The Iowa Heartland Chapter of the SCTE is hosting Cable-Tec Games on Thursday, June 8th at the Kirkwood Community College center in Hiawatha. The SCTE Cable-Tec games gives SCTE members and non-members an opportunity to demonstrate their field technical skills (and learn new ones!) in a fun environment. And best of all, registering for the Cable-Tec Games is FREE!
Please let your staff know about this free training opportunity! To register, CLICK HERE.
9:00am-10:30am Cable Games Primer
10:40am-12:00pm Cable Games Competition
1:00pm-3:30pm Competition and Awards
The Indianola Municipal Utilities Board of Trustees has approved construction bids for a project to complete the community's FTTP network.
The low construction bid for the feeder and distribution network (not including service drops) from Excel Utility Contractors of St. James, Missouri was accepted by the Board, subject to financing. Excel's bid of $3.75 million was less than the engineer's estimate of $4.97 million from NewCom Technologies. IMU's FTTP network will be 90% underground and 10% aerial.
Also accepted were materials bids from several vendors for a total amount of $1.28 million, which was also below the engineer's estimate of $1.42 million.
Construction of the network is expected to begin this summer, with the feeder and distribution network completion late this year. The IMU Board will consider a combination of taxable and tax-exempt bond issues to finance the project at their June meeting.
Mark Your Calendar!
Communities in Iowa that are in the planning or exploratory stages of a municipal broadband system are encouraged to attend a half-day workshop on Tuesday, September 19, 2017 at the IAMU Office and Training Complex in Ankeny. The workshop takes place the day before the IAMU Fall Broadband Meeting on September 20th.
Whether your community is just beginning to consider a community-owned broadband utility, or you are already well along in the process, this workshop will provide opportunities for networking with other Iowa telecom utilities to compare notes and discuss best practices.
Registration information will be sent later this summer so be watching Broadband Bytes and IAMU's Informer for more information!
Viacom Teases a Skinny Bundle
It seems that more and more programming providers are talking about creating packages of services outside of the normal cable distribution platform. The latest appears to be Viacom.
While Viacom appeared to burn bridges with many cable operators a couple of years ago with a contentious (and expensive) renewal through the NCTC that saw many small operators saying "I No Longer Want My MTV!", it now is attempting to come up with a proposal that may appeal to cable companies wanting to offer more targeted packages of channels to customers.
Viacom CEO Bob Bakish spoke of the initiative Monday during his keynote breakfast at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom conference in Boston. Bakish referenced the slew of OTT skinny bundle offerings that are hitting the market at around $40. He told J.P. Morgan media analyst Alexia Quadrani that what he called the “entertainment pack” option would probably be priced around $10-$20. -- Variety, May 22, 2017
It is unclear at this point whether Viacom is talking about allowing operators to package their "entertainment pack" as part of their linear cable network or as an OTT offering (although this article at DSL Reports specifically mentions an OTT product). It appears likely that what Viacom is considering is allowing operators to sell their package to its broadband customers who are "cord cutters", "cord shavers", or "cord nevers".
Other programmers have chosen to bypass the normal cable distribution platform by offering direct-to-consumer streaming services. HBO Now, CBS All Access, and others have had limited success but the trend bares watching.
While most TV station retransmission agreements don't end for another seven months or so, some broadcasters are getting an early start on retransmission consent negotiations.
At least one TV station in Iowa-KXFA (FOX, Cedar Rapids) has already sent out their retransmission consent proposal for 2018-2020. And as most cable operators were anticipating, their initial proposal calls for an increase of around 37% in 2018 versus 2017 fees, with 2nd and 3rd year increases of another 12-14%.
Also, NCTC recently advised its members that consultants are already reaching out to cable operators on behalf of client TV stations to start the negotiation process. As we found the last couple of cycles by dealing primarily with corporate attorneys representing their TV station groups, the process has become far more involved and potentially nasty than the "good old days" where you communicated directly with a TV station's manager.
Enjoy your summer. Fall is likely to be a stressful time.
Head For The Mountains
Iowa is still the national leader when it comes to the number of fully operational owned and operated municipal telecom utilities. But Iowa could lose its lead in the future due to the flurry of activity that is taking place in Colorado over the past few years.
