The Cable Acts in Perspective: A 20 Year Retrospective

Tags: Technology Policy

The extraordinary growth of cable television in the last 20 years has been fundamentally affected by federal regulatory policy. In 1984, the United States Congress adopted the first statutory regime to address the emergence of cable television. This effort, which followed years of debates between cable television providers, broadcasters, consumer groups, and municipalities at the FCC and in the courts, marked the shifting of the regulatory battles to Congress as well. At that time, two members of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications, Representatives Tim Wirth of Colorado and Tom Tauke of Iowa, took a leading role in creating a bipartisan consensus for the new regulatory regime. But that consensus did not hold, as concerns about the industry’s practices led to the enactment-over President Bush’s veto-of the Cable Policy Act of 1992.

In the 1992 Act, the cable industry lost the favorable regulatory climate fostered by the 1984 Act. In particular, Congress subjected the industry to rate regulation, re-instituted the “must carry” regime previously imposed by the FCC (and overturned in court), and sought to facilitate competition through the entry of satellite television providers (among others). The cable industry did not give up, however, and convinced Congress in 1996 to sunset the 1992 Act’s rate regulation.

This conference will examine these laws in historical perspective, beginning with the reflections of two key architects of the 1984 Act, former Senator Wirth and Representative Tauke. In addition to examining the policy and political landscape that underpinned the 1984 Act, we will discuss the 1992 and 1996 Acts as well, thereby setting the stage to reflect on how the regulatory environment has shaped the explosive growth of the industry in the last 20 years.


Welcome and Overview
Cable Policy Across Three Laws
  • Tim Wirth
    Former U.S. Senator
The Policy and Political Environment Surrounding the 1984 Cable Act
  • Tom Rogers
    Former Counsel, U.S. House Subcommittee on Telecommunications
  • David Aylward
    Former Chief Counsel and Staff Director, U.S. House Subcommittee on Telecommunications
  • Jonathan Blake
    Partner, Covington & Burling
The 1992 Act and the 1996 Unravelling of It
  • Gene Kimmelman
    President and Chief Executive Officer, Public Knowledge
  • Joe Waz
  • Robert Sachs
    President & Chief Executive Officer, National Cable & Telecommunications Association
The Real World Consequences of the Legislative Fray
  • Ken Fellman
    Former Mayor, Arvada, Colorado
  • Richard Green
    Senior Adjunct Fellow, Silicon Flatirons Center
  • Marsha McBride
    Executive Vice President, National Association of Broadcasters
The Cable Industry from 1984-2004 in Retrospective
  • Robert Russo
    Chief Executive Officer, The Cable Center

Know What’s Next