I made an East Coast day trip (what a treat, other than a 4:30 a.m. wake up!) to Atlanta today to participate in the SCTE-ISBE Cable-Tec Expo. The show is the largest cable telecommunications event in North America. It was interesting to hear from the perspective of someone who works with ILECs and who also happens to be a cable provider. I couldn’t decide if I felt like a telco stalker, or if I was among industry brethren.
I landed early enough in the morning to catch the tail end of a panel with former FCC Chairman Michael Powell and others in the cable space. I have to admit that when Powell threw back the rhetorical question to the audience, “Do you know who really loves wired infrastructure? The wireless industry!” as 5G hype was discussed, I might have chuckled out loud.
My intent for going was to serve on a panel in the expo hall with other players in our space. Matt Polka, CEO of the American Cable Association, Rich Fickle, CEO of NCTC and I had a discussion during the session ‘Off the Beaten Path: Strategies for Success in Small, Midsize and Rural Markets.’ This opportunity was also a chance for the three of us to do some of our own networking, compare notes and find reasons to do so outside of a large show next time. It was also actually nice to walk around an expo hall almost incognito and see what vendors (who I don’t see at NTCA meetings) are selling to the cable market and where the overlap begins.
The downside? After speaking, I had a line of vendors who all wanted to talk to me about what they wanted to sell to my membership and I found myself having to find a way to “gracefully” extract myself as best I could. I also ended up having some interesting discussions with the CL wholesale team that made the entire day worth the trip.
The takeaway? There is a lot going on in the video space and NTCA members have a lot in common with other providers who struggle with the unfairness of lopsided negotiations on retransmission consent agreements, but who should take heart in the growing innovation of this field as users and vendors find ways to create more user-friendly, ala carte programming options. Problems always have a way of dictating innovation. Other takeaways are that fiber has increasing value and broadband capacity will reign at the end of the day.
And then, to sweeten the end of a long day? Little rush hour traffic on the Atlanta highways en route to the airport and scoring the last standby seat on a flight that got me home before 11 p.m.