Capitalizing on the D.C. Connection

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association convention each year is a time of anticipation and promise, as the industry gathers to celebrate recent achievements, explore the latest business trends and learn about the promise of technology and how it is allowing us to serve our customers in exciting ways that, not long ago, we wouldn’t have thought possible. This year, The Cable Show offers more reason for anticipation and more exciting opportunities than any show in recent memory.

This week, we begin Cable Connection, the week of cable-industry meetings, events and conferences clustered around the show, and the first foray into the new plan to realign national meetings and events produced by cable associations and professional societies into two weeks in the spring and fall. Given the economic climate, it’s probably the best year possible to test this new concept.

Most importantly, for the first time in modern cable history, the industry is meeting in Washington, D.C. This presents an incredible opportunity for cable to take center stage with lawmakers, regulators and the new administration — and demonstrate how technology and public policy intersect.

For years, the NCTA has brought MSO, programmer and state and local industry leaders from across the country to Washington to talk to members of Congress about critical issues. But it’s been challenging to demonstrate tangibly how the technology, programming and services in which the industry has invested billions of dollars are making a difference in people’s lives — until now.

Broadband Nation, the centerpiece of The Cable Show’s convention floor, will demonstrate the many ways in which consumers benefit from broadband and how, as the nation’s foremost broadband provider, the cable industry continues to lead the charge for its deployment. This Main Street America-themed technology showcase highlighting the advanced services and consumer benefits associated with cable’s broadband telecommunications platform will demonstrate how consumers can use broadband in their homes and communities all over America, in urban, suburban and rural settings.

There are dozens of other exhibits that can also demonstrate technology, programming and advanced services in action — from programmers’ HD feeds to equipment manufacturers’ latest developments in set-top boxes. In addition, the leading content, technology and MSO CEOs will be on hand to share their vision of the future.

NCTA has invited legislators, policymakers and other key public officials to speak to convention delegates, participate on panels and tour exhibits at The Cable Show ’09. Key members of Congress and the administration have confirmed plans to participate, as well as state and local officials. This is a prime opportunity to educate policymakers about our business and to help demonstrate the tangible reasons behind our public-policy positions.

Of course, one trade show won’t resolve all of the industry’s public-policy issues. Programmers and operators will still have to deal with broadcasters who try and circumvent multicast must carry decisions at the FCC. But the impressive range of content and content providers on display should help policymakers see even more clearly how a misguided must carry policy would undermine the diverse array of existing cable networks that serve millions of households and are actively vying for additional carriage.

Operators will still have to deal with those who advocate regulation of broadband, but letting public officials see for themselves the fruits of the industry’s $145 billion investment in an intelligent, interactive network should help strengthen the industry’s case on how government intervention could stymie future development and undermine the goals of broadband deployment.

The Cable Show will help bring the industry to life, in a way that’s nearly impossible to replicate in government filings and hearing testimony. And officials can even get a glimpse of how cable gives back, through this year’s CableCares initiatives focusing on donations of time, materials and financial support to help improve Washington, D.C., schools and the community.

There are many great reasons to come to The Cable Show. As always, it’s a great place to launch new deals, to network and to learn. But this year, because we are in the nation’s capital, we all need to think about the show as a place to communicate, educate and inform. The industry’s long-term future may just depend on it.