The cable industry’s $42 billion private capital investment to upgrade its own networks demonstrates that the marketplace serves as the most effective incentive for the transition to digital TV, Michael Willner, Insight Communications CEO and President, told the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet today.

“Cable has moved with supersonic speed into the digital world -- not because anyone told us to, but because our customers want us to,” testified Willner, who also serves as Vice-Chairman of the National Cable Television Association. “Having invested substantial capital, the cable industry is actually doing something about the digital transition.”

The cable industry’s efforts are not limited to its own businesses. Willner told the subcommittee of commitments made by the cable industry that will “continue to provide consumers complete access to the broadcast channels they enjoy today.”

To aid the broadcasters digital transition, the cable industry has committed to:
  • carry the digital equivalent of today’s analog broadcast stations when broadcasters return their analog spectrum.
  • carry the primary signal of broadcasters who return their analog spectrum early and become digital-only broadcasters only.

  • Willner warned that broadcaster demands for dual must carry, a government mandate that cable operators carry both their analog and digital signals during the transition, would impede the transition to digital for both broadcasters and cable operators. “Dual must carry is neither pro-consumer nor would it spur the purchase of digital TV’s,” he said. “Instead, it would remove any incentive for broadcasters to create the high definition programs they promised.”

    In addition, dual must carry would limit choices available to cable consumers, who already have signed up for 15 million new service units that tap the promise of digital (10 million digital cable subscribers; four million high speed Internet service subscribers; and one million telephony subscribers). “Our customers do not want redundant duplicates of broadcast signals at the expense of new and innovative channels, or at the expense of new broadband services,” Willner explained.

    The solution for the broadcasters’ transition to digital, as the cable example illustrates, is to create compelling content that customers want. Already equipped with a second grant of the public’s airwaves - -the digital spectrum has been valued as high as $70 billion -- the broadcasters should turn their focus to the marketplace, not Capitol Hill, Willner concluded.

    “It is time for the broadcast industry to stop blaming others and start taking responsibility - as the cable industry has done - for making its own transition to digital successful, “ he said. “If broadcasters want to hasten his transition, they should commit their energies to developing compelling digital programming that viewers want to watch.”

    NCTA is the principal trade association of the cable industry in the United States, representing cable operators serving more than 90 percent of the nation’s cable television households. It also represents more than 100 cable program networks as well as equipment suppliers and providers of other services to the cable industry. (