NCTA president and CEO Michael Powell kicked off The Cable Show Tuesday morning by saying that the cable industry helps build communities through its broadband pipes, but needs to stay free of policymakers in order to continue that success story going forward.

Powell contrasted the open Internet with public utilities, highway systems and water supplies that are foundering under the weight of regulatory control in his keynote address.

“The core American ideal that our nation is a land of opportunity is being threatened because our economy isn’t producing the jobs that Americans need to get ahead,” he said. “What distinguishes the human race is our ability to communicate with one another, and the feel the pain and emotions of one another. You might say we talk therefore we are, with all apologies to Descartes.

“What does any of this have to do with all of us assembled here? It’s the fact that building communities of shared values requires a network. Community cohesion is the fabric that empowers and enables the best nature of man to discover, connect and act. Tying nodes together ties families together. It ties communities together and even ties nations together.”

Powell said that interstate highway system, the electric grid and public utilities were built with the aid of the government, but all three “have suffered terribly from chronic under investment.” There are 240,000 water main breaks a year, one in four bridges are either functionally obsolete or structurally deficient, and there were 307 major blackouts in 2011, the latter of which was up from 76 major blackouts in 2007.

“Because the internet isn’t regulated as a pubic utility it grows and thrives, watered by private capital and a light regulatory touch,” Powell said. “It doesn’t depend on the political process for its growth or the extended droughts of public funding. This is why broadband is the fastest deployed technology in history reaching nearly every citizen in our expansive country.”

Powell noted that the United States has 4 percent of the world’s population, but attracts 25 percent of all of the global investments. The nation’s broadband infrastructure is the envy of the European countries thanks to the $1.3 trillion that has been invested since 1996to make “America’s Internet world class,” according to Powell.

“We weave the webs of wonder and possibility and provide the tools for people to come together and to make change,” Powell said. “I believe the cable industry can and does make the world a better place.  I believe our work is a good business but it also serves a higher purpose. 

“We nurture the soil of modern community, and therein lays the hope and opportunity of a better future. We are able stewards of that future.  Much is being asked of us and we strive rightfully and earnestly to answer that call. At this show we celebrate our achievements and opportunities. But we also congregate. I urge you to talk to one another and challenge one another.  Discover new ways to bring communities even closer together.”