ZCorum participated in two trade shows last week. Arthur Skinner was at NCTC’s Independent Show in Baltimore, MD. At the same time, I was at OPASTCO’s Summer Convention and Trade Show out in Seattle, WA. NCTC is an association of small, independent cable operators. OPASTCO is an association of small, independent telephone companies.
At OPASTCO, it seemed that the National Broadband Plan was certainly at the top of everyone’s mind. Rural telephone companies are concerned that the 4M x 1M universal broadband speed in the plan will actually worsen the digital divide. They see the FCC’s announced target of 100 Mbps for 100 million Americans as something that would be generally limited to urban areas, leaving only rural areas behind. There is also a lot of anxiety over over the future of the Universal Service Fund (USF). Telcos are looking for more information about how the USF will be transitioned to a broadband fund, when that will occur, and what it will mean for them. One of the general sessions was entitled “The National Broadband Plan: Is the Sky Really Falling”, and participating on that panel was Carol Mattey from the FCC. On the final day, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski spoke to the association, trying to allay the fears of those who were there. While there is not the same angst on the cable side, the National Broadband Plan and USF changes were also covered at NCTC during a session hosted by the American Cable Association.
Video was another important topic of interest at both OPASTCO and NCTC–but for different reasons. Small Telcos continue to look for an economical video play to counter subscriber loss to cellular carriers and cable companies offering VoIP service. An option that was explored at the show is adding value to an “Over the Top (OTT) Video” solution by integrating Web video, local off-air channels and traditional cable programming into one package. Cable companies, on the other hand, are worried that their subscribers will embrace OTT Video to the point where they cut the cord on their video subscription service. To head off that trend, cable companies are exploring how they can provide “TV Everywhere”, meaning hosting and delivering their traditional broadcast content via the Web as part of their subscription services, regardless of location or device (Television, PC, iPad, Smartphone, etc).
For me, the most unique part of OPASTCO occurred during the opening session, when four guys from Seattle’s famous Pike Place Fish Market burst into the room throwing a couple of big fish back and forth. After bringing up a few volunteers to play catch with some fish, they presented their customer service philosophy and finished off by splitting the room into two groups and having a race to see which group could pass a salmon from person to person the fastest. I noticed they served grilled salmon at the conference breakfast the next morning. Coincidence?