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[qi:066] I visited Time Warner Cable’s Austin cable plant today in order to learn more about the last mile — or how cable broadband gets from the Internet backbone to your home — and how the limitations of cable play out in the way the company […]

[qi:066] I visited Time Warner Cable’s Austin cable plant today in order to learn more about the last mile — or how cable broadband gets from the Internet backbone to your home — and how the limitations of cable play out in the way the company manages its network. I spoke with Scott Young, senior director of digital systems, about the Austin network, whose users download between 5 and 6 GB per month on average. That’s twice the amount the average Comcast user downloads per month and isn’t representative of the national Time Warner network.

Time Warner Cable is trialing a metered bandwidth offering in Beaumont, Texas, with tiers of service ranging from 5 GB per month through 40 GB per month. When users reach their limit, Time Warner will charge overage fees. In contrast, Comcast caps users at 250 GB per month and after a certain number of overages, kicks users off the network. Young talks about the different caps toward the end of the video, and says Time Warner offers to provide fiber to the home for customers willing to pay the price, should caps or constrained upload speeds become too much of an issue.

At the last mile, cable ISPs have two issues to overcome — the fact that end users share a connection from the node, which means one person overloading the node degrades service for everyone, and a limit on the amount of spectrum available for uploading data. Check out the video for more.

  1. While technically true, it’s also a fair amount of horsepucky.

    Speaking as someone who formerly led the design team for residential networks at a national cable provider, I will tell you that the key problem isn’t management of the local plant. Rather, the problem is extreme mismanagement by the local system technicians and engineers.

    IP is sexy, RF isn’t. Local system staff wants to spend their time bragging about all the IP work they do, which in reality is little to none (IP is usually managed at a national level). The RF plant suffers from the fact that the downstream and upstream are managed separately, with the upstream from the end user flowing through a recombined network.

    When you couple this with the fact that cable companies are granted franchises by a local municipality (town/city/county) that usually is worried about job retention/creation and therefor specifies mandatory retention of incumbent staff even if the franchise is awarded to a new company, and you have a lot of local staff that have no incentive to manage their RF plant properly.

    The sad fact is that most of the cable industries new technology is to compensate for the mismanaged RF plants.

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  2. please invest in a wireless lapel microphone for your guests.

    I couldn’t hear him very well at all at full volume both on my macbook and in the youtube player.

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  3. Stacey Higginbotham Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    Rob, feedback appreciated. I already popped a tripod in my trunk for all future videos and will see if I can add a mic to my setup.

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  4. I, too, am sorry that this video is no longer available.

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  5. [...] Optimum Lightpath Buys N.J. Fiber Provider multichannel.com Time Warner Talks Last Mile & Bandwidth Caps gigaom.com Is There A Hidden Broadband Price War? techdirt.com Australian economy critically [...]

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  6. Dazed and Confused Wednesday, October 22, 2008

    @ Scott:

    Dead on. Incumbent staff kills people. I’ve been following Telecom for a long time and I’ve watched time and time again as the big companies absorb the locals and the same faces still stay there. If you’ve ever had a botched cable install you definitely know where I’m coming from (not to say the installers were former local employees, but, rather, the support infrastructure).

    @Stacy:

    I’m glad someone took the time and the effort to go and talk to Time Warner. I live in a Comcast state (with little competition) and the idea of a 250 GB cap scares me, let alone 5GB to 40GB. My work attachment downloads can sometimes eclipse one gig a piece, and my last WoW update was 1.2GB. How could any reasonably techie person live with 5 gigs?

    /end rant

    Wishing all the best to the Gigaom team!

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  7. “which means one person overloading the node degrades service for everyone”

    What kind of crappy network design is it when your nodes are provisioned such that a single cable modem can overload them? Obviously, this should never happen and it is hyperbole like that which makes everyone skeptical about anything cable cos have to say about network management.

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  8. [...] 08 by admin Cablevision’s Optimum Lightpath Buys N.J. Fiber Provider multichannel.com Time Warner Talks Last Mile & Bandwidth Caps gigaom.com Is There A Hidden Broadband Price War? techdirt.com Australian economy critically [...]

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  9. I agree with Jesse. This is obvious to most network engineers, but these “explanations” are accepted by everyone else.

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  10. I used to work there and this guy lies the concept is good but its not checked and a lot of people have very slow speeds for months

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