Any fight fans who hoped FCC chmn Kevin Martin would offer a scolding rant against cable, complete with audience gasps, awkward silences and perhaps even a few boos, was a bit disappointed at the Cable Show on Mon. In the opening keynote, the country’s top telecom regulator was actually kinda… nice. "I actually don’t dislike cable," he said. He went on to credit cable for jumpstarting broadband and forcing telcos to slash prices in telephony—all to respond to cable’s competitive threat. "As a regulator, it is this type of competition we are trying to facilitate," he said. But just as the audience started gathering wood for a Kumbaya bonfire in the center of the ballroom, Martin started dropping the bombs that everyone knew was coming. He noted that he has often aided cable when it was a new entrant into broadband and phone, but "I have and will continue to side with the new entrants trying to break into the market where you are the traditional incumbent." Martin then went on to question how cable can oppose multicast must-carry for limiting consumer choice but at the same time force customers to buy large bundles of programming rather than support mandatory a-la-carte. "You can’t have it both ways," he said. "And if you advocate subjecting broadcast channels to consumer choice then why shouldn’t cable channels be similarly subject to free market choices as well." At a press conference following the opening session, NCTA pres/CEO Kyle McSlarrow made sure to thank Martin for coming to Vegas but said he was "puzzled" by the chmn’s point on multicast and a la carte, pointing out that the former involves adding programming and the later involves taking it away from consumers. "There’s an inconsistency there," he said. "We still do have a different opinion." And for a brief, shining moment… it was Camelot.

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