20 Years On, a New Climate

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Many of us in Las Vegas this week for The Cable Show ’07 are admiring the tremendous growth of the city, from its famous “strip” full of surreal hotels and attractions to its bulging suburbs that comprise one of the nation’s fastest growing metropolitan areas.

Considering how cable also has exploded since our show was last in Las Vegas exactly 20 years ago, it’s fitting that the industry should be back in 2007.

While the industry’s past has been full of growth and change, its future is even more exciting. Why? Because advanced networks are already in place and ready to provide consumers with even more options in video, telephone and broadband Internet services.

Success tells the story. Today, there are more than 32 million digital-cable customers. About 30 million consumers and businesses rely on cable’s high-speed Internet service. And 10 million households have signed up for cable phone service.

Digital phone service is at the forefront this year. More than 20 years after the dissolution of the nation’s telephone monopoly, real competition has finally come to the phone market. More than 3 million households switched to cable telephone service in 2006, a remarkable, annual growth rate of 47% over the past three years. I’m proud to say that Cox Communications has been a pioneer in offering phone service since 1997, with both circuit-switched phone and now voice-over-Internet Protocol technology.

Customers gain powerful features and cost efficiency with this technology for phone service on the same hybrid fiber-coaxial network that carries video and Internet data signals. Unlimited local and long-distance calling, E-911 emergency response, digital voice mail, caller ID, call waiting and call forwarding — all for an affordable and highly competitive price — make cable’s phone service state-of-the-art.

Cable’s original product, multichannel-video service, continues to evolve as new technology becomes available and interactive. Digital program guides, high definition channels, an expanding menu of video-on-demand offerings, and digital video recorders are revolutionizing how we watch TV. Consumers now have unprecedented power and control over when, where and how they consume entertainment.

VOD and DVR services are just the beginning of the new two-way, interactive features we’ll deploy. Services such as caller ID on the TV, instant polling, and interactive advertising tailored to the interests of the viewer are among services coming next.

Not too far off in the future is wireless communications. A few cable operators, including Cox, are launching wireless telephone service that provides basic calling packages plus features that make cable’s other services come to life outside the home.

With wireless, consumers soon will program home DVRs and access VOD services remotely; answer wireless phone calls with a home VoIP phone; experience customized cable content for mobile devices; and access home e-mail on cellphones. The possibilities are really compelling.

Over the past few decades, cable has committed substantial investment to infrastructure upgrades — more than $110 billion since 1996 alone — to create a modern, innovative broadband platform. That platform supports our “triple-play” bundle, offering convenience and substantial value for our customers.

Competitive battles will be fought on all of these fronts, but in the end, what will matter most is how cable companies take care of their customers. With a rock-solid foundation and a renewed commitment to consistent, quality customer care, our days of growth are just beginning.

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