As is so common in our business, our annual gathering for The Cable Show is a time not so much to reflect on past glories, but to look ahead to future opportunity. That’s especially true this year, as we help a major American city look to its future, and plan exciting days ahead for our industry as well.

Last fall, as the NCTA Board of Directors was contemplating the staging of The Cable Show ’08 in New Orleans, our chief executives asked us to embrace a community service initiative tied to the show—one that would "give back" to a city that has given us so much over the years, and which remains so in need even as its residents return and life resumes its normalcy. Following months of careful planning, we are confident that many CableCares projects will undoubtedly leave New Orleans with a real, lasting contribution to a city striving to revitalize, rebuild and rejuvenate.

CableCares primarily is focused on assisting the school children of New Orleans. Prior to the Cable Show, volunteers were to construct two brand-new school playgrounds and spruce up the grounds of a high school. Another school will see volunteers install more than 40 new computers, while yet another will receive the full breadth of cable services, including new wiring, HDTVs, DVRs and other content-rich applications. School libraries throughout the city also will gain thousands of new books from a comprehensive book drive. And of course, the Big Show closes Tuesday night with industry executives "rockin’ out" to raise money for New Orleans charities during "Battle of the Bands."

Our corporate and organizational partners in this endeavor also have played a critical role in CableCares. We’ve witnessed companies of all sizes generously step forward with offers of support. To the organizations that have donated money, goods, time, services, and human resources to make these projects a reality, we say, thank you.

Donations have been varied, and they often play to the strengths of each company. They include musical instruments, backpacks filled with supplies, DVDs, computers, video equipment and other items too numerous to mention. At schools in the city, volunteers will have planted trees, shoveled and spread mulch, installed HDTVs, carried books, run wiring, and more. And of course, the book drive to rebuild the city’s school libraries will surely create a tall mountain of books on the show floor by Tuesday.

To us at NCTA, CableCares feels like the epicenter of this year’s convention. However, we haven’t forgotten that the Cable Show is the time of year when the entire industry gathers to do business. The program is strong this year, including first-time visits from the CEOs of Intel, Sun Microsystems and Panasonic. And, plenty of thought and planning already are going into next April’s big event, the first-ever "Cable Connection — Spring," in Washington, D.C. Many other industry organizations will wrap their events around The Cable Show for a truly deep and broad cable experience.

Industry association leaders have been hard at work planning for next spring and the years beyond, for ways to more efficiently bring our industry together. So we’ll embrace the new "Cable Connection" for the first time next year, in both its spring and fall format, and we’ll enjoy the excitement of having many different segments of our business in one place, at one time.

Whether it’s CableCares or Cable Connection, we’ve seen our industry join together countless times to give back to its communities, and look to the future. Here in New Orleans, we’re well on our way to achieving those objectives, showcasing the best cable has to offer, be it in the convention center, or in the schoolyard.

(Barbara York is NCTA’s svp, industry affairs).

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