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How to Accelerate Your IPTV Deployments

Most broadband service providers see regulatory consideration and franchise approval processes as one of the major roadblocks to successful deployment of their strategic IPTV services. Government entities, both local and national, say that they support the intent of pay-TV competition within their domain. However, sometimes their policies can be an unwelcome obstruction to progress.

The primary reason; they often apply the legacy terms and conditions of the incumbent cable TV model as a benchmark for approving new service provider applications. This approach essentially uses obsolete policies that really no longer apply to managing and regulating today�s changing competitive communications and entertainment marketplace.

Why do they take this course of action? Because they see no �compelling� reason to change.

I know first hand, because in 1999 I was a member of the Choice TV & OnLine product launch team at US West Communications Inc. (now Qwest) in Phoenix, Arizona. This project was the first large commercial deployment of triple-play (video entertainment, internet access and telephone service) in North America.

When US West started the cable TV franchise application process with the Phoenix city council and municipalities in the surrounding area, they initially utilized a very traditional approach � and immediately knew that they had a major problem. Cox Communications Inc., the incumbent cable TV provider, petitioned each of the city councils and demanded that US West be subjected to the exact same terms and conditions of their existing contracts.

Furthermore, Cox argued that US West must commit to a full deployment of services in each community, and not selectively enter the market. Coincidently, as the leader of the sales and support teams for US West�s government sector in Arizona, I had designed a market development program entitled the "Economic TeleDevelopment" project.

I was able to convince the US West marketing and public policy executives to give me the opportunity to present the program at the next scheduled city council meeting, and thereby change the very nature of the dialogue with each council member and their appointed leadership team (city manager, etc).

What I did was move the focus of the dialogue away from the myopic topic of approving a cable TV franchise application, and instead inserted the notion of the backbone infrastructure as a proactive tool to enable local community economic development. I explained to the council members, in non-technical terms, how broadband infrastructure investment was the essential transport that would enable their citizens to participate in the global networked economy.

I offered specific examples of how home-based businesses would flourish in their communities, once they could utilize the high-speed internet access inherently provided by the Choice TV & OnLine service deployment. I specifically downplayed the entertainment aspects of the service. In summary, Cox arguments for a �parity consideration� were totally disarmed, and as a result the first franchise was promptly approved. Thereafter, we applied the same process with each city council, with the same positive results.

The lesson learned from this experience is as relevant today as is was back in 1999, telcos must present their multi-play service value proposition from the perspective of the intended audience. While city council members may mildly support the notion of cable TV competition for their constituents, in contrast they will passionately support (and even champion) efforts to enable new local economic development.

Frankly, this cause-centric partnership with local government leadership doesn�t end at the approval of the franchise agreement � it�s actually just the beginning. Unlike all the current confrontational dialogue we read about that result in bad feelings and ultimately a lack of cooperation, at US West we attained the willing support from the elected and appointed leadership. This active engagement continued well into the network build out � as we encountered municipal construction permit delays, and other issues that required the help of the local government officials.

A comprehensive Economic TeleDevelopment program will enable any broadband service provider to clearly articulate how yesterday�s public policies can unintentionally hold back and even stall the progress of implementing essential 21st Century next-generation network infrastructure. I have proven that there�s absolutely no reason to argue with government officials, or be subjected to time-consuming legal challenges from cable MSOs, when there�s a better way that produces consistent and sustainable win-win relationships.

In future posts, I will explain how to accelerate multi-play service deployments, by building the forward-looking marketing communications programs that target each constituent cluster with a set of key messages that simply and concisely explains the inherent benefits from their unique point of view.

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