Cox to Telcos: Ya Wanna Fight?


Cox Communications President Pat Esser delivered the keynote address at Globalcomm 2006 last week in New York. Here is an excerpt.

What troubles me most about the competitive landscape today isn't the Bells' fiber-to-the-home promises or their deep discounting of DSL service. It's not DirecTV's launch of local high-definition TV channels. We'll contend with this as we always have—by delivering high-quality products, superior customer service and a great value proposition.

What troubles me most are the competitive battles over the rules of the game being waged in Washington, D.C., and state capitols.

The very same Telecommunications Act of 1996 that paved a path for cable to enter the phone business also contained a road map for the Bells to deliver video. Did they forge ahead? Upgrade their networks? Roll out new services?

No. A decade later, the road is littered with Bell press releases promising a fiber-optic utopia that doesn't exist. Instead, their legions of lobbyists beat a path to Congress, state legislators and state public-utilities commissions seeking regulatory roadblocks, sweetheart deals and short cuts to coast into the video business. Unfortunately, new laws that tilt the competitive playing field in favor of the Bells could lead American consumers barreling down a dead-end street.

The Bells are finally peeking out from behind their press releases and hitting the streets to upgrade their networks. It's survival of the fittest today, and they need video to stay in the game. Cox is ready to duke it out for customers and compete in the marketplace. We've been doing it successfully for years.

I'm all for a less cumbersome, streamlined franchising process that reflects modern competitive realities. But it must apply immediately and evenly to everyone, regardless of the delivery platform. If Verizon, AT&T and others want video franchises, they should be granted—on the same terms as cable.

Through network enhancements, channel migration, switched-digital broadcasting, node splitting and technological advancements that I barely comprehend, Cox Communications' highly robust and reliable broadband network will meet our customers' demand for high bandwidth services for years to come.

Consumers tell us what they want loud and clear, and it's our job to deliver it. They'll pick the winners with their pocketbooks—based on quality, customer service and a good price/value proposition—if Congress lets them.

Having two wildly differing sets of rules for companies in a hotly competitive video business is simply unacceptable. Arcane regulations that stifle innovation, choke investment and force up prices are burdens to customers.

With sensible laws that foster fair competition, I suspect that, 10 years from now, the Cox playbook will read much like it does today.

Let's play fair with regulatory parity. And let American consumers, not regulators, pick the champions in the competitive battles ahead. My money's on Cox to win.