators see finding competent employees as the technological age's biggest challenge, panelists at the East Coast Cable 2000 show said last Wednesday.

Representatives from large and small systems stressed the need to train existing employees and hire new people to handle the demand for new services.

Gary McCollum, vice president and general manager of Cox Communications Inc.'s Northern Virginia system, said quick new-service rollouts would separate the winners from the losers. But he added that the key to success is properly training staffers-from installers to customer service representatives.

"You're going to win by quickly rolling out service," McCollum said. "But as you upgrade your network, you have to upgrade your people."

Cox has rolled out digital and high-speed-data service in Northern Virginia and has also been aggressive in launching telephony service, which increases the need for technically savvy employees.

James Rigas, president of Adelphia Business Solutions, the MSO-controlled competitive local-exchange carrier, also said that well-trained personnel as make the difference, especially with increased competition from direct-broadcast satellite and CLECs.

Time Warner Cable of New York City president Barry Rosenblum said he expects to have about 50,000 digital cable subscribers by the end of the year and 200,000 on board by the end of 2001.

Time Warner has also been cautious in its new-service rollouts, making sure all of the bugs are worked out in smaller markets before launches in major areas like Manhattan.

After the panel discussion, Rosenblum told reporters video-on-demand service was the likely next offering in Manhattan, followed by an interactive shopping or information service.

"In my mind, the priorities are the things that people don't have," Rosenblum said.

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