Cable Confab Commences in D.C.

Chief lobbyist highlights medium’s continued growth 

WASHINGTON: The annual Cable Show opened here this week with a keynote address from Kyle McSlarrow, president and CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, celebrating the 58th anniversary of the annual event.

In his April 1 remarks, McSlarrow observed that just 15 years ago there was no broadband availability, that the cable modem didn’t exist until 10 years ago, and even five years ago, more Americans were dialing up an Internet connection than were using broadband. McSlarrow praised the cable industry for helping to bridge this gap and make high speed connectivity available to the nation’s homes, as well as providing high quality television and digital telephone service.

“Our industry listened to the consumer, invested the capital and built a broadband platform that is now available to 92 percent of all American households…a platform that enables spectacular applications…a platform that can help our country achieve other critical economic and social goals,” said McSlarrow. “During 2008, our industry added 7 million net customer connections for video, broadband or phone service. Broadband customers jumped 10 percent. Digital video customers increased by 9 percent. Primetime ratings for ad supported cable program networks were up by 4 percent. And our phone customers grew by 30 percent.”

This year’s show theme was “Cable Takes Me There,” and McSlarrow noted that cable was a prime conduit for delivering high-definition television programming to viewers, and the industry has also had a big part in educating those viewers about the advent of digital television and other consumer issues, and is very much involved in “giving back” to the community.
“Since 2005, cable programmers and operators have committed more than three quarters of a billion dollars in commercial airtime to educate and inform consumers and families about the digital transition, media literacy, parental control technology, and online safety,” McSlarrow said. “In total, our industry contributes $2 billion each year to charitable and philanthropic activities.”

Later in the day Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, appeared at the event to address cable executives.

“There are a lot of issues on our plate and we’re teeing up an aggressive agenda to deal with them,” Kerry said. “We need to double down on investment in science and technology. During his campaign, President Obama supported doubling federal funding for basic research over the next 10 years. We’ve got to help him make good on that promise.”

Kerry noted that even though the Internet was invented in the United States, this country now ranks 15th in the world community in its ability to provide high speed access to its citizens.

He cited a continuing need for the government to push efforts to develop science and technology, citing the part of a federally sponsored research program in making HD video compression technology more cost effective. Kerry also praised the cable industry for its part in helping to make broadband communications more accessible.

“Cable was the first industry to offer an affordable, high-speed Internet service, a service that is now available to 119.8 million homes in America,” Kerry said. “And since 1996, the cable industry has invested more than $145 billion to build a state-of-the-art, fiber-rich national broadband network.”

The NCTA event concludes tomorrow. -- from TV Technology