NATOA' S HISTORY
National Association of Telecommunications
Officers and Advisors
1979-1980 The Early Beginnings
According to Frank Greif, NATOA's
first president and then Director of the Seattle Office of Cable
Communications, this really all started at a U.S. Conference of Mayors
meeting in Seattle during 1979. We (several people from around the
country who either regulated or programmed cable) did a national
telecast of the event using cable. It became apparent that many cities
didn't understand the importance of this new way of communicating. It
was obvious the cities had much to learn about the industry and the
responsibilities of local government. This initial get-together led to
these early participants meeting each other at other national
conferences and to discussions about the need for 'some sort of
organization to educate the cities and to develop political power.'
At this same time, Seattle Mayor
Charles Royer began to move up the NLC organizational ladder and served
as Chair of the NLC Task Force on Cable Television and
Telecommunications. As cable grew in importance in the NLC agenda, Greif
was encouraged to work toward the development of a formal organization.
In the summer of 1980, he began contacting those cable administrators
known to him and suggested that they meet that fall at Barry Orton's
University of Wisconsin conference in Madison. At that October 26-28
conference, co-sponsored by the NFLCP, NATOA was born!
Frank says today, 'I'll never forget
standing up on a chair at the back of the room just as the final session
closed. I asked all those interested in forming a national association
to meet briefly. Many had to leave to catch planes home, but many
stayed. In all, forty-seven people signed on and a steering committee of
fifteen was formed to get things started.' From that group, an executive
committee was formed which included:
Frank Greif, Seattle
Terry Parker, Phoenix
Scott Spaine, Arlington County
Ruth Ann McKinney, Fort Worth
Linda Camp, St. Paul
Marv Rimerman, Baltimore
Barry Orton also remembers that Jean
Rice played an important role at this meeting and that Susan McAdams
(later NATOA's first Secretariat) and Bill Drake of the NLC helped guide
this early group.
It appears that NATOA's original name
was Association of Cable Regulators (ACR). This name was circulated by
Greif with the original proposal for an organization. After some other
suggestions, including those from Carder Hunt (Scottsdale) of National
Association of Telecommunications Officers (NATO), Cable Regulatory
Officers Club (CROC) and Public Officials for Telecommunications (POT),
NATOA was chosen.
1981 - NATOA Formed
Following the Madison Conference the
organizational activity centered around the steering committee's
executive group. In May 1981, the NLC Board approved NATOA's affiliation
as well as authorized Susan McAdams to serve as the League-funded
Secretariat for NATOA. It is interesting to note that some consideration
was also given to an affiliation with a group called The Association of
Public-Safety Communications Officers (APCO), which as an effort by some
members not be be too closely tied to only one organization. Marv
Rimerman, Baltimore, was instrumental in obtaining the NLC affiliation
and originally suggested the APCO relationship.
Planning also began for the first
NATOA Conference in Boulder, October 21-23, 1981. The theme was 'The
Role of the Local Cable Communications Officer,' with about 90 people
attending. A major national issue during this time was the TCI/Boulder
case which resulted in the Supreme Court's Boulder II decision in 1982.
One particular Plenary Session topic
at Boulder was entitled, 'Your Job and Its Future: Is There a Need for a
Local Regulatory Officer?' which featured a debate between Denver City
Councilor Cathy Reynolds and TCI's attorney, Harold Farrow! The first
NATOA Board of Directors was also elected at the conference with Frank
Greif as first President and official NATOA membership efforts began.
1982 - Bylaws/Cable
Following the successful Boulder
Conference, work began on the NATOA Bylaws. The first NATOA News was
also published in January 1982 and featured the Boulder decision.
The first of many cable bills, S.
2172, was also introduced by Senator Barry Goldwater. This bill would be
followed by S. 898 in 1983 and finally S. 66 in 1984.
The Seattle Conference, September
20-22, was titled, 'Telecommunications: Managing in the Public
Interest.' The primary concern of this conference was the result of the
Boulder Decision and the pending cable legislation. The first NATOA
Bylaws were also debated and approved by the membership. Total NATOA
membership was now over 200.
1983 - Cable Legislation
Negotiations/NATOA Board and President Resigns
Early in the year, the NLC (now headed
by Charles Royer) and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, at the request of
Congress, began negotiating with the National Cable Television
Association (NCTA) to develop compromise cable legislation for S. 66.
These talks went on for many weeks and involved some members of NATOA as
technical advisors. In the middle of the talks, Frank Greif, NATOA
President, unexpectedly resigned and Linda Camp was elected as the new
President. When the results of the NLC/NCTA Compromise were finally made
public, NATOA members and local government officials were angry. They
felt as if they had been betrayed by the NLC Board. That Board quickly
approved the NLC/NCTA Compromise without comment from NATOA or local
governments. Later that year, the Senate passed S. 66, based on the NLC/NCTA
The Washington and Oregon NATOA
chapters hosted the first NATOA Regional Conference in Portland, Oregon
during the summer. Susan McAdams left NLC during the year and was
replaced by Brian Helvey as Secretariat.
Feelings about the NLC action in the
spring erupted at the Baltimore Conference in October, ironically
titled, 'Building for the Future: Telecommunications Use and
Management.' Many members (including most of the Board) wanted to
disaffiliate with the NLC and have NATOA become independent. The entire
Board of Directors (except for Linda Camp) eventually resigned during
one business meeting over the NLC compromise that led to the Cable Act
of 1984 and NLC operations. An entire new Board was elected. New
President John Hansman (Montgomery County, MD) succeeded Linda Camp.
Following the conference, and with
pressure from NATOA and member cities, the NLC modified its position on
the compromise and passed a resolution seeking changes in the
legislation. However, in spