VoIP, More Tech to Rule at Western

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With the Western Show exhibit floor largely barren of programming networks, save for Starz Encore Group LLC, technology will rule the day once again at this final show, set for Dec. 2 to 5 in Anaheim.

With 166 exhibitors, including more than 40 within tech component CableNet, it won't take long to get from one end of the floor to the other.

Although smaller in number, this year's exhibitor attendance list mirrors the hot topics facing cable, largely built around extensions to the data platform headlined by voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP) approaches and, to a lesser extent, technology companies focused on VOD and HDTV.

Cablenet's Key

Cable Television Laboratories Inc.'s last CableNET at the Western Show will likely be the centerpiece of the trade meeting, with VoIP leading way in the form of demonstrations from Gallery Telephony, Syndeo Corp., IP Unity and Nuera Communications Inc. There are a host of operational support systems, provisioning and bandwidth-management companies in CableNET, including Auspice Inc., Ceon Corp., Core Networks, Ellacoya, Lemur Networks, P-Cube, and Pronto Networks.

Entropic will be showing its new chips for broadband home networking, Exavio its media-storage system and Vidiom Systems its OpenCable Applications Platform. Most set-top vendors are returning, including Scientific-Atlanta Inc. on the floor, Motorola Inc. both on the floor and in CableNet, plus Pioneer Corp. and Panasonic Consumer Electronics.

Other notable companies on the exhibit floor include Advent Networks, Allot Communications, Alopa Networks, Alpha Technologies, Arris, Cedar Point Communications, CommScope, IMAKE Software, Motive Communications, Net2Phone, Siemens, Telcordia Technologies, Trilogy Communications and TVC Communications.

Representatives of the California Cable Telecommunications Association put a big push on to send the Western Show out with style, and have signed as panelists the chairmen and CEOs of the nation's Top 10 MSOs, plus Ted Rogers of Canadian MSO Rogers Communications Inc.

In its healthy days, the show included some lavish parties as perks. The 36th and last one will not be without some fun. On Dec. 3, following the Chairman's Reception at the Anaheim Marriott, Cable Positive will host the last Western Show event. It will feature a mini-version (three songs) of the song parody/variety show "Positively Cable," recently staged by the Denver chapter of the organization. That will be followed by an auction of five "high-end" donated items, according to organizers.

They include a trip for two to New York to watch a taping of Inside the Actor's Studio, donated by Bravo; and a one-day stunt driving course, donated by Reality Central. Dan Brenner of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association will serve as auctioneer.

Pre-registration is 30% ahead of the same period last year, when approximately 10,000 professionals attended the show. The Anaheim show has traditionally strong walk-up registration numbers.

Still to be determined is how the cable association will restructure its finances once it loses the 30% of its annual budget that's comprised of trade-show revenues. These funds have always supported activities that allowed the CCTA to support legislation that, at the time, was even ahead of federal mandates.

For instance, California in the 1970s was the first state to approve legislation that guaranteed cable operators access to utility poles. During the following decade, the state legislature approved a deregulation scheme for cable in advance of the passage of the federal Cable Act in 1984.

Because of the Western Show revenue, the trade association was able to do this work and keep per-subscriber dues lower for its members.

CCTA Has A Reserve

Fortunately, the association banked funds from the fat years and now has a "substantial reserve," said Dennis Mangers, the CCTA's vice president and top state lobbyist.

"We can continue to run the association and do very well for an interim period, while we look at other revenue sources and dues structures," " he said.

The CCTA is looking at models in Florida and New York, where associations have solicited ad business from the state government on behalf of MSO members.

The board will meet on the budget process, and continue the discussion process into January during its annual retreat in the Lake Tahoe area.

It is unclear how members would handle any dues increase. Adelphia Communications Corp. has a large presence in the state and is still recovering from bankruptcy.

Charter Communications Inc. has also pulled back on some joint operator activities. For example, it has withdrawn from the Los Angeles marketing co-op, which jointly funds acquisition ads and funnels leads to member companies from a joint toll-free number.

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