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It's finally happened: cable TV company provides phone service.

For years, telephone companies and cable TV companies had an arm's-length relationship with each other.

Neither has violated that invisible line established years ago between the two industries by the FCC. However, each is still eager to venture onto the other's turf.

A few joint ventures have appeared over the years, but as a rule, telcos don't provide cable TV entertainment, and CATV firm don't provide phone service.

However, there are some very significant activities taking place on the part of an innovative CATV company in Glasgow, Ky. Glasgow is the quintessential all-American town; it's located in the souther part of the state, near Bowling Green, just north of Nashville.

This CATV company is the Glasgow Electric Plan Board, which also happens to be the municipal electric company for the city.

Glasgow's EPB currently provides telephones service, over the CATV network, to customers in the Glasgow area. You heard it right: phone service over the CATV network.

Now that we've got your attention, let's take a quick look at the background of this important story. Events leading to these developments originated with Glasgow's need for more efficient and automated management of its power resources.

The EPB recognized that a more powerful system was necessary to provide cost effective electric power. It developed a SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system which would greatly improve collection of electric usage date. That info would then be used to manage the provisioning and distribution of electric service, especially during period of peak usage.

Specific applications include remote meter reading, service reconfiguration during peak periods, and improved load management.

However, to link various metering stations--and eventually business and residential electric meters--a high-speed network had to be established. This municipal data highway had to support SCADA and other applications.

The solution? Glasgow settled on a broadband communications network, with sufficient channels for multiple applications.

According to Billy Ray, EPB superintendent, "The idea of broadband became even more attractive because we were not satisfied with our existing cable TV operator. When we realized there was a lot of interest in the community for better cable TV, we knew we had our solution."

A broadband network would not only link electric meters, it could also provide a competitive cable TV system.

Eventually, the Glasgow EPB became the community's second cable TV company. They have been quite successful. Their broadband network supports two primary applications: the SCADA system and cable TV.

I should tell you Billy Ray is a visionary. In the early stages of the project, he wondered what else would be possible using the city's broadband network. The answer came in the form of a new communications system that integrates data, video and voice--all on broadband.

First Pacific Networks, based in Sunnyvale, Calif. Makes a system called the Personal eXchange, or PX. It is a fully distributed communications system that does all of the above, very well, I might add. I've seen the Glasgow installation and it's quite impressive.

The PX takes broadband and segments it into data, video, and voice--all under customer control. At present, PX handles voice communications to EPB bower substations throughout the current cable TV network.

About a year ago, Ray and his staff studied how the EPB could provide phone service to its customers, as well as electricity and CATV.

Kentucky state legislators opened a major doorway for Glasgow. Last year, a new law required telephones in every classroom in the state by 1993. That was a natural for Glasgow, as TVs already are in classrooms and LANs connect the various schools' office computers.

"Using the PX, we realized we could move voice, video and data within schools over the in-house cable network."

The EPB further realized it could link individual school LANs via broadband into a single city-wide network.

"Students and teachers could use the network at night," Ray says. "Administrators can have E-mail. We can even consolidate resources from several libraries into a centralized electronic library."

Kentucky even changed its tax structure for education. "Money is now available for the applications we;ve described," Ray says. "The states looking for ways to bring technology into our schools. We plan on showing them the way."

EPB recently received good news from the Kentucky Public Service Commission. The PSC said it had not objections to EPB using its broadband network to provide other communications services, such as voice communications, in the town's school.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Communications Management
Author:Kirvan, Paul
Publication:Communications News
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Nov 1, 1991
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