Cable gets competitive

By Hannah Wallace May 31, 2005

A veteran of the communications industry, Rod Dagenais has worked in the cable television industry in central Florida since the early 1970s. As area vice president for Comcast Cablevision, his territory extends from southern Manatee County down to Punta Gorda and into Polk, Hardee and Lake counties. He is sanguine about Verizon's current bid to enter the local cable television and broadband market. "We welcome the competition," he says. "It will make us run a better business."

Communications companies used to compete in just one market, such as cable television, Internet access or cellular phones. How has Comcast adjusted to the new industry trend of competing in each of these markets?

Actually, we have been doing that for some time. Nine years ago, we were the second Comcast system in the country to introduce high-speed Internet access. At the national level, we just announced a deal with TiVo that will unfold in the months to come. And at some point, we will be offering digital telephone service over our fiber optic network.

How will Comcast adjust its pricing strategy of providing a premium product at a high price as Verizon offers less expensive 'high end' cable and broadband services?

First of all, you have to do a fair side-by-side comparison before saying one is priced higher than the other. Take a look at high-speed access, for example. Comcast gives you four-meg upstream. You're not getting that speed with Verizon. Plus we don't require a 12-month contract; we're month to month. We would consider offering a similar lower-cost, lower-speed product, just like the three levels of service we have on the analog television side. We are looking at that.

What are Comcast's plans for offering new services in the local market?

In addition to high-speed, digital cable, digital video recorders, and high-definition television, we will soon have video on demand. You will be able to watch movies and your favorite television programs at your convenience whenever you want to. You'll have pause, rewind and fast forward features. From the start, you'll be able to choose from more than 2,200 programs. It's like a pay-per-view product, but nearly two thirds will be at no charge. So it will be an added value to our existing customers.

What are Comcast's plans for expanding the territory for its offerings in central Florida?

Sarasota is obviously a very high-growth area. Go up Clark Road or Fruitville, and you'll see all kinds of new developments. As the community expands, we're expanding. And not only in Sarasota and southern Manatee counties, but throughout the central Florida region. If it makes business sense, we will go.

Did you have any idea when you started out in communications what was coming?

No. The last 10 years have been mind-boggling. When I started out, cable had 20 channels-it was a way of getting television to people who couldn't reach it with an antenna. Now look at what computers can do, from cable card digital TV to WiFi. It's an exciting time, and it's going to get better and faster. All I can say is put on your seat belt.

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