Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge

Rutledge: Cable Suffers From Poor Service

Charter chief praises network, sees ‘6G’ enhancements ahead

Why This Matters

Charter CEO Tom Rutledge says cable’s infrastructure advantage isn’t enough to overcome service lapses.

DENVER — Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge preached to the cable engineering choir about the cable network’s “superior infrastructure” and future “6G” wireless products while pointing out how the industry has suffered because of poor service.

In a keynote speech to the Cable-Tec Expo last Wednesday, Rutledge — who was chided in a leaflet handed out near the convention center regarding Charter’s strike situation in New York — also called password sharing a “significant issue” affecting the video business.

In a speech given from notes, Rutledge cited various companies he’d worked for in cable dating back to 1972, lastly Charter, which he noted was not long out of bankruptcy when he joined it six years ago. Today it’s the second-biggest U.S. cable operator, with a $350 stock price and $90 billion market cap.

“We have been building connectivity and capacity for decades and we will be for decades to come,” he said.

Wireless — already a big part of Charter’s business, via WiFi, with mobile services on the way next year — is poised for big growth inside the home, using techniques such as 802.11ax, he said. “We’ll be able to go from eight simultaneous streams of wireless to 64 and manage the quality throughout the home.”

He talked about the potential to combine licensed and unlicensed spectrum to get 10 gigabit per second broadband speeds in the home. “I call it 6G inside wireless speeds,” he said. “Why 6G? Just because it’s something we have and the phone guys don’t and I want to have it.”

He described a pathway being developed with CableLabs to use coherent fiber and two-way DOCSIS to help enable future data-heavy consumer applications that haven’t been invented yet, such as creating holograms in a personal-space environment.

As for the overhang of poor service by cable companies, he called it “an issue that has affected the industry.

“Service is a business,” he said. “Service itself is a product, and it’s also an attribute of how we’re perceived from a regulatory perspective. Which has dramatic impacts on the way our business grows and attracts capital.”

Security was another term he stressed, both in terms of protecting customers’ privacy and in terms of over-the-top providers protecting against overuse of shared online accounts.

“It’s a significant issue and it’s not well appreciated by the people who are new to distribution,” Rutledge said. “And everybody with an app, including the programmers that we pay, are in the distribution business now, whether they know it or not.”