On Comcast’s Technology Edge

Kip Compton

At the tender young age of 32, Kip Compton has a front-row seat to cable’s next-generation architecture. In fact, as vice president of video and media architecture at Comcast Corp., he is creating the future as much as watching it develop.

Compton is part of the MSO’s small, but key, advanced engineering team under chief technology officer David Fellows. The group is developing a road map for Comcast’s future network.

The future has long been on Compton’s mind. He first met Fellows while a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It was 1994, and Compton was working on streaming video in Moving Picture Experts Group’s MPEG-1 format via HypeText Transfer Protocol. After college, Compton worked for Southern New England Telecommunications Corp., helping launch the telco’s video and on-demand services, plus early high-speed Internet efforts.

But Compton missed Boston and eventually took a job under Fellows at Continental Cablevision, helping the company launch high-speed its data services. In 1998, he joined Cisco Systems Inc., working on cable modems and provisioning software after Cisco’s purchase of American Internet.

In the second half of 2002, Fellows called with an opportunity for Compton to join Comcast’s newly-formed advanced engineering group, which included many of the players who developed Continental’s high-speed technology.

The group’s goal is to develop a convergence infrastructure, which has Compton and company bridging gaps between Comcast’s digital set-top personnel, the online division and even marketing departments.

The work being done on next-generation architecture may take years, Compton says, yet in the interim advancements can be made with all digital or digital simulcasts. “They are stepping stones to the next generation,” he adds.

“It’s very interesting to see the industry evolution,” Compton says, reflecting on changes in all digital thinking over the past 18 months. Is it a $35 digital adapter, or a DCT 7000 set-top box from Motorola Inc.? Does the box need to be able to handle VOD and an interactive guide? Is the video network interface unit a viable all digital option?

Finding the answers to questions like those is the kind of challenge Compton loves. “It’s no fun if it makes no difference to customers or the company,” he says. Chances are, what Compton comes up with will make a huge difference to consumers, and Comcast, going forward.