In Defense of Sachs

Editor: Allow me to set the record straight about the departure of Robert Sachs as president and CEO of the NCTA. As the two-term immediate past chairman of our outstanding Washington association, I can state Robert has led our industry through more than five years of unquestionable success. The opinions of certain unnamed executives in last week's article about his departure ["Sachs Out?," 6/21, page 18] were terribly mean-spirited and without merit. They clearly reflect the views of certain individuals who think they are in the know but are not.

One reference was made that some cable executives "envy the way telcos and broadcasters manipulate the regulatory process to their advantage." I wouldn't want to trade places with those industries that have continued to be led by people who seek more regulation and less competition. Robert, on the other hand, convinced our industry leaders to embrace competition and simply fight for fairness. That point of view prevailed, and the regulatory and legislative success we have enjoyed enabled us to invest some $80 billion in new businesses over the last few years.

Broadcasters continue to fight unsuccessfully for more-advantageous regulation at the expense of the free market. They have been far from successful at getting what they want; the NAB has even seen all its largest members drop out. The telephone industry has spent eight years litigating the 1996 Telecom Act, complaining about cable's deregulatory advantages. Would any of us really
want to trade places with either of these industries? Not I!

During Robert's tenure, cable has: 1) won important digital carriage decisions at the FCC; 2) voluntarily resolved "cable compatibility" issues with the consumer-electronics industry; and 3) established a deregulatory environment for its broadband services.

Another industry executive is quoted complaining about a lack of a clear agenda. Attaining deregulation of broadband services (cable modem and now VoIP) has been a top priority for several years, along with maintaining rate deregulation.

Additionally, NCTA has been sharply focused on preventing the imposition of dual must-carry and multicasting-carriage requirements. These are the issues which have been the subject of numerous board and executive committee meetings. Frankly, I don't see how any cable executive who really is in the know could not be unaware that these are the industry's top regulatory priorities.

During Robert's tenure, cable has consistently been cited as an example of what others are trying to achieve in Washington. Robert Sachs has been the primary architect of our successes, and we will miss him sorely as he returns to a normal life, free of long-distance commuting and mean-spirited nonsense.

Michael S. Willner, president and CEO, Insight Communications, New York

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