Sachs: Cable Closing Digital Divide


Chicago -- The cable industry is doing its part to close the so-called
digital divide by providing broadband services to rural and inner-city
communities in addition to the wealthy suburbs, National Cable &
Telecommunications Association president Robert Sachs said Monday.

Sachs, in his National Show address here, said cable operators now reach 60
million homes with high-speed facilities and the industry has not ignored rural
America and less affluent inner cities.

'We are making broadband happen, and not just for a select set of ZIP codes.
We don't intend to leave rural America and underserved urban neighborhoods
stranded on the wrong side of the digital divide,' he said.

Washington policymakers are watching the deployment of broadband around the
country to determine whether local phone companies need to be deregulated and
whether commercial providers need tax credits as incentives to drive the
technology into underserved areas. Lawmakers are concerned that the absence of
broadband would divide the country between information haves and have-nots.

Noting that cable has invested nearly $50 billion over the past five years on
network upgrades, Sachs said the huge level of investment was unleashed by the
Telecommunications Act of 1996, which contained provisions substantially
relaxing regulation of the industry.

Over the past five years, the cable industry has added 12 million
digital-television, 5 million cable-modem and 1 million local phone subscribers,
Sachs said.

'The good news is that cable is one industry where the 1996
Telecommunications Act has produced real consumer benefits,' he added. 'Rate
deregulation has enabled us to invest billions in new technology, new
programming and customer care, bringing competitive choices to consumers.'

Cable investment in broadband, particularly high-speed Internet access,
forced the four regional Baby Bell phone companies to get serious about
deploying digital-subscriber-line technology in residential markets, he

'Not surprisingly, the success of cable modems lit a fire under the regional
Bell companies,' Sachs said. 'The Bells had DSL technology available to them for
more than a decade, but only when cable launched affordable high-speed Internet
service did the Bells begin to deploy DSL.'