Cogeco customers find a new home

If your e-mail address ended with the word contained “@home”, chances are you’ve had to scroll through a long-winded message or two from your ISP about how to change your address recently.

This migration is a result of Excite@Home’s bankruptcy court proceedings. In order for service to stay uninterrupted, ISPs have had to move their customers to new platforms and standards.

Clearly, this magnitude of a migration is a daunting task, and it has become one which customers are using to measure their own loyalty to their ISP. Millions have made a mass exodus from cable Internet access to high speed dial-up as protest.

One company that seems to have pulled through the fray is Cogeco Cable Inc., a Montreal-based ISP. For Cogeco Cable, the migration project focused on transferring all of their Ontario high-speed Internet customers from the Excite@Home service platform to Cogeco’s own platform.

Denis Belanger, vice-president of engineering and development of Cogeco Cable in Montreal, explained the urgency around the migration.

“We have 90,000 customers, and we couldn’t put these customers and this business at risk,” he said. “We had an agreement with @home that terminates in March 2003, and our intention was not to renew it in a year and a half. Our plan was to slowly get ready over the next 15 months to fly on our own, but when their financial situation started to deteriorate, we had to accelerate and not take further risks.”

Cogeco Cable hired SigmaSystems, a Toronto-based provider of service management solutions for the cable industry, to help with the migration. Sigma pre-provisioned existing Excite@Home e-mail accounts over Sigma’s Service Mangement Portfolio as accounts as well as created new user accounts and log-in passwords for all of Cogeco Cable’s customers.

The first phase of this project involved Sigma’s providing a new provisioning and workflow solution onto Cogeco’s IT platform to replace the existing services. In the second phase of the project, Sigma assisted in the actual migration of existing customers to Cogeco’s IP platform.

According to Tim Spencer, chief technology officer at Sigma Systems in Toronto, the biggest challenge in completing the migration was the timing.

“We had to do the conversion fairly rapidly,” Spencer said. “This was a heavy concern for Cogeco management. There was a large number of e-mail accounts to cut over in a short period of time, and we had to ensure support for the many customers coming to the self-change system.”

The application used to ensure a smooth transition was the Sigma Service Management Portfolio, which automatically activates service to cable companies and involves embedded applications that ride on top of the one platform. One of the tools used by Cogeco is the service diagnostics manager, which allows for the testing of subscriber services before a launch.

“This allows for a much quicker response for customers and cable operators,” Spencer explained.

Cogeco Cable’s customers began the migration process on October 26, and the last changes were completed three weeks later.

Don Tyers, a Burlington, Ont.-based Cogeco customer said the process was less painful for him than it seemed to be for other carriers’ customers. Tyers, who called for support in the change of one misidentified password found himself on hold for less than ten minutes.

“It was corrected immediately,” he said. “The change has been fine, overall – no lost e-mails.”