Cable's Legal Eagle Soars

Glist's Grasp of Legal Issues—and Tech—Are Vital to Cable's Success

Paul Glist, Partner, Cole Raywid & Braverman, LLP

Vanguard Award for Associates & Affiliates

During decades of legal work for the cable industry, Paul Glist, a partner at Cole Raywid & Braverman LLP, has helped establish legal precedents that have proved crucial to the industry's development. But this year at the National Show, Glist will set different kind of precedent: becoming the first outside legal counsel to be honored with NCTA's prestigious Vanguard Award for Associates & Affiliates.

“Glist has been involved in virtually every major issue facing the cable industry,” notes Dan Brenner, senior VP of law and regulatory policy at NCTA. “Paul is a splendid attorney with a tremendous expertise on technology. He understands the day-to-day operating issues in a way few people do.”

That expertise has been particularly crucial in recent years, during the cable industry's negotiations with Microsoft, the studios and other players over how cable services might be delivered to PCs, DVRs, mobile devices and other consumer gear. “These very complex negotiations are extremely important for the future of cable and its ability to continue to innovate and provide new services,” notes Dr. Richard Green, president/CEO of CableLabs, the industry research and development organization, which is represented by Glist. “Paul has played a key role in those negotiations, and for that work alone, he deserves the Vanguard Award.”

In December 2002, that work helped produce a one-way cable-DTV compatibility agreement between the cable and consumer-electronics industries. This pact set up a national plug-and-play digital-cable standard for HD TV receivers, recorders and other products.

More recently, Glist was involved in crafting a November 2005 agreement between CableLabs and Microsoft that will allow manufacturers to market digital-cable–ready Windows Media Center-based PCs sometime early next year. Negotiations to extend those agreements to two-way devices are under way. “It is all part of an ongoing effort by the cable industry to allow consumers to enjoy cable services on a variety of other secure platforms,” notes Glist. “Not so very far into the future, we will be able to deliver high-value content into home networks and route it around the home without it leaking onto the Internet.”

Implementing that vision, however, involves overcoming a host of technological, legal, intellectual-property and public-policy issues that Glist says “is like putting together a puzzle with a million pieces.”

But that suits him. After undergraduate work at Cornell, Glist embarked on a J.D. at Stanford Law School because he loved the intellectual challenge of legal puzzles.


Public policy was another passion, so, after graduation in 1978, he moved to Washington, where he began handling cable-industry cases. “I was really attracted to the industry because people were very innovative and entrepreneurial,” he recalls.

Since then, Glist has provided extensive work for organizations ranging from the NCTA to state associations to Comcast. His efforts have established a number of legal precedents that have allowed the cable industry to continue to grow and introduce newer technologies. In the 1980s, for example, his legal work facilitated the economical rollout of coax and then fiber by successfully resisting utilities' attempts to impose onerous charges on cable operators who ran lines on power or phone poles.

In the early 1990s, another Glist case produced the first FCC and court ruling that cable systems could deliver telecommunications services without losing favorable status as cable operators.

“There are few people who combine the kind of expertise Paul has on legal and public-policy issues with his understanding of very complex technical subjects,” notes Green. “All of these newer technologies raise a lot of legal issues. You can't just say something is technically feasible any more and then roll it out. You have to address all the legal, public-policy, licensing and intellectual-property issues.”

Resolving those issues is particularly important for cable's future as competition heats up, with telcos launching their own packages of video, Internet and phone.

“You can never be complacent,” Glist says. “As an industry, we always have to find ways to respond to the competition.”

That involves overcoming Wall Street, he says, and its “under-appreciation” of the cable industry. “I've gotten to know cable technology up close and personal. I think it is the most dynamic and cost-effective platform out there,” says Glist. “You have to give the folks in the telephone industry [credit] for running a pretty good public-relations campaign to hype their story. But in the end, the best technology will prevail.”

Amidst the demands on Glist's time, he continues to lecture at a number of universities and remains active in several community organizations, including the City of Alexandria, Va.'s Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Planning Committee and the Tahirih Justice Center, a group that works to protect females from gender-based violence. “Because of my faith,” he says, “I've always believed it was important to maintain a balanced life and give back to the community.”