Alexander Netchvolodoff, Senior VP, Public Policy, Cox Enterprises
Vanguard Award for Government & Community Relations
Leaping into the swirl of regulatory and political issues confronting the cable industry would be daunting for most people. For Alexander Netchvolodoff, senior VP of public policy for Cox Enterprises, it's rather fun. And luckily for Netchvolodoff, this year's recipient of the Vanguard Award for Government & Community Relations, there's no shortage of thorny matters to consider.
As Cox's representative before the Capitol Hill politicos and the public alike, Netch (as he is known) is grappling with a host of policies that could radically change the cable-television landscape, starting with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin's recent reversal of the FCC's previous stance on à la carte cable pricing.
There's a potential rewrite of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 in the cards, and the House Commerce Committee heard arguments last month for a national franchise that would make it easier for telecoms to offer TV services that directly compete with cable providers.
And then there's the continuing push for broadened decency standards on television and their possible expansion to cable.
But those are only a fraction of the issues facing Netchvolodoff, who also represents Cox's other media outlets, including newspapers and radio stations.
“For the cable division, we're interested in all the telecommunication issues,” he says, including “reform of the universal service fund, the inter-carrier compensation issues, and the question of the regulatory status of Voice over Internet Protocol. And we're interested in the treatment of data service.”
Prior to joining Cox in 1991, Netchvolodoff spent 15 years as chief of staff for Sen. John Danforth (R-Mo.), a lifelong friend. Prior to that, he served eight years as chief administrator for the Missouri attorney general.
Netchvolodoff hadn't planned on getting into politics; he had studied to become a teacher. He and Danforth were born two days apart in the same hospital and were classmates from grade school through college. So when Danforth launched his political career, Netchvolodoff helped his friend on the campaign and eventually joined the senator's staff.
“I never regarded myself as being in politics,” says Netchvolodoff. “I regarded myself as being in public service, which was a lot of fun. I never thought I could have as much fun in public life.”
Having worked with Danforth on the senator's committee assignments, Netchvolodoff gained a keen understanding of the policy ins and outs of trade, commerce and government affairs.
After more than two decades in politics, and after he and his wife had sent their children off to college, Netchvolodoff made the move to the private sector.
Netchvolodoff says he was drawn to Cox by “the opportunity to work in a very entrepreneurial media company” where “the impact of public policy on the company's emerging new businesses, including cable, would be substantial.
“One of the luckiest [events] of my life was ending up at Cox,” he adds. “I had no idea it was such a terrific company or that the issues I'd work on for Cox were every bit as interesting and every bit as challenging as the issues I worked on for the Senate.”
Given the complexity of the issues that Netchvolodoff and his team work on, his colleagues say his greatest skill is taking the time to fully understand each issue and then clearly presenting Cox's position on it.
“He is very good at getting a handle on business and technology issues,” says Sandy Wilson, VP of public policy at Cox, adding, “And he is able to explain it in language that you can understand to someone who is very busy and does not share the same level of expertise but who needs to get a handle on what you're saying and why you're saying it.”
NCTA President/CEO Kyle McSlarrow agrees: “For those who engage in public-policy advocacy, Netch represents the gold standard.”
Netchvolodoff also serves on the board of the Media Institute, a think tank that defends free speech, and is a board member for the Washington National Cathedral and for the Mary Institute and Saint Louis Country Day School.
“He is a man of many interests,” says Wilson, noting Netchvolodoff's enthusiasm for tennis, gardening and the outdoors.
“Being actively involved in other things,” Wilson adds, “has kept him thinking, considering, always seeing new things. Part of the whole package he brings to work is that he has these outside interests, which are very stimulating to him.”
Says McSlarrow, “His obvious integrity, his devotion to his company and to our industry, and his deep experience achieve so much. Yet he is also so humble that he probably doesn't get the recognition he truly deserves.”