Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania


March 8, 2013

Q: This is a bit outside your purview, but as I have just unilaterally expanded said purview to "all things TV" I figure it's now a legitimate question. Do you have cable TV? Well, you must, to do your job. Notice the channel guide. Is it arranged by channel number or by channel name?

In some 50 years of cable TV, I've only had one cable provider who offered a channel guide sorted by name. So, if you wanted to watch something on an unfamiliar channel, you just looked up the name and there you were. Unfortunately, every other cable provider has only offered channel guides sorted by channel number, which is every bit as useful as a phone book sorted by phone number rather than by name. When I contact them to ask if they can't please offer a by-channel sort, even online as an option to print, they say no, this is the way they do it. So the "channel guide" they provide is useful for about two minutes when you're originally deciding what "package" to buy, and after that it's a waste of paper.

Can you think of any earthly reason for them to be so obdurate about this? - Steve, Anoka, Minn.

Rob: I can't say this is something I've ever given much thought to or been bothered by. I do know different cable systems have guides of wildly varying quality. I put Steve's question to representatives of three different cable companies.

"Guides (user interfaces) are a huge issue in the industry and complex," explained Dave Wittmann of Armstrong Cable. "They historically have been complicated by the fact that the software involved is also part of the proprietary conditional access which operates the set top box. There are also patent issues which have slowed innovation. This is changing on a company-by-company basis moving forward. Armstrong has been working toward an improved user experience for the last several years and is making progress. We expect to offer a significantly improved guide experience in the coming months."

"All of the new user interfaces being tested provide a much more 'web-like' experience," Wittmann continued. "They will allow personalization, a far superior search capability and provide much more information. They will also work on multiple screens (tablets, mobile, PC's) as well as your TV. Many customers, like your reader, will welcome these features, however, many customers hate change. One of the challenges is how to implement service enhancements like this."

Verizon FiOS TV spokesman Lee Gierczynski suggested online listings: "FiOS TV customers can visit and sort channels by name or number. While the on-screen is organized numerically, FiOS TV customer can use the search function to find channels by name. They also can create their own lists of favorite channels organized by channel name if they wish."

Comcast's Bob Grove offered this response: "Using the search function of our current guide, entering the first few letters of the name of any program will enable customers to scroll directly over to and select the channel on which that program is displayed. We will soon be launching our innovative X1 Guide in the Pittsburgh area, which will enable search by channel number, channel name, program name, actor, genre, sports team or other variables and make it easier to discover, access and share entertainment." - Rob Owen's "TV Q&A" column in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Georgia State House on Thursday vote down an effort to limit local governments' ability to create their own broadband Internet networks, an effort to spur greater private sector competition. House Bill 282 failed 70-94 with a bipartisan coalition of Democrats and rural Republicans who argued that private telecoms have failed to build reliable networks. Sponsored by Rep. Mark Hamilton, R-Cumming, the bill would have allowed local governments to enter the Internet marketplace if no private network provided at least 3 mega bytes per second of service.

Hamilton said allowing cities, with unlimited tax dollars, to compete with private companies erodes the free market and is a waste of taxpayer money. But Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, said his community was unable to get a private company to provide sufficient service and it cost them economic development opportunities. "You cannot get it, you cannot keep it without high speed fiber," Powell said. The provider, he said, "wouldn't provide it because they knew they didn't have to. They provided whatever crumbs from the table they wanted." Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Increased Internet access in Adams County could create new opportunities for businesses and education. "Adams County Connected" and the "Adams County Broadband and Internet Connectivity Task Force" want to make a case for more high-speed and wireless Internet access. Social media consulting firm owner Gerry Michaels joined the groups that are in the process of launching a Website and are getting ready to hold educational sessions to help seniors get online. He says better Internet service in the county and in local businesses will be especially helpful for the millions of tourists who visit Adams County. "They're coming with smart phones, they're expecting services, and we need to provide that," Michaels says. "It's not going to do anything but help the area businesses."

Michaels says the groups see opportunities to work with businesses and the National Park Service to make visits to Gettysburg more interactive. He says one idea could be to use so-called "quick reference" or "QR" codes that would be placed on the many historical markers around the borough and the nearby Civil War battlefield. When scanned with a smart phone, the codes link to websites or videos that would contain more educational information. Chambersburg Public-Opinion

An initiative to deliver movies to theaters via satellite has garnered the support of most of Hollywood's studios, as they look for efficient, cost-effective ways to replace bulky physical film prints. The Digital Cinema Distribution Coalition said in a statement that it has signed deals with Walt Disney Co., Viacom Inc.'s Paramount Pictures and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. to distribute movies for them.

Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. and Comcast Corp.'s Universal Pictures already supported the initiative and have been funding it along with the nation's top three exhibition chains: Wanda Group's AMC Entertainment, Regal Entertainment Group and Cinemark Holdings Inc. Currently in testing and set to fully launch later this year, satellite distribution provides a way for studios to deliver digital files to cinemas that is less expensive and quicker than sending hard drives. Many movie theaters no longer use film prints. "It's a function of hours rather than days," said Warner Bros. Chief Technology Officer Darcy Antonellis. "This is not intended to be the sole method of distribution, but it has certainly been built to be a very compelling and economic way." Hollywood's two other major studios, Sony Corp.'s Sony Pictures Entertainment and News Corp Twentieth Century Fox, are in negotiations with the DCDC, according to people familiar with the matter. News Corp. is also the parent of The Wall Street Journal. Wall Street Journal

Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor said that he had a good laugh when he saw comments made about him by Gov. Corbett this week to a Pittsburgh television station. Corbett was asked by Jon Delano, the top-notch political editor at KDKA-TV, about Castor publicly mulling a primary challenge. Corbett knocked Castor for losing the Republican majority on the Montgomery County Commission and, when asked about their close primary race for state attorney general in 2004, replied: "He's always wanted my job." Castor laughed off what he called Corbett's "cheap shots." "The really funny part was, it was on Pittsburgh TV, where no one - until then, anyway - knew me," Castor wrote in an email. Philadelphia Daily News