Sol Schildhause died last Friday. If you don’t know who Sol was, or even if you do, you would be well served to go to the CableCenter web site and read the transcript of the oral history interview Sol did back in 1991. It’s some of the most fascinating reading you will do on many different levels, both learning about Sol’s life, and how he helped breathe life into the cable industry. Sol was the first chief of the Cable Bureau at the FCC. He was the one who got the Cable Bureau created out of the ragtag guerrilla band of lawyers he put together in the Cable Task Force, which he lead in the late 1960s. I became part of that band, and Sol was definitely the band leader. He almost single-handedly devised the strategy and had us engage in the battle to get cable television legitimized under federal law. That was no easy task. I won’t go into all the gory detail of the political and economic warfare between the fledgling cable industry and the established broadcast and programming (copyright/movie) industries over allowing cable to grow. It was tough and very well recounted in Sol’s oral history. It’s definitely something everyone involved in this industry should read, even if only to get the flavor of how these things actually happen in Washington. It’s not pretty. Sol’s memory is not perfect, but the flavor is certainly there, and absolutely tart. I reread it the other day, upon hearing that Sol had died in his sleep at age 89. His recollections of his childhood and growing up in the 1930s is worth the read without ever getting to the story of cable. But it’s that story for which he will be long remembered. Sol was a damn good lawyer and one of the best legal writers in the business. He graduated from Harvard after his Uncle Louie took him up there from his home in New York City and informed him he was going to Law School. Sol was planning to be a baseball player. Uncle Louie, says Sol, always said "…that boy’s going to be something," and so law school it was. Louie was right. Sol wound up on the Harvard Law Review. Again, go look at the transcript to get the full story. I’m going to jump to the part I know about: Sol as the cheerleader, bandleader, guerilla battler for the cable industry at a time when the FCC was almost totally controlled by the broadcast industry. I was part of the small team Sol put together to see if we could craft new regulations that would allow cable to reach major metropolitan areas. We got that opportunity, as I have mentioned in past columns, because Dean Burch became Chairman of the FCC at that time, and unlike many political appointees, Burch was not run by ideology; he was run by ideas. Sol had plenty of them! The 1972 rules ended the federal "freeze" on cable development. The industry we know today happened because Sol got those rules through the legal and political maze. That’s why Dean Burch gave him a leather-bound copy of them (it’s in the CableCenter collection now) with gold embossed lettering saying "Sol’s Baby." He was so right. We all have a lot to thank Sol Schildhause for, and we also ought to thank Uncle Louie. He was right, too. That boy did, indeed, come to be something special to an entire industry.

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