Over 100 cities in Colorado have held a referendum to authorize entry into telecommunications. Unlike in Iowa where a referendum establishes a new utility, in Colorado the referendum authorizes a city to opt out of a state law (SB 152) that prohibits municipal telecom. Next week, yours truly and Todd Kielkopf (Kielkopf Advisory Services) will be participating in the Mountain Connect conference in Colorado. Along with our partners Eric Lampland (Lookout Point Communications) and Ken Demlow (NewCom Technologies), our team pioneered a new approach to doing feasibility studies. This new approach, which we call "Community Engagement and Education" or pre-feasibility, is the process we used in new Hampton, Charles City, and Maquoketa in 2016. It is that phased approach to feasibility that we will be making a presentation on at Mountain Connect
Although Colorado has a lot of momentum, it's still early in the game there as most communities that opted out of SB 152 have not yet built networks. And here in Iowa, after years of little activity, we are seeing renewed interest. Waverly is rapidly adding new customers to its FTTP network; Indianola is moving toward accepting bids to finish building out the fiber network in their community; Decorah, Vinton, and New Hampton are in the midst of feasibility studies; and Charles City is expected to continue their feasibility efforts this summer. So it's clear that Iowans are not resting on their municipal broadband laurels. But Colorado's looming in the rear view mirror.
As expected, the FCC this week voted 2-to-1 in favor of a proposal by Chairman Ajit Pai to undo the classification of ISP's under Title II of the FCC rules. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) by the FCC, called "Restoring Internet Freedom", would effectively overturn the previous Open Internet Order that classified ISP's as "common carriers" and submitted them to new rules and restrictions. The
"The RIF proposal cites its authority to regulate ISPs under section 706 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act instead of under Title II. Eliminating Title II classification shifts ISPs back to Title I, which classifies ISPs as information services, not telecommunication services." -- TechRepublic article, May 18, 2017
While Open Internet advocates have been crying that the move would be an end to net neutrality as we know it, Chairman Pai says it's simply returning ISP's to the "light touch" regulatory scheme that existed prior to 2015. A lot remains to be seen whether the move means much at all for ISP's and their customers.
The first round of comments on the NPRM are due July 17, 2017.
Iowa municipals are encouraged to participate in the upcoming SCTE Cable-Tec Games that will be held on Thursday, June 8th in Hiawatha.
The SCTE Cable-Tec games gives SCTE members and non-members an opportunity to demonstrate their field technical skills (and learn new ones!) in a fun environment. And best of all, registering for the Cable-Tec Games is FREE!
To register, visit the Iowa Heartland Chapter website for more information or CLICK HERE.
An earlier post on Broadband Bytes said that the 2018 Broadband Conference would be on March 20 & 21, 2018. The correct dates are Wednesday, March 21st and Thursday, March 22nd of 2018. Sorry for the error...correct your calendars!
Executives at Disney, owner of ESPN and other networks, are trying to put a brave face on a trend that has eroded their bottom line significantly and threatens the sports giant's very business plan: cord cutting.
An article at DSL Reports recounts comments by Disney CEO Bob Iger, who claimed that the company was not at all caught off guard by the decline of its subscription base in light of cord cutting, cord shaving, and cord nevering (a term I just invented, by the way). In reality, it appears that ESPN executives were quite shocked by the declines and the reaction that recent layoffs and cutbacks has generated. Quoting the DSL Reports article:
The numbers continue to highlight a huge swath of people who don't watch sports, and are tired of paying for it. ESPN's been losing 2-4% of its subscriber base annually. And while executives like Iger and Skipper have managed to keep their jobs in the wake of their total failure to adapt, long-time reporters and writers at the company were recently laid off in droves.
It's hard for most small cable operators to imagine a world where they don't carry the suite of ESPN Networks. But that day could be coming due to one big uncertainty: what will ESPN charge in the future for its product?
Most small operators carry ESPN and other networks through the National Cable Television Cooperative, or NCTC. The master agreement for the Disney networks, including ESPN, will be in place for another 4 years (ending 7/31/2021), so until then those fees are already know. What happens on August 1, 2021? Will ESPN seek to recover the lost revenues from a shrinking subscriber base by demanding much higher rates for cable carriage? Will they decide to go over-the-top and sell directly to consumers? I'm no psychic, but it seems like there are so many ways that this could be bad for small operators who are already feeling the pinch from rising carriage fees.
What do you think is likely to happen to ESPN? Do you think your own customers are less interested in ESPN's programming than they used to be? Share your comments by clicking the link below!
Broadband Bytes News
Presented by the Community Broadband Action Network and curated by Curtis Dean.