Rural Cable DTV Still Far Away

While many cable TV systems serving large metropolitan areas offer advanced video, data, and voice service over their cable TV lines, that's not often been the case in small towns and rural areas. In fact, according to the latest report by Cahners In-Stat Group, most cable operators in small- to medium-sized markets will not offer comparable services for the foreseeable future.

The recent report's findings are unique in that the survey of 42 US cable television system operators focused on the operators' strategic plans to gear up for new digital cable TV services. "The survey results identify that many cable TV subscribers living in smaller markets won't see advanced services for at least another year," said Mike Paxton, senior analyst of Cahners In-Stat's Converging Markets & Technology Group. "This trend could give cable TV's competitors a chance to poach cable subscribers who might be tired of waiting for broadband services."

Gerry Kaufhold, principal analyst, commented that "Our research shows that all 42 respondents are planning to increase the bandwidth of their cable TV systems. However, only a few have definite plans to actually deploy advanced Digital Cable services in the upcoming 24 months. Most are planning to add more premium movie channels, and hold back on cable modems and telephone service."

In-Stat's research also shows that cable-TV systems operators are increasing the number of 6MHz channels they offer to subscribers. By the end of 2000, 80% of the operators surveyed will have more than 70 channels available on their systems. While consumer demand for high-speed Internet access is increasing rapidly, half of the systems operators surveyed still had no plans to offer cable-modem services through the end of 2000. The survey also reveals that cable-telephony services may take even longer to roll out than cable-modem services. Only five of the 42 systems operators surveyed planned to offer telephone services over their cable TV infrastructure by the end of 2001.