Dr. Kramer elevated to SCTE Senior Member Emeritus

I’m extremely pleased to announce that the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineer–the SCTE–has elevated my membership status to Senior Member-Emeritus. Of the roughly 20,000 SCTE members throughout the world today, I’m one of only 41 SCTE members to achieve both distinctions.

Since joining the SCTE in 1979, I’ve been privileged to serve and advise the organization in various ways, including being a committee chair (WG7), and a multi-area subject matter expert.  I have lectured to the members at SCTE national conferences over the decades, and I’ve watched the technology…and the organization…advance from the ‘full dial’ days to what cable TV has become today: an integrated information platform for broadband, including video, data, telephony, and internet services.

My role in the SCTE has been unique, to say the least.  For those of you on the other side of my local government inspections, you’ll know what that means, but also what that has done to improve hundreds of thousand of miles of outside plant, as well as federal transmission standards impacting every cable system in the U.S., and beyond.

It’s been a fun 40 years with the SCTE, and I hope to annoy the organization for many more years to come.




Published reports late today have Sprint putting aside its merger talks with T-Mobile to focus on a potentially MUCH MORE IMPORTANT deal–one with Charter and Comcast (or is it Comcast and Charter). I’ve predicted a deal like this for years.

Why is a Sprint-MSOs deal more important than a deal with T-Mobile?

As I’ve said before, cable TV MSOs are like Visa: “Everywhere you want to be.”

Sprint needs to strike a deal with the biggest MSOs to gain access to the fat backhaul offered by MSOs, the quick deployment and provisioning of small cells on cable TV strand (and inside cable TV pedestals), and to the back or front yards of millions of homes passed by the cable operators.

Who are the real losers?  Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Mobilitie.  As to the first three, they are likely to be blocked for Cable TV strand-mounting of small cells in the major markets controlled by Comcast and Spectrum.  As for Mobilitie, I believe it stands to lose the most from any Sprint-MSO deal that will invariably drive a silver stake into the heart of what I can only call a very troubling and disjointed ‘5G-but-not-really-5G’ piecemeal deployment of small cells that aren’t really all that small.

Oh, yes, Crown Castle and Extenet, as well as other fiber/builder providers will suffer from a deal like this which would cut into the heart of their fiber and node businesses in a really big way.

Not too long after Sprint inks a deal with the MSOs it can expect to cease to operate as a separate entity as the cable operators swallow Sprint whole to bring the wireless services under the sole control of the MSOs.  For the MSOs it gives them the existing Sprint network, such as it is, outside of the MSO’s footprints to offer streaming video services over Sprint’s wireless network.  This would likely follow AT&T’s deployment of offering streaming video services via wireless outside of the existing wireline U-Verse and Giga-whatever footprint.

T-Mobile should now expect to receive merger-partnering overtures from other first tier and second tier cable operators. Moreover, it can expect to slide to a solid last place with a Sprint-MSO deal.

Those of you old enough will recall that Sprint largely came out of Cox Communications’ pioneer FCC licenses. What’s old is new again, and we live in interesting times.



Verizon Buying Comcast? Good idea, sort of.

Rumors are circulating that Verizon is considering buying Comcast.  Largely ignoring the horrible public policy and anti-competitive issues, the deal would make sense from various technology standpoints.


  • Comcast runs one of the largest Wi-Fi networks in the U.S.  Verizon needs Wi-Fi as a critical element of offloading traffic from its cellular/PCS/AWS networks.  Cellular nodes, like Wi-Fi nodes can be installed and provisioned in less than an hour.
  • Comcast has significant cable passings in New England, New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Colorado, California, and Washington State, with smaller footprints in New Mexico, Alabama, Mississippi, Arizona, and the Twin Cities.  Comcast is already where Verizon wants to be for 5G+…150 feet from the customer.
  • Comcast has largely been able to deploy Wi-Fi nodes without local governments applying their various wireless ordinances to those installations.  Verizon will argue that installing Wi-Fi/5G+ nodes should be exempt from local wireless ordinances.
  • Comcast’s backhaul and inter-city fiber network is national and dynamic.  Verizon can utilize that network to increase its own inter-city transport capacity keeping much more of its wireless traffic on its own end-to-end network.
  • Verizon can (and should) do what Comcast has not: Get rid of coaxial subscriber drops in favor of wireless drops, which would tremendously reduce the cable network in-home maintenance and labor force costs for Verizon.

There are other reasons why a Verizon purchase of Comcast would make sense, not the least of which would be to battle back against AT&T’s purchase of DirecTV and the Time Warner programming assets.

Will Dish Network be next to fall?  How about SiriusXM?

In this new Tumpian era, what would have been unthinkable a week ago might need some rethinking.


PS… Attention Verizon and Comcast legal departments: The combination logo at the top of this page is a parody to illustrate my opinion piece for commenting and criticizing purposes only. Really. Don’t get bunched up over it.

Does Spectrum (Charter) Cable Violate California Law?

Charter Cable purchased Time Warner Cable and promptly rebranded as “Spectrum.” That rebranding includes the Time Warner properties in Southern California, including where I live.

Over the last week I have had the need to have several service calls at my home that require I be present.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that Time Warner Charter Spectrum Cable apparently ignores California law which requires it give customers the option of a 4-hour window appointment for service calls that require the customer be home.

In the last week I have called in and asked twice for a four hour window appointment, and twice I’ve been refused. The service reps claim they have no option on the computer screen to offer such an appointment. They offer one hour window appointments but that’s not the law which provides for certain remedies if the four hour window is violated.

I suppose this should come as no surprise since it is likely that most consumers are unaware of the state law designed to protect them, and which provides  for up to $600 if the cable company misses the appointment without a valid excuse.

Below is The text of the state law  that Spectrum seems to be ignoring:

Civil Code Section 1722. (b) (1) Cable television companies shall inform their subscribers of their right to service connection or repair within a four-hour period, if the presence of the subscriber is required, by offering the four-hour period at the time the subscriber calls for service connection or repair. Whenever a subscriber contracts with a cable television company for a service connection or repair which is to take place at a later date, and the parties have agreed that the presence of the subscriber is required, the cable company and the subscriber shall agree, prior to the date of service connection or repair, on the time for the commencement of the four-hour period for the service connection or repair.

(2) If the service connection or repair is not commenced within the specified four-hour period, except for delays caused by unforeseen or unavoidable occurrences beyond the control of the company, the subscriber may bring an action in small claims court against the company for lost wages, expenses actually incurred or other actual damages not exceeding a total of six hundred dollars ($600).

(3) No action shall be considered valid if the subscriber was not present at the time, within the specified period, that the company attempted to make the service connection or repair or made a diligent attempt to notify the subscriber by telephone or in person of its inability to do so because of unforeseen or unavoidable occurrences beyond its control. If notification is by telephone, the cable television company or its agent shall leave a telephone number for a return telephone call by the subscriber to the company or its agent, to enable the consumer to arrange a new two-hour period for service connection or repair.

(4) In any small claims action, logs and other business records maintained by the company or its agents in the ordinary course of business shall be prima facie evidence of the time period specified for the commencement of the service connection or repair and the time that the company or its agents attempted to make the service connection or repair, or of a diligent attempt by the company to notify the subscriber in person or by telephone of a delay caused by unforeseen or unavoidable occurrences.

(5) It shall be a defense to the action if a diligent attempt was made to notify the subscriber of a delay caused by unforeseen or unavoidable occurrences beyond the control of the company or its agents, or the company or its agents were unable to notify the subscriber because of the subscriber s absence or unavailability during the four-hour period, and, in either instance, the cable television company commenced service or repairs within a newly agreed upon two-hour period.

(6) No action shall be considered valid against a cable television company pursuant to this section when the franchise or any local ordinance provides the subscriber with a remedy for a delay in commencement of a service connection or repair and the subscriber has elected to pursue that remedy. If a subscriber elects to pursue his or her remedies against a cable television company under this section, the franchising or state or local licensing authority shall be barred from imposing any fine, penalty, or other sanction against the company, arising out of the same incident.

Is this law important? Of course it is, because it’s the law, and because of the protections it provides to the public.  I personally know that having used it several times to sue my cable operators for missing appointments. I recovered each time. That’s what the law is intended to do, and why it offends the law and subscribers when it is ignored by a cable operator.



Look out Dish, T-Mobile Might Have A Better Suitor

Word is that Comcast may make a run to marry T-Mobile, and beat out Dish to the alter.

It is nothing less than brilliant for Comcast AND T-Mobile.  Local governments will have a less favorable view.

Comcast finally gets the quad-play in house, and T-Mobile almost overnight solves its coverage problems in Comcast’s footprint.  Comcast will deploy PCS radios on its strand and in its pedestals, and use its network for backhaul.  It will integrate the shared CableWIFI platform to provide more T-Mobile connectivity outside of Comcast’s footprint.  Comcast will get a wireless video delivery platform.

…and Dish will be stuck with all that upload bandwidth that will decrease in value.

Local governments will find that applying their wireless ordinances to their all-time favorite cable TV franchisee will be, ah, challenging.

Now THIS is going to be fun.


PS: What should we call the two of them:  T-Cast?  Naw, Brian would never allow his name to be second.  Comobile?  Maybe.


47 U.S.C. § 555a(a) Bars Fees Award Against City in California

From the California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division 5 regarding litigation by Charter Cable (Marcus Cable Associates) v. the City of Glendale, California:

As explained [in the decision], pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 2033.420 (section 2033.420), under certain circumstances, a party to a civil action that denies a pretrial request for admission without a reasonable basis can be ordered to pay to the propounding party the reasonable expenses incurred—including attorney fees and costs—in proving the matter covered by the request (costs of proof). Plaintiff, appellant, and cross-respondent City of Glendale (Glendale) appeals from a postjudgment order granting, in part, a motion by defendant, respondent, and cross-appellant Marcus Cable Associates, LLC, dba Charter Communications, Inc. (Charter) to recover such costs of proof under section 2033.420. Charter cross-appeals from that portion of the trial court’s order denying, in part, its motion.

We hold that the limitation on remedies in 47 U.S.C. § 555a(a) (section 555a(a))1 precluded the trial court from awarding Charter costs of proof under section 2033.420. We therefore reverse that portion of the trial court’s order granting, in part, Charter’s motion for recovery of costs of proof2 and remand the matter to the trial court with instructions to enter a new order denying Charter’s motion for recovery of costs of proof in its entirety.

Congrats to Bill Marticorena, Jeff Melching and Michelle Molko (Rutan & Tucker), attorneys for the City of Glendale.

You can download the full 17 page decision VIA THIS LINK.



FCC Chair Tom Wheeler’s Keynote At NATOA National

natoafccchair.20141001(Updated 5:29 p.m. PDT to include the prepared remarks of the Chairman.)

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler presented the keynote speech on October 1, 2014 at the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA.ORG) Annual Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The running time of the lecture is just under 30 minutes, and this is a ‘must listen’ lecture about issues important to the Commission, the telecom industry, and governments.

For those of you who are interested in the pending FCC Report and Order on Broadband Deployment (the ‘6409(a)’ NPRM) start at 20:35.  That portion is about 1 minute long, but contains very interesting clues as to how the Commission will address the comments received from the industry and governments and frame the pending rules.

Chairman Wheeler’s prepared comments are presented below the audio link.

Jonathan Kramer


 (From: http://www.fcc.gov/document/remarks-fcc-chairman-tom-wheeler-natoa-annual-conference)

Remarks of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors

Annual Conference

October 1, 2014


Thank you, Tony Perez, for that introduction. I join in congratulating the winners of NATOA’s Community Broadband Awards.

It’s great to be at the NATOA meeting here in Minnesota. Perhaps that explains why as I look out across this assemblage, all the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and the policy proposals above average.

A native Minnesotan, in fact, provides us with the intellectual foundation for our discussion today. It was the son of Hibbing, Minnesota, Bob Dylan who wrote, “You better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changing.”

That is the challenge we all face. There is no doubt that high-speed broadband – wired and wireless – is a-changing everything. Those who embrace these changes will help write the future. Those who don’t will…well…sink like a stone.

NATOA and the FCC are swimming to the common goal of making sure that communities across America – large and small – have access to robust broadband networks that deliver the benefits of broadband connectivity to all citizens.

