As we start a new year, it is somewhat strange to realize that the cable industry is now considered in its "adulthood." We are certainly no longer the "little guys," or the "new" ones, and given that we are undeniably dominant in the multichannel video delivery sector, we can no longer be considered the "upstarts," although a lot of the folks who started this business are still in key positions and going strong. Of course this has been happening for some time now as cable has gained in strength and success, but we have reached a new level and must accommodate to new ways of thinking, acting and speaking about the industry to match the reality. So long as "cable" was associated almost exclusively with "television" we could maintain the "scrappy underdog" status while the networks and television broadcasters continued to appear dominant. But they don’t any more. The numerous and still-growing networks that cable helped create are now consistently garnering larger aggregate viewing audiences than the broadcast networks. While advertising revenue has yet to mirror that reality, it is moving in that direction as well. The perception of cable networks and their recognition continues to increase. ESPN, as an example, has a brand image recognition now considered stronger than all the broadcast networks-12 other cable nets scored higher that CBS, ABC and Fox! This growing appreciation of cable as a very significant player in the telecommunications marketplace does not stop with video distribution. We created the new home "broadband" Internet connection marketplace. As 4th quarter numbers show, consumers are very happy with cable modem service and recognize its benefits over DSL. This, in turn, has allowed cable to tout and prove its reliability, which was not as strong in the past, but with an $80 billion plus investment now paying off, we are proving that our technology leads the field. That, in turn, leads to the next step, with consumers appreciating the reliability of the technology and comfortable using it for purposes other than just "television," the next wave is about to break; cable voice service, "VoIP," or whatever you want to call it. The bottom line is that the cable industry is about to broadly offer telephone service. This is serious stuff. Not, of course, that taking on the broadcasters or the networks wasn’t-and I am not saying that those challenges are over, or the competition isn’t fierce. Folks like Rupert Murdoch guiding DirecTV will force us to always keep our eye on that ball. The telephone business, however, truly moves us into adulthood. The companies we are going to compete against are mammoths. They are huge, very wealthy, and far more politically entrenched than even the largest broadcast networks. However just like mammoths, they don’t move or think as fast as the "new guys" on the block, and hopefully that will allow us to compete effectively. This is what the regulators and legislators have been hoping and planning for all these years-a true, facilities-based competitor to the telephone company. Well, we have grown up, and here we are, ready to do battle. Make no mistake, it is going to be a fierce one. The important thing now, it seems to me, is to recognize who we are, and what we really have achieved, and learn to speak and act as the key telecommunications players we have become. That’s a new role, a new challenge, and one we have to take to heart as we enter adulthood in 2004.

The Daily

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FCC Seeks Comment on NAB NextGen Petition

The FCC Media Bureau is seeking comment on NAB’s petition regarding the treatment of multicast streams under the NexGen TV local simulcasting rules.

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