commentary by Steve Effros This, I hope, is going to be the year of collaboration. The cable industry is moving so fast, in so many directions, that I suspect it is time we seek out as many collaborative arrangements as we can to make sure we deliver what we are capable of, to our customers and stockholders. The fact that we are offering multiple services is not news. Our infrastructure allows us to do things no one else can, and we would be foolish not to take advantage of that— it is our strength, and the reason the industry has now spent $95 billion in the last 10 years to create and upgrade that infrastructure. But how do we take advantage of all our new-found capabilities while at the same time not stretching our staff, knowledge or resources so thin that we fail to deliver the top-notch products our infrastructure allows? I think the answer is to team with others who know how to deliver the various pieces we are fitting into the puzzle called cable broadband. I’m going to be writing a lot about these opportunities in the coming months to make the point. The first is cable telephony. VoIP is an incredible opportunity and the quality is getting better by the minute. The pricing is right and the prospect is that cable will make major inroads into the wireline provision of telephone service. But that industry has already been shaken to the core by wireless technology, and it is ironic that cable can, with the right partners, be a true leader in that area, too. It is not just that the cable industry needs a wireless play to add to our "bundle" of video, voice and data. It’s that we can do it better if a true collaboration can be forged between most of the major cable players and one of the wireless providers. Time Warner has just announced a beginning step in that direction with Sprint. I don’t have any idea if that is the "right" deal, but assuming that the industry itself (or major players in it) don’t acquire a big wireless capability, then we are foolish not to look at some agreement that allows us to work with one major wireless player. The current advertising in that industry should tell you all you need to know. "…Can you hear me now?" is the major question. The company or group that can say you can hear us most effectively will prove the "network effect" axiom that says a well built network will build on itself as people get onto it in order to assure access to others on the network. All of the wireless companies are still having trouble really delivering full access because cell towers simply don’t reach everywhere, and construction—especially in well-populated suburbs, is difficult. Well, cable has an answer for that. Remember the tests where "mini" cell sites were put up with our amplifiers and the signals then dropped into the broadband pipe to be processed at the headend? They worked, but the economics didn’t for a full blown system. Now, though, we should collaborate with a company that has "most" of the country covered, but has spots that just don’t work (that’s all of them at the moment). With cable in front of more than 90% of the television households in the country, we could solve that problem and create a network everyone would want to use. All it takes is creative collaboration. We should do it. It’s a win-win.