By Steve Effros My Wish List We’re starting a new year, and I can’t really say there’s excitement about what’s coming for the cable industry in Washington. In fact, there’s a great deal of trepidation as we look into the future and see that most regulators and legislators still think we are in the past. So here are some of the things I wish would happen this coming year—some having to do with policy and some just plain old desires of a long-time television fan. On the policy side, I wish folks would finally understand that the thing once called "cable television" has morphed into lots of different things in the digital age. Trying to regulate or legislate based on that old system of "pigeon holes" simply doesn’t work any more. And by the way, different cable systems and companies have different ideas as to what they want to do, what services they want to offer, and what they think the future will bring. Don’t just say "cable" and think it is one monolithic thing. It’s not. Don’t try to make it one, either. Cable started out as "community antenna television." The first regulations imposed prohibited selling television sets in local markets, and we couldn’t be owned by broadcasters either. That should tell you something. We were perceived as new competition for both… for the delivery of television. We were never a "monopoly" on the delivery of television; we were the "new" guy competing with the folks who delivered television! And if there is one thing that’s for sure, we were never "unregulated," ever! So let’s stop using those old chestnuts like cable is an "unregulated monopoly," and let’s stop thinking that today’s cable is anything like what we were years ago. If cable is to compete in the new digital world it is going to differentiate itself with programming, service and technology. Any regulations that try to restrict market forces in any of those areas will be counterproductive. My wish is that we all acknowledge we don’t really know from year to year where all this is heading. We are simply trying to stay relevant in a telecommunications marketplace that moves so rapidly that regulators can’t assume they "know" what the business is, or should be, and try to force it in that direction. Look at the Internet as a model. When you stand back and let it go, some pretty remarkable things happen. Some work, some don’t, and the marketplace punishes those who misbehave. We don’t need the government in loco parentis. I also wish the folks in Washington could display a little more intellectual honesty. You simply can’t demand a la carte programming on one hand and then try to force multichannel must carry or packaged carriage of local sports networks on the other. That’s being political, not honest. Now, a few other wishes: I know we won’t get rid of all the ID "bugs" that now populate our television screens. I’ve given up on that. But could the programmers and networks be a little more conscious of what they are showing and fade them out when the visuals are the point of the program? And speaking of fading out, how about shutting up the announcers who think we are watching a football game or a tennis match to listen to them! The level of blather and constant promo stunts has gotten absurd. And I have to remind myself, as well as all the regulators and legislators that all televisions have an "off" button…computers too! Use it.