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December 4, 2008 Provided by System Dynamics Inc.

Briefly Noted: Updates, Observations and Trends

Each month, we collect miscellaneous happenings, studies, trends or observations you might have missed. This month's briefs focus on the political import of broadband in New Zealand, Embarq's radical decision to use live humans, rural BPL and US DVRs.

Broadband & Politics--New Zealand Style

Broadband may not have been anywhere near the top priorities in the recent US election, but it was a different story in New Zealand. According to New Zealand publication OneNews, the new government's key priorities will be tax cuts in April, increased spending on infrastructure, including roads, and the rollout of broadband internet. One of the incoming National Party's key campaign planks was to promise a fiber to the home network for 75 per cent of New Zealand households. ( tvnz.co.nz )

Embarq Customers--"Are You A Live Human?"

In the US (and probably everywhere) there has been a relentless march toward replacing live customer service agents with Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems. Embarq, Sprint's former landline unit, recently gained attention by instituting a trial using live human beings instead of IVR. Embarq thinks customer frustration with automated customer care may result in loss of customers and is monitoring reactions to using US-based rather than overseas representatives. It puzzles us that Embarq is calling this the Live IVR Trial ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSFho5-Geo8 ) when "IVR" is associated with machine automation. Embarq is supporting technology use for other aspects of service, such as its YouTube Channel ( www.youtube.com/embarq ), featuring videos to help answer some top customer service inquiries. ( www.embarq.com )

BPL: IBM and IBEC

BPL (broadband over power lines) ran into a roadblock when it became clear that competing with DSL and cable in major markets was not viable. However, that still leaves an opportunity in unserved rural markets, where government funding can help broadband deployment. IBEC, which we wrote about previously ( www.broadbandhomecentral.com/report/backissues/Report0608_5.html ), has signed a $9.6 million deal with IBM, which will be providing and installing IBEC's BPL equipment, with access to 340,000 homes, about 86 percent of which have no cable or DSL access. IBEC currently has only about 1400 customers. ( www.ibec.net )

DVRs Are Big in US

According to US data from Nielsen, 38% of the homes in the San Diego market have DVRs--the largest penetration in the US. 27% of all U.S. households currently have the time shifting, ad-skipping devices and 29 markets have DVR penetration rates topping 30%. ( www.nielsen.com )

Leichtman Research Group adds that 30 percent of US DVR households have more than one DVR.( www.leichtmanresearch.com )