But you may have noticed that not everyone is swimming alongside that effort. There are those who seek to block the competitive forces that can produce faster, cheaper, better broadband; those who make it difficult to build out the infrastructure necessary for the broadband future; and those with which both you and we have to contend that would use changes in technology as an excuse to sidestep the responsibilities network operators have always had to their users.

Today, I would like to visit about our responsibility to overcome this resistance and ensure that our nation has the networks necessary for the jobs, economic growth, and quality of life that will determine our nation’s place in the 21st century. Yes, that is a dramatic statement; yes, it is that important; and, yes, I know it is easier to say than to do.

You, in your positions in your communities, and my colleagues and I, in our positions at the FCC, have responsibilities, not just to the consumers and networks of today, but also to the consumers and networks of tomorrow. Here is the reality confronting us:

  • We need faster networks in more places. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing the charts of where the U.S. ranks in comparison to the broadband speeds of other nations. Table stakes for the 21st century is 25 Mbps, and winning the game means that all consumers can get at least 100 Mbps – and more.
  • Competition is the best way to achieve those goals. Unfortunately, today there is an inverse relationship between competition and throughput. Three-quarters of American homes have no competitive choice at 25 Mbps. That includes almost 20 percent who have no option at all at those speeds!
  • Wireless is an increasingly critical broadband pathway of the future. The 21st century will be defined by the networks that marry the ever-increasing computing power of Moore’s Law with the invisible delivery of wireless spectrum. Our generation has been self-congratulatory about the connection of people – seven billion wireless subscriptions in a world of seven billion people is impressive – but you and we must plan on connecting 50 billion inanimate devices made smart by Moore’s Law.
  • Openness is the key to networks delivering on their possibilities. Blocking, discriminating, or degrading service for economic gain is contrary to the promise of broadband networks. Yet we have no protections in place to assure that kind of openness. We must have rules that will establish that an open Internet is the sine qua non of broadband.

A minute ago I spoke of the responsibilities of networks. For the better part of a century, there has been a set of principles that has defined the relationship between those who build and operate networks and those who use them. I call this the “Network Compact” and our goal as regulators and policy makers is to assure that these principles continue to define that relationship into the future. These principles include:

  • Access – both to networks and on networks,
  • Interconnection – by definition a network is a series of connections; in the broadband world, the Internet isn’t a thing, but a connected collection of networks,
  • Consumer protection – technology has pushed the laws of physics, but nothing has changed the laws of human nature or economics, and consumers must be protected from exploitation,
  • Public safety – we’ll talk more about this in a minute, but it must be the underlying deliverable of all networks, and
  • National security – in a world in which networks are now attack vectors, we must have secure and safe connectivity.

There are those who argue that the move from analog networks to IP networks changes these principles. They are wrong. The form these responsibilities take may change in an IP world, but the principles do not – and should never – go away.

As we transition to an all-IP world, the challenge confronting those of us in this room is how do we preserve these values that we have come to expect from our networks, while seizing the opportunities that our new networks promise? So let’s address these issues head-on – starting with competition.

Competition works, and how we behave determines whether there will be competition. The existence of four national wireless carriers, for instance, is an important national priority and we worked to protect that reality. Similarly, there cannot be effective competition in wireless without new spectrum and without assuring that the most advantageous low-band spectrum is available to all competitors. We are doing both of those as well.

The advantages of competition are so obvious and ingrained in the American psyche that many local communities have stepped up to facilitate it where the private sector has not. Communities are listening to the needs of their citizens and enterprises, engaging community stakeholders, and focusing on delivering competitive broadband services to respond to those needs.  As you know, two communities – Wilson, NC and Chattanooga, TN – have petitioned the FCC to preempt the laws enacted by state legislatures that prohibit them from expanding their community-owned broadband networks. There are currently laws in 19 states that impose restrictions of one kind of another on such local decision-making.

We will make our decision on those petitions on the record and on the merits. I am not going to comment on them any further.

