Repetition A colleague of mine was lamenting lately that we in the cable industry don’t seem to be very good at selecting slogans to explain our offerings or our point of view. As an example, he cited "net neutrality." By now, anyone who has been involved in the debate about "net neutrality" knows that there are as many meanings for that slogan as there are "public interest groups" (another slogan we could talk about) using it. No one really knows what it means, but we keep getting bashed for "threatening" it, and the government is considering laws to assure it—even though there does not appear to be any evidence that "it" is being harmed, abused, challenged or whatever. That’s what makes the term so potent. One approach, which I endorse, is to use the term as much as anyone else! We favor "net neutrality." We provide "net neutrality," and no one should be allowed to suggest that laws should be written that might change that! In recent filings with the FCC, some "public interest" groups generated thousands of email filings from folks convinced that the cable and telco ISPs were intending to "block" various sites on the Internet, and that’s why "net neutrality" rules were needed. What do you think those filers would say if they were informed that the ISPs now guaranteed access to any legal site on the web? The real question is why they don’t already know that. It’s not a question of the slogan, it’s a question of delivering the response. We don’t repeat ourselves enough, and the groups challenging us seem to be in the business of repeating themselves over and over to the point that a "truth" is created whether there is any basis for it or not. Some examples: Cable rates are constantly going up. The fact: price per channel has been going down for years. A la carte will reduce prices for consumers. The fact: no serious economic study concludes that. Rather, they all conclude that prices would go up. A la carte will result in more control for consumers. The fact: consumers have total control of the channels they allow into their homes right now. A la carte sale of channels would not in any way change that. And it goes on: The United States is "losing" the "race" for broadband distribution. The fact: there are more broadband Internet users in the United States than anywhere else in the world. The 1996 Telecommunications Act has failed to introduce competition. The fact: we now have facilities-based competition in the United States for the first time. Telephone, cable and satellite companies are competing to deliver video, cable has already garnered a percentage of the voice market, and Internet service is being offered in most communities by multiple suppliers. So why is it that all these misimpressions continue to dog us? Because we are not shooting back. No, that is not entirely accurate. In the last few years, we have become far more adept and willing to "shoot back." But we are not, on every level, repeating the answers over and over. That’s what it takes. For every repetition of the "public interest group" mantras, we have to respond. We need to say it in advertising, PSAs, in our mailings, to the press, on radio talk shows, and to our friends, acquaintances and customers. Over and over. The "other side" has made repetition the key ingredient of their assault. The only way we are going to be effective in our response is to shoot back just as often.

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