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Expo Spotlights Cable’s Pandemic Pivot

Mark Dzuban
Mark Dzuban, SCTE•ISBE (Image credit: SCTE-ISBE)

The SCTE•ISBE Cable-Tec Expo Virtual Experience last week revealed an industry wholly focused on facing whatever serious challenge may come its way. From the moment Charter Communications’ holographic streaming demonstration broke new ground on the road to the 10G future, it was clear that that the industry was all-in for its support of what has become the largest cable event in the Americas.

Expo 2020 sat at the intersection of two pivotal events that are transforming the way cable interacts with consumers and communities. It came during a time when the industry has risen to the challenge of managing incredible demands that have been placed on its networks by the coronavirus pandemic, and just as the earliest examples of the powerful new 10G platform are going live. The message of Expo was clear: this is an industry that’s embracing change.

Swinging Into Action

Operations executives talked about how MSOs swung into action when lockdowns were announced. Education professionals explained the dynamics when companies adapt to face unprecedented crises or deploy new technologies. Workshop presenters highlighted how networks configurations are being impacted by the lessons of COVID and the power of 10G. CEOs shared the strategies that expanded broadband availability during the crisis as well as their visions of what’s to come. Charter chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge summed up what’s ahead: “How you structure organizations to deal with the future is, I think, the most interesting challenge.”

Although the future is never as certain as we would like, Expo was a clear indicator of how the industry and SCTE•ISBE are working collaboratively to tackle whatever lies ahead. From the time it became clear that Expo could not happen on-site, the MSOs, associations and the SCTE Foundation were zealous in their support of a virtual event that would drive knowledge and thought leadership across a broader, worldwide audience. Their sponsorships made the full, live program free to all and will keep most sessions available on-demand into early January at https://cabletecexpo.onlineeventpro.freeman.com/. Their participation helped us build a virtual program that was every bit the equal of live Expos in past years. Needless to say, we’re grateful for and humbled by their support.

What’s equally important is how this year’s Expo exemplified the changes that have accelerated how SCTE•ISBE’s applied science strengths are building value for the entire cable ecosystem. Over the past decade, we have addressed the needs of our members by proactively creating standards, operational practices, learning and development programs and more. This includes creation of SCTE standards and operational practices that have contributed to more than $1.1 trillion in cable revenue over the past 25 years.

Here’s what change looks like from where I sit:

• Our SCTE Standards Explorers program that was underway even before the pandemic is laying the groundwork for new applications that can capitalize on the specific strengths of the industry’s 10G platform. Working groups are creating standards that will drive availability of telemedicine, aging in place, telehealth and other needs that surfaced during the COVID crisis.

• Working with the operator professionals on our Learning & Development Committee as well as university partners, we’ve created and implemented a new Learning Management System (LMS). Based on the best industry and learning science available, it enables learners and their employers to track progress, reinforce knowledge and chart career paths as new needs and technologies are identified.

• Encouraged by the success of 2020’s Virtual Experience, Cable-Tec Expo itself will undergo its own change in the year ahead. When we return to Atlanta next Oct. 11-14, we’ll blend live and online elements into a hybrid event. Moreover, we’ll be leveraging partnerships and collaborations with associations within and beyond the industry to secure Expo’s place as the premier global cable and technology event.

Raising the Bar

At Expo last week, LinkedIn’s Anthony LaPia discussed what happens when organizations such as cable are in the crosshairs of disruptive social forces and the advent of new technologies. He talked about the need to raise the bar by implementing learning methodologies that could incorporate the rapid responses, the new practices and the relevant procedures that could arm an industry for what’s ahead.

It sounded as though he was challenging each one of us. But based on the industry’s performance during the COVID crisis, and on what I saw last week at Cable-Tec Expo, we’ve got what it takes to clear that bar. 

Mark Dzuban is pres­ident and CEO of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers • International Society of Broadband Experts.