However, I do encourage you to consider how local choice and competition can increase the broadband opportunities for your citizens. I love the story of Lafayette, Louisiana where the local incumbent fought the city’s fiber network tooth and nail, bringing multiple court challenges and triggering a local referendum on the project.  Thankfully, none of the challenges managed to prevent deployment – sixty-two percent of voters approved of the network in the referendum, and the Louisiana Supreme Court unanimously sided with the city – but they did delay deployment almost three years.  When the network was finally built, the community experienced the benefits of competition, as the local cable operator decided to upgrade its network. Local choice and competition are about as American as you can get.

Those American principles can play an important and essential role in assuring America’s future.

Here’s where you and other local officials become critically important. If the infrastructure necessary to build out both wired and wireless broadband networks doesn’t receive the prioritization that it warrants as a major national undertaking, then all the efforts to achieve faster, cheaper, better broadband service that will enhance our nation’s competitiveness, create quality jobs for our fellow citizens, and introduce services that will redefine both our commerce and our culture will be for naught.

I know this is often a zoning matter in which you are as much an observer as we are. In those instances where some of you may have a role, however, I encourage you to be pro-active. In those instances where it is others who have the authority, I urge you to stand up for your telecommunications responsibilities. I understand the very real and very strong Not-In-My-Backyard sentiments.  Everyone wants cellphone service but no one wants cellphone antennas in their neighborhood.  Everyone wants access to state-of-the-art transmission service, but no one wants the neighborhood streets dug up.  It reminds me of another folk song: “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

However, we’re talking about a national priority; about the maintenance of economic leadership; about America’s continuing to be the home of innovation. We must find ways to enable the extension and expansion of broadband infrastructure.  Local officials with permitting authority have a special obligation to both their own communities and to the larger society. It is simply impossible to have the connectivity our nation requires without the necessary infrastructure. While there is an understandable desire to engage in cognitive dissonance of wanting connectivity but not its consequences, as policy makers we must resist within reason such myopia.

In that regard, we must build on and expand the creative thinking that has been the hallmark of the good work many of you have done to facilitate advanced broadband builds around the country.  It’s great that NATOA has developed best practices on tower siting and is updating those practices. And as I understand it, there is also a guide on rights of way issues, but it’s 12 years old. Things have changed a bit in the last dozen years. I encourage you to update your rights of way guide.

You have the ability to develop national best practices that embrace strategies that have been shown to work in today’s technological and economic environments – strategies that embrace new technology and new ideas to facilitate the timely deployment of wired and wireless broadband. There is a reason Google Fiber developed a “City Checklist” to aid in determining where to invest in gigabit fiber. It contains simple things, like timely and accurate information about and access to poles and conduit. These low-cost steps are relevant to all broadband providers; we must bring those insights to all localities.

At the FCC, we will use our authority to attack the broadband deployment challenge. We will work with you, so that national best practices are included in our Agenda for Broadband Competition…the ABCs of consumer choice in the 21st century. We will also move on our own authority. Last Friday I proposed to my colleagues a new set of federal policies on the siting of wireless facilities. This proposal will take concrete steps to immediately and substantially ease the burdens associated with deploying wireless equipment – particularly for collocations and deployments of small-cell systems that can be installed unobtrusively on utility poles, buildings, and other existing structures. At the same time, my proposal preserves the front-line authority of local and Tribal governments to determine which structures are appropriate for wireless deployments, as well as authority to enforce building codes, electrical codes, laws related to health and safety, and to require companies to use camouflage or concealment designs. The Commission will consider this item at our next open meeting on October 17.

There is another component of our broadband responsibilities, and that is video programming. We’ve been hearing a lot lately that access to video is necessary for broadband deployment because consumers increasingly watch video online and that translates into more demand for video-quality broadband. So if we can make it easier for video choices to come to communities, we should be able to incent more broadband competition as a result.

Broadband becomes more economically viable, we are told, when it is bundled with video services. In a perverse way, then, how localities handle video competition can determine whether they will have broadband competition.

I want to close my remarks by emphasizing one other place we must work together – public safety.

Robust, accessible 911 service is central to our shared public safety missions.

The transition to all-IP communications raises new challenges for 911.

We are used to thinking about 911 outages as a result of acts of nature: a hurricane, a tornado, vast flooding.

