Texas’ CableConnects Disconnected

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Following the example of other state associations, the Texas Cable & Telecommunications Association has decided to convert its annual three-day trade show into an expanded day of lobbying at the state capital.

And the TCTA board has dismissed its leader of two years, Amanda Batson, in favor of an executive to be named later who has more experience as a lobbyist.

“It’s been a pleasure to lead this group for two-plus years,” Batson said, adding that she will stay with the association to assist in the transition to her successor.

President Connie Wharton -- vice president and general manager of Cox Communications Inc.’s Cox Cable West Texas in Lubbock -- said trade-show finances were not the driving issue on the decision. In fact, she added, CableConnects 2004 in San Antonio “actually made some money.”

But the association’s majority members -- including Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable and Cox -- are each moving rapidly into telephony. The two latter companies have already become authorized as certified local-exchange carriers. The association needs to spend more of its time and resources on telephony rule-making, Wharton noted.

Running the trade show currently takes up one-half of the TCTA’s time and resources each year. The association’s funding comes from dues of 30 cents per subscriber, per month from its member companies.

But feedback from members and associates indicated that trade-show attendees intend to spend more time at niche shows, or at the National Show, Wharton said.

“It’s just become more difficult to be all things to all people at a state level,” she said of the TCTA’s trade show.

The change in the show will not create a financial hit for the TCTA. The board in February decided to move its annual meeting from its traditional home in San Antonio to Austin for 2005, so a block of rooms has been set aside for members for what will now be a lobbying day. No other convention arrangements had been made, Wharton indicated.

The association has yet to obtain a search firm to hunt for its new executive.

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