NATIONAL HARBOR, MD., April 28, 2009 - The combination of a new president, a large influx of new Capitol Hill lawmakers, and leadership change at the Federal Communications Commission can provide small cable companies a fresh opportunity to achieve their policy goals in 2009.
Even tighter government ethics laws could help small cable in future lobbying contests with wealthy industries that no longer have the same insider access they once had.
That was the hopeful view expressed by a group of cable operator executives from small, independent companies who spoke this morning on a panel before hundreds of American Cable Association's members attending ACA's 16th Annual Washington, D.C., Summit.
Steve Weed, CEO Wave Broadband in Kirkland, Wash., noted that the number of new members of Congress was unusually large and that it could give ACA members a good chance of identifying Capitol Hill newcomers who would be supportive of small cable's policy agenda. About one-third of the Senate and about one-fifth of the House are in their first term in office.
"With a different audience, we might have a more sympathetic ear for small operators," Weed said.
Added Wave Broadband COO and ACA chairman Steve Friedman: "We have a great story to tell. We can talk about all the new services we are delivering."
ACA's Summit is a three-day event that provides ACA members numerous opportunities to hear directly from ACA's leadership, leading ACA company executives, Capitol Hill lawmakers and their aides, and officials from the Obama Administration.
Jim Gleason, CEO of New Wave Communications based in Sikeston, Mo., said he expects a fresh perspective on ACA's issues to come from President Barack Obama's choice to be FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski.
"It's going to change dramatically with a new FCC chairman," Gleason said.
Obama, who entered the White House just three months ago, signed in February the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which included $7.2 billion in broadband grants and loans for which many small cable operators intend to apply.
"We represent the most efficient way to distribute that money. We are not fly-by-night companies. We've been in the business for years," said Jim Bruder, CEO of Harron Communications in Frazer, Pa.
In filings with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), ACA has stated that small cable companies, as experienced network providers in rural American for decades, were in the best position to maximize the benefits of the broadband stimulus money.
A potential new challenge for ACA in Washington could be concern about a billing model under which broadband providers charge based on the amount of bandwidth consumed each month.
"It's the only way to manage the infrastructure," said Patrick Knorr, COO of Sunflower Broadband in Lawrence, Kan., defending a practice launched at his company a few years ago.
A flat-rate, all-you-can eat model would, he said, lead to destructive congestion on the network.
"It's going to result in us being last in broadband, not first," Knorr said.
In discussing issues with Congress, ACA can benefit from new ethics laws that don't allow wealthy industries with large lobbying budgets to wine and dine Capitol Hill lawmakers and their top aides anymore.
Harron's Bruder said the new lobbying restrictions have "leveled the playing field" for small cable.
"Intellectual capital is very important. That's what the House and Senate are looking for," Bruder said.
# # #
About the American Cable Association
Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing more than 900 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for more than 7 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA's members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business. For more information, visit http://www.americancable.org/
Please use the information below to get in touch with the American Cable Association.