But there is a new threat. The emerging Next Generation 911 system is more complex than the legacy 911 system and relies more extensively on infrastructure, resources, and relationships that are multistate or national in scope. It is supported by a larger number of service providers, including new entrants that are offering new, niche functionalities.

Innovation is good, and we want NG 911 to support new forms of emergency communications.

But the creation of new, complex systems where no one is responsible, and where the system as a whole lacks reliability and resiliency is not acceptable.

The threat is real….and growing.

In April, citizens in seven states lost access to 911 for six hours…six hours!  More than 5,600 911 calls did not get through because of a software glitch in an outsourced database!

This August, there was a 911 outage in one of the nationwide wireless networks, and there was an outage in Vermont that knocked out 911 service statewide for nearly an hour.

The fact that these outages occurred, and the common issues they raise, are evidence of the challenge we face, and suggest that we are at risk of experiencing far worse failures if we don’t take action now.

We recognize that states and local governments also have long-standing and significant responsibility for 911 service within their jurisdictions.  We believe the best approach is a partnership between the FCC and state and local authorities to ensure that there are no gaps in the reliability of the entire NG911 system. The FCC’s staff has worked closely with state and local officials to investigate these outages, and, at our open meeting later this month, will be presenting the findings of this investigation, as well as recommendations for concrete steps to promote end-to-end reliability and accountability of the 911 system.

The critical point is this: neither we at the federal level nor you at the state and local level have the ability to ensure end-to-end 911 reliability on our own – we must work together.

We must work together, not just on 911, but on all the topics I’ve discussed today.

When competitive broadband options don’t exist, let’s work together to create an environment that encourages investment to switch-on America’s competitive genius.

When there is no broadband availability at all, let’s work together to get infrastructure deployed by any and all entities willing to step up to meet the challenge; and

When providers begin to retire legacy networks for newer technologies let’s work together to make sure that the expectations of consumers and businesses continue to be met, including access to 911.

For the times they are a’changing. Let’s work together to embrace the new opportunities and build a better tomorrow.

Thank you.


Try to Cancel Your Comcast Service: I Dare You!

The Los Angeles Times (called the Los Angeles Dog Trainer by Harry Shearer) published an article today entitled, “Listen: Is this the all-time most horrible cable service call, ever?”

It recounts the audio-recorded efforts of one Ryan Block, former editor of Edgadget trying to get disconnected from Comcast.  He almost got disconnected from reality.

First, Read the article here.

Then go here to read more and listen to the audio.

If infinity means forever, does xfinity mean there are limits on forever?  I’m just ask’n.



Off topic: Cable TV Revenues in California

Each year, under California’s statewide cable TV franchise law (DIVCA) the California Public Utilities sets a fee to offset its administration costs.  It releases a report each year setting that fee.  As part of the 2013-2014 draft report, just released at http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/SearchRes.aspx?docformat=ALL&DocID=88214113, the Commission disclosed that the Cable Industry’s gross video income for 2012 (the calculating basis) was $5,492,310,300.  When I say video service. that exclude income from Internet, Telephony, and a host of other income sources for cable TV systems.

The California Cable & Telecommunications Association reports that there are 5.5 million cable subscribers in this state.

Doing some very complicated math with the aid of a supercomputer on my cell phone, it turns out that the average annual video fee paid by each California cable subscriber in 2012 was $998.60, or $83.22 per month for just video service.

I find this interesting.




The Time Warner Cable – CBS Fight is Over

Their (corporate) parents must be so very proud of them!
Their (corporate) parents must be so very proud of them!

According to reports published in various newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, Time Warner Cable and CBS have ended their fight over retransmission rights.  Hopefully that means that (a) Time Warner Cable subscribers will see all of the CBS channels restored very quickly, and (b) that CBdisengeniouS will restore access to its online content from Time Warner Cable IP addresses.

This doesn’t end the other fight…the lawsuits from subscribers who claim that they (we) are owed for the unannounced decimation of all of the CBS channels during this battle  (except, oddly, one CBS sports channel here in L.A. that TWC seems to have missed).

Now that the battle is over, we’ll see how those were the collateral damage will fair.   They are called Time Warner Cable subscribers.

Also, we’ll have to wait to see if Congress steps in to amend the Telecom Act to give the FCC stronger teeth to resolve these disputes.