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OPEN MIC - Change: Better Get Used To It

Thu, 09/30/2010 - 8:20pm
Jay Rolls, Senior Vice President of Technology at Cox Communications and SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2010 Program Committee Chairman

“When you're finished changing, you're finished.” – Benjamin Franklin

Our ability to stay competitive, relevant and successful will be tied to our wherewithal to embrace change and innovate.

If you studied cable industry history over the past few decades, you'd observe that it has continuously grappled with change. In the ’70s, we saw rapid growth as pioneers raced to get franchises and build out America’s cable infrastructure, while the launches of HBO and WTBS nationally via satellite distribution forever changed the way Americans enjoy television.

By Jay RollsIn the ’80s, deregulation provided by the 1984 Cable Act spurred still further growth, with more than $15 billion invested in cable networks between 1984 and 1992. And, in the period between 1980 and 1989, cable programming exploded as the number of cable networks grew from 28 to 79, according to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

In the ’90s, we saw fiber added to cable networks; a focus on growth through cable system mergers, acquisitions and clustering; and, of course, the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which opened the door for cable operators and other providers to begin competing with the telephone companies. This paved the way for industry operators to transition into full-service telecommunications providers, dominant in the broadband space.

While our journey has been nothing short of incredible over this relatively brief period of time, I think this will pale in comparison to what we will experience in the coming decade.

This new acceleration is driven by both the Internet and by the enabler we all know as IP (Internet Protocol).

We experience a constantly evolving technology landscape accompanied by fast-moving consumer behaviors. It seems that each week marks the introduction of a new device, new services and new strategies for serving consumers with entertainment and communications in new and different ways.

Is it just me? I think these changes accelerate every year.

Our ability to stay competitive, relevant and successful will be tied to our wherewithal to embrace these changes and innovate along the way. We have a powerful heritage in the cable industry. On a number of occasions, we have reinvented ourselves, and our history is marked by unique collaboration among a variety of players.

This collegial approach – fostered by organizations such as the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers – will be crucial going forward. We'll need all of the tools in our proverbial tool belts to respond to the fast pace of change we are in, and the fast pace of change which lies ahead of us.

Change is easy to talk about, sometimes difficult to embrace and rarely easy to achieve. Be honest and ask yourself, “Am I largely doing the same job the same way for the past 10 years?” If your answer is, “Yes,” then I challenge you to stop, look around and start asking yourself how you could approach things differently.

One of the places you can start looking for answers is this year's SCTE Cable-Tec Expo. Moving at the pace of the Internet is challenging, but Expo is your ticket to ride. There's an energy and enthusiasm that you will find from the lineup of speakers and vendors at this year's event that will help you meet your challenges.

The Cable-Tec Expo workshops are clearly segmented into the following tracks: engineering, network operations, technical operations, cable services and fulfillment, and business services. Peruse the workshop titles and you'll see topics such as cloud computing, adaptive streaming, IP video and content distribution networks, to name a few.

I look forward to everything I will learn at this year’s SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, and I look forward to seeing you all there!

Next month, Michael Adams, Ericsson’s vice president of software strategy, will write the Open Mic column.

E-Mail: jay.rolls@cox.com

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