Britt: Change Is Good, Scary

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Las Vegas -- Glenn Britt stood in front of a group of telco-industry players Monday and told them that change is good -- and also scary.

The CEO of Time Warner Cable did something some would consider improbable just a few years ago -- he gave one of the featured keynotes at the TelecomNEXT telco trade confab here.

Equally improbably, fellow keynote speaker Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon Communications Inc., opened his talk by noting that it was a unique opportunity to be on the same bill as “my good friends [The Walt Disney Co. CEO] Bob Iger and Glenn Britt.”

A common theme throughout all of the keynote speeches was the change the industry is experiencing, with the proliferation of new services and, as a byproduct, new and thorny regulatory issues.

“It’s amazing how fast the telecom business is changing,” Britt told the crowd. “Four years ago, you wouldn’t have invited me here.”

The industry had changed in even four years, as Time Warner Cable expanded from a provider of TV services into wide-scale broadband Internet service and, in the past year, voice-over-Internet-protocol service. But while change does benefit customers and providers alike, it also generates fear, Britt said -- and perhaps knee-jerk government regulation that could thwart competition.

“People who fear change often run to government to erect barriers to change,” Britt said, adding that there are some who are backing a move to apply the old telecommunications regulation rules in a marketplace that has evolved beyond that point. Such regulation “would cripple us,” he added.

He also argued that there were those who favored regulation over deregulation -- perhaps a direct shot at the big Bell operators such as Verizon that are backing nationwide video-franchise legislation.

“I call this industrial engineering, and it amounts to the governments choosing winners and losers,” Britt said. “We’re for a level play field, and you can expect us to oppose anything that would tilt that playing field.”

Meanwhile, Iger said the media juggernaut supports legislation calling for a nationwide video-franchise arrangement for telcos to encourage competition. However, he also hedged, saying that Disney also supports a level play field for the cable operators, “which are extremely important for Disney.”

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