After killer Hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans three years ago, the cable industry was forced to cancel its convention in town and move it to Atlanta in spring 2006.
But with The Cable Show this week returning to the Big Easy, one of its favorite venues, Cox Communications New Orleans is eagerly welcoming the industry with open arms.
“We’re delighted to be back in the rotation,” said Greg Bicket, senior VP and GM for Cox’s New Orleans cable system. “This was always an important convention for New Orleans and we’re delighted to see NCTA come back.”
Bicket’s team weathered the deadly storm, and has spent the years since its devastation rebuilding and upgrading its operation, with Cox Communications committing $500 million to the effort.
“Our confidence in the city’s recovery has never wavered,” Bicket said. “We’ve invested heavily since the storm and steadily since the storm.”
For example, as part of a corporate-wide mandate Cox has rebuilt its system and is taking it to 1 Ghz, up from 860 MHz. The system has also added 30 HD channels, accelerated its high-speed data product and added features to its phone package.
Before Katrina, Cox New Orleans had about 257,000 basic subscribers. That count dropped immediately after the storm and has been rising back up.
“Through March, we were at 194,000,” Bicket said. “It won’t be long, we’ll get north of 200,000.”
Through the NCTA’s CableCares initiative, the industry is finding ways to pitch in and help the Crescent City.
“We’ve been contacted by a lot of industry friends and colleagues about taking a half day or a day to do some volunteer work when they’re in town,” said Bicket, whose own multifaceted career included stints with Daniels & Associates; CAI Wireless in Albany, N.Y.; and as CEO of TCI Argentina, leading to his induction during this year’s Cable Show into the pan-
theon of Cable TV Pioneers.
Bicket noted that would-be helpers can turn to Volunteer New Orleans, founded by Cox New Orleans public relations manager Brad Grundmeyer, and its Web site, Volunteerneworleans.com, to be matched with groups that need help.
“The whole of our company was disappointed when we had to cancel a few years ago, and we had to,” Bicket said. “It wouldn’t have worked, as much as I would have liked to have gone ahead, it wouldn’t have worked. All the parts of the city that are tourist-focused are in great shape and doing well [now].”
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