While the tech talk was hot at the SCTE/ISBE Cable-Tec Expo last week, there is another component to advancement: a favorable regulatory environment. With this in mind, CableLabs regularly meets with government officials, including recently with 80 state legislators from all over the country.
"We are not advocates or lobbyists. We try to educate folks on what we see on the technology horizon and (in general) things we can think about in terms of how to enable this sort of innovation," said Rob Alderfer, CableLabs VP of technology policy.
"The technology we are developing is several years away from being realized," Alderfer said. "The policy environment (can) add or remove risks, can injure or help these (technologies) from being realized in the market."
The No. 1 issue discussed was broadband deployment, with legislators wanting to know how they can help ensure their constituents ultimately have access to the technologies under development at CableLabs. Things as straightforward as permitting rights of way can be done in a way that helps deployment, Alderfer said.
"If there is a patchwork of local policies, the costs may be higher than average. If requirements are put around deployments or things take a while to get approved, it can slow rollout of technologies," Alderfer said.
There was talk about the HFC network specifically and ensuring there is a path to continued upgrade and performance improvements.
"There is an underappreciation of the capabilities of the cable network and its ability to be continually upgraded over time. People not close to the industry when they think of next gen (technology and services), they think of fiber-to-the-home as the key enabler of that, but today, cable provides gigabit services to over half the U.S. population, and that number continues to grow," Alderfer said.
Alderfer noted that this information was a surprise because "there is not a lot of official data on how broadly deployed these networks are."
"Cable can provide gigabit services and enable multigigabit service over the coming years," Alderfer said.
There was interest in security and what initiatives are underway to drive standard security practices into IoT, and also a lot of questions about 5G and the work CableLabs is doing in wireless. The legislators had the opportunity to view the newest Near Future film that CableLabs released this summer. The topic this year was education, and this led to a discussion with the legislators about how to ensure adequate broadband access in schools.
"I was just impressed by the level of curiosity of the legislators. Our broader team here at CableLabs appreciates the opportunity to talk with decision-makers about what we are doing. There is a lot of value in that exchange," Alderfer said.