The history of cable television is marked by moments of entrepreneurial innovation and sheer brilliance. These qualities have built an industry which last year generated nearly $70 billion in revenues and kept millions of Americans entertained and connected. We take much of what the industry has wrought for granted now. But just think of the transcendent power of each of these turning points:
- Stringing wire up a utility pole to bring distant television signals to rural communities.
- Transmitting a television signal 22,000 miles into space to send it back to millions of households around the country.
- Launching a national channel to broadcast the news 24 hours a day.
- Mounting cameras in the chambers of the U.S. Congress to let Americans observe their Congress in action.
- Transforming the Internet into a true tool for information and entertainment by moving data at lightning-fast speeds.
- Starting a 24-hour cable channel to serve African-Americans. Or sports fans. Or kids. Or women.
- Building some of the strongest U.S. brands, from ESPN to Comcast to HBO to Cablevision.
The entrepreneurs who brought us these and countless other innovations built the foundation for today. They're part of what makes cable a great American success story. And this story is just beginning.
This is the spirit we're celebrating in Atlanta this week at the 2006 National Show, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association's 55th annual conference. On the heels of a half-century of progress, today's cable entrepreneurs are making tremendous investments in the telecommunications marketplace — $100 billion in the last 10 years — to offer consumers an array of popular services that didn't even exist a decade ago.
Video-on-demand and digital video recorders have created a world of immediacy. Developing technologies are making our content mobile and portable. Fully featured digital phone service is creating the first viable wired alternative to plain old telephone service — and the first real consumer alternative to the former Bell monopolies.
The extension of video gaming onto our broadband and interactive television platforms has created yet another way for people to engage with each other. And the sheer proliferation of content, both scheduled and unscheduled, is dramatically enriching the lives of all Americans.
Cable has clearly demonstrated that innovation and creativity can drive tremendous progress, when nurtured in a regulatory environment that enables companies to grow and to serve customers as best they see fit. That's why the right public-policy choices will let the marketplace drive new services and treat all content providers and distributors fairly and equitably.
A recent industry public-affairs conference proclaimed that cable is “at the crossroads.” In a way, we cross new roads every day, and the choices we make determine success or failure, growth or dissolution.
But across the country — and as evidenced in Atlanta this week — cable's modern-day entrepreneurs keep creating growth through investment, creativity, persistence and innovation.