Managing Bandwidth and IP Video

During The Cable Show, industry analyst Leslie Ellis held a discussion with Chief Technology Officers from various cable companies. The panel was called “Road Trip: Mapping Cable’s New-Tech Progression,” and it provided a useful view of forthcoming technology initiatives.

One of the themes was about managing the bandwidth of the cable plant. At one point, the topic of “IP video” (an often poorly-defined concept) was raised; the panel was asked if they planned to set aside spectrum specifically for this use.  Mike LaJoie, Executive Vice President & CTO of Time Warner Cable, responded that this was “a flawed way of thinking.” This notion, he argued, of “setting aside spectrum” for a specific application, such as IP video was out-dated.

“If you’re doing IP networking, you’re thinking about your spectrum in a different way,” LaJoie argued.  “What’s all of the demand [being made on the network]? What do I need, in what period of time, and how do I have to harvest it?” For example, perhaps they might segment some kinds of traffic aside in a separate DOCSIS channel, but perhaps not. Perhaps they might use PacketCable Multimedia to accomplish the Quality of Service, mixing voice is mixed in with data. But one would want to look at the big picture of managing the available resources.

This struck me as a key hidden theme of the net neutrality debate. Its proponents suggest that it all about consumers and their ability to use the Internet freely. But any provider recognizes that networks have to be managed. Net neutrality advocates are suggesting that the government ought to set up rules telling companies how to manage their networks.

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