SCTE’s CEO Thinks Business


Mark Dzuban, the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ newly installed CEO, wants cable engineering professionals to know as much about business strategy as they do about RF spectrum analysis. Dzuban, whose 40-year career has included posts at Cedar Point Communications and AT&T, believes the SCTE has an opportunity to equip “change agents” who will build next-generation broadband networks — with a business focus. In one of his first interviews since starting Feb. 2, Dzuban spoke last week with Multichannel News technology editor Todd Spangler. An edited transcript follows:

MCN: What does SCTE do well, and what does it need to improve?

MD: If I look at where we are, and I look at it as a mission, SCTE has the opportunity to organize this ship and get to the next level of supporting much more complex networks than we’ve ever supported in the past.

Traditionally, we’ve been supporting HFC [hybrid fiber-coaxial] networks. My vision now is to turn toward more complex technologies, and to emphasize technology with a business acumen — to be very smart about how we spend capital and build next-generation networks.

MCN: What programs would result from that focus?

MD: It would manifest itself in a couple of new areas. One would be forums that allow us some broad thinking. As an example, rejuvenating ET [SCTE’s Conference on Emerging Technologies] to be an event to provide the forward thinking on where we’re vulnerable.

We don’t build a platform and operate it for 30 years. We’re always looking at change. Part of our objective it to be change agents and be ahead of the ball instead of behind the ball. We’re also looking at instituting best practices for operations, providing Excel spreadsheets on selecting products and capabilities.

MCN: Would this include product testing or benchmarking?

MD: Absolutely not. That’s not our scope. It’s developing the skills of the teams. This would give the MSOs who do that [testing] more insight and smarter decision-making.

MCN: What effect will the economic downturn have on membership, or attendance at SCTE events?

MD: I think to every downside, there’s an upside. One part of this is, the whole telecommunications industry — not just cable — is going to be spending less capital dollars, so we may have actually more time to create a much more aggressive, competitive think tank at SCTE and the tools to support these networks. Capital spending may delay the pace of the rollout but not the selection or initial planning.

MCN: What’s a misconception you think people have about SCTE?

MD: There are some folks who would like it to be more engineering-focused, some who would like it to be more future-focused. This SCTE, from my perspective, has been very good at supporting traditional cable technology.

We’re at a very important point in the development of our networks. I look at my election to this position as representing the elders and the founders to say, “Hey, we’ve done a lot of good work to this point. Now let’s take on a new view of technologies and skills that may not have been part of the SCTE.”

For example, I spoke to Dick [Green, CEO of CableLabs] at their conference in Denver [in early February] and we went over, “Here’s what the analytical folks do and do very well, and here’s the mission for SCTE.” I want to be a good partner. I’m not sure what happened before. But under my organization we’ll be very close, make sure we’re in lock step, and we’ll be the execution of the thinking out of CableLabs.