At Anniversary Dinner, ACA Leader Say Early Struggles Inspire, Contain Enduring Lessons
PITTSBURGH, March 12, 2013 – At the dinner tonight celebrating the American Cable Association’s 20-year history of milestones and breakthroughs, ACA President and CEO Matthew M. Polka said the trade group that some gave no hope has emerged as a reliable and credible source of candor and straight talk about the needs of independent cable operators who serve some of the most economically challenging areas with the most sophisticated communications services.
“It’s taken us 20 years, but through our seriousness, credibility, commitment and support, we have shown that we in ACA are not anti-cable industry, but rather pro-cable and pro-cable operator to ensure a bright future for all of us, with services we provide to our customers that are second to none,” Polka said.
The dinner, held in Washington, D.C., included hundreds of ACA Members and guests visiting in connection with the 20th ACA Summit on March 13. Polka stepped to the podium following remarks by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), a communications policy leader on Capitol Hill for decades.
In his remarks, Polka said hosting the dinner near Capitol Hill was fitting “because no matter how our success is metered or measured, ACA Members have made an indelible contribution to the United States of America in the hometowns and communities we love so well.”
In his remarks, Polka extolled ACA’s early pioneers and leaders like Stan Searle, Dean Petersen and David Kinley and so many others “who created a voice for us here in Washington, D.C., where we boldly took on the establishment, whether in Washington or in the cable industry.”
Kinley, an early ACA Chairman when the group was known as the Small Cable Business Association (SCBA), could not attend the dinner. Instead, he sent a letter saying ACA’s strength was in creating and launching a grassroots network. “This was essential to rallying independent cable operators,” Kinley wrote.
In the beginning, ACA had it naysayers who refused to believe small cable operators had the resources or the stamina to fight for their interests over an extended period. ACA got its start in the aftermath of the 1992 Cable Act combined with Federal Communications Commission rate freezes and 17% rate cuts in two stages. Within about two years, ACA prevailed upon the FCC to relax some key regulations especially harmful to small cable operators.
“It wasn’t easy, and, of course, we had our doubters who bet ACA wouldn’t last more than 20 minutes. But here we are 20 years later, — standing tall, going strong, and doing the right things,” Polka said. “Indeed, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated.”
With a chuckle, Polka admitted that ACA’s directness could rub some the wrong way. But for ACA Members, the 1992 Cable Act put many of them on the brink of financial ruin.
“Probably the nicest compliment ever paid to the organization back then in our beginning and even to this day was when a representative from a larger company said to Lyn Simpson, one of our founders, whose name is on our Grassroots Spirit Award, ‘You know you guys may be small, but you’re very annoying!'” Polka said.
Twenty years ago, 57 channels of analog TV, along with HBO, were the cutting edge services. Today, ACA Members offer many services, including digital TV, broadband Internet access, and IP-phone service. Many are moving into the home security business and seeing opportunities in providing wireless backhaul services to mobile phone providers.
“All of us should take great pride in knowing that the independent cable community continues to challenge the status quo and provide constructive solutions to the tough problems, in an effort to provide hometown America with the essential communications tools it needs to prosper in the global economy,” Polka said.
On a personal level, Polka related that his long involvement with ACA happened by chance and literally changed the course of his life.
“Twenty years ago when I was working at a company called Star Cable, a colleague of mine was originally going to attend that first ‘Emergency National Meeting for Small Cable Operators’ at the Airport Hilton in Kansas City. Something came up for him, and I was asked to attend the meeting instead,” Polka said.
Polka concluded by thanking his wife and family for their support and ACA staff members for their efforts in keeping ACA’s agenda always moving forward.
“On a personal note, I’m must acknowledge that the opportunities I’ve enjoyed in my job have been made possible by a loving and supportive wife and family, who always had patience when, say, my flight home was canceled or a phone call at the office ran a bit long,” Polka said. “And to our ACA Staff and Counsel, each one of you represents the notion that there is no I in T-E-A-M. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.”
This year’s ACA Summit – cable’s premier event for smaller, independent and competitive cable operators – is taking place at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.
The Summit is widely considered the best opportunity for small business owners serving hometown America with advanced communications services to advocate for change in face-to-face exchanges with Obama Administration officials, Capitol Hill lawmakers and senior FCC personnel.
The 20th ACA Summit will extend its tradition as the most important forum nationally to honor the critical role played by independent cable operators that serve rural and remote regions of the country that are typically much more costly to build out with advanced technology.
The year’s ACA Summit underscores the trade group’s firm commitment to finding consensus and highlighting progress made on many critical issues, especially retransmission consent, broadband deployment and access to content on fair and reasonable terms.
For further information about the ACA Summit 2013 agenda and the exciting lineup of speakers please visit: http://acasummit.org/
About The American Cable Association: Based in Pittsburgh, the American Cable Association is a trade organization representing about 850 smaller and medium-sized, independent cable companies who provide broadband services for more than 7.4 million cable subscribers primarily located in rural and smaller suburban markets across America. Through active participation in the regulatory and legislative process in Washington, D.C., ACA’s members work together to advance the interests of their customers and ensure the future competitiveness and viability of their business. For more information, visit https://acaconnects.org/