A vendor is touting a solution for cable operators to
effectively offer customers access to multiple Internet-service providers over their
While the political and business aspects of "open
access" are being debated, CableWeb Systems Inc. contended that its
dynamic-bandwidth-management software has helped to enable competitive Internet access in
field deployments without the technical degradation that some warned would result from
sharing cable bandwidth.
"There are two areas where you need to manage shared
bandwidth: from the CMTS [cable-modem-termination system] to the subscriber, or from a
shared connection between multiple ISPs to the Internet backbone," said Steve Getz,
president and cofounder of Allentown, Pa.-based CableWeb. "We've addressed
CableWeb developed the solution as an offshoot of its
initial work developing hardware and software for a telephone-return cable-modem system.
The company's "BAM-DS" bandwidth-management and
"BAM-OA" security and usage-monitoring software are deployed in the cable
BAM-OA secures control for the system operator of equipment
connected to its network and of bandwidth allocated to individual ISPs that lease access.
BAM-DS manages bandwidth, letting the operator adjust transfer rates for individual users,
monitor usage patterns and identify potential system overloads.
CableWeb CEO Dan Gold, a former cable-unit president at
Century Communications Corp., said the software polls each customer's usage 56 times per
second, automatically adjusting bandwidth controls in real time based on subscriber
demands and network conditions.
"We determine whether anyone is overusing the
system," Gold said, "and we apportion the utilization in such a fashion that we
step down the heavy users very quickly so other people don't suffer slow speeds."
Gold added that Comcast Corp. deployed CableWeb's solution
in Dover, Del., more than one year ago, at the personal invitation of Comcast president
Brian Roberts, to enable cable-modem subscribers to pick from multiple ISPs.
But Gold said the MSO -- which joined other operators last
week in suing to block new open-access mandates in Broward County, Fla. -- scrapped the
trial days before an expected commercial launch, as the open-access debate escalated.
"It not only worked in that system nicely, but it
actually did something the cable industry now doesn't really want to talk about -- it
accommodated in that system multiple ISPs," Gold said. "They've been saying,
'You can't do that.'"
Blue Ridge Cable Television in Pennsylvania has also tested
CableWeb's solution, he added.
Aside from their policy objections to being forced to sell
access on two-way cable networks to multiple competitive ISPs, some cable operators said
their systems were not set up to handle the demands of multiple ISPs sharing a single
6-megahertz cable channel.
GTE Corp. and America Online Inc. in June announced a
successful two-month trial of an "off-the-shelf" open-access solution operating
on GTE's Clearwater, Fla., network using several ISPs.
But cable-modem service Excite@Home quickly published a
lengthy rebuttal to GTE's claims, saying that they were flawed and that adapting a cable
network for use by customers of multiple competing ISPs would be expensive and technically
Among other things, Excite@Home said, competitive access
would cause problems for bandwidth management, customer care, network management and
provisioning of advanced services such as streaming video and telephony.
Excite@Home -- which has experienced a variety of highly
publicized service problems in several markets -- also said there was no way to adequately
partition the shared channel efficiently.
Getz agreed that there were a variety of technical issues
attendant to open access. But he said CableWeb's solution addressed the biggest issue.
"The core issue is the management of bandwidth,"
he said. "You can't offer open access to a cable system without complete and
effective management of bandwidth. Otherwise, you would have the type of routing and
bandwidth problems @Home is alluding to."