Forum: Cable Celebrates 50 Years of Quality and Innovation


The following are NCTA president Decker Anstrom'sremarks on the eve of Cable '98 in Atlanta:

We celebrate cable's 50th birthday this week inAtlanta. We will also celebrate the clear, unequivocal fact that the combination ofcable's "better-than-all" broadband infrastructure and programming makes usthe emerging leaders, not only in television, but in telecommunications.

How we got here tells us a lot about what we need to doduring the next fifty years.

Today's landscape is certainly different from1948's. The television industry was in its infancy, and customers were lining up tobuy their first set. There was one telephone company that handled all your calls,and telephones came only in black. Plans for the first computer were still on the drawingboard.

Clearly a lot that has happened in the past fifty yearscould never have been predicted: the burgeoning importance of television in our lives; thebreakup of Ma Bell; and the rapid evolution of computers. And, it's very unlikelythat anyone present at cable's birth would have predicted that cable would ultimatelyrevolutionize television and the way people get their news, information and entertainment.

But in retrospect, it's not hard to understand ourindustry's tremendous success -- the key has been our ability to embrace, not toreject; to recognize opportunities; to make the necessary investments; and to deliver toour customers the services they wanted.

That's why cable found a way to bring televisionsignals to customers unable to receive them over-the-air. That's why cable recognizedthe potential to use satellites to offer truly national cable networks. And, that'swhy cable responded to our customers by developing networks to suit every taste andinterest -- networks which offer a true alternative to the broadcasters' fare.

Today, as the TV marketplace becomes increasinglycompetitive, we're continuing to look ahead -- and we're delivering on ourpromises of the best programming, superior customer service, a commitment to education andnew services and technology.

Best Programming: Cable continues to offer ourcustomers the best programming available on television. It's quality programmingconsumers can't find anywhere else -- programming that's original; that educatesthem and their families; and shows them people, places and ideas they wouldn't seeanywhere else. And, cable networks offer more than 80 percent of all television hoursdevoted to children.

To provide this outstanding programming, cable companiesare continuing to increase their programming investments -- last year reaching almost $6billion. And, these investments are paying off -- as cable viewership, especially duringprimetime, continues to increase -- eroding the broadcasters' share. Cableprogramming also is increasingly critically acclaimed.

Superior Customer Service: We're the only industryin America today that not only promises superior customer service but guaranteesit. The industrywide On-Time Guarantee program is a particular success with our customers-- who recognize that their cable companies are working hard every day to provide themwith the best possible service.

Education Commitment: We've made an extraordinarycommitment to educate children, and I'd match our record in this area with that ofany other industry.

Building on the terrific foundation of Cable in theClassroom, we're now making good on our pledge to equip at least one site in everyconsenting elementary and secondary school passed by cable with a cable modem and Internetaccess, free of charge.

New Services and Technology: Cable also has become theleader in offering new and advanced technology and telecommunications services. Since itbecame law two years ago, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 has ushered in a new era ofcompetition and innovation, and today we are facing an increasingly competitive videomarketplace as DBS, MMDS, municipal providers and telephone companies are offering videoservice in locations throughout the country.

We're meeting these challenges by making the necessaryinvestments in our infrastructure and providing our customers with the services andchoices they want. In fact, last year as an industry we spent $5.4 billion on improvementsto our infrastructure -- bringing our customers better quality pictures and sound, moreprogramming and new services.

Due to these investments, we're now taking advantageof our superior infrastructure as cable companies offer new high-speed-data andInternet-access services. These services, operating at speeds 50 to 100 times faster thana conventional telephone line, promise to open up major new lines of business for cable --as we respond to consumers' and business needs.

Cable companies also are beginning to offer head-to-headcompetition for local phone service in a variety of locations around the country, often atrates substantially below what the incumbent local telephone companies are charging.

So, as we look back over the past 50 years and celebratecable's golden anniversary, let's continue to keep our promises, and stayrelentlessly focused on delivering the best programming and the best customer service,setting the standard for education and children and offering new services and technology.And let's make sure that we constantly tell our investment story to the media, publicofficials and our customers -- so they understand the value we're delivering.That's the formula for strengthening our leadership role for the next 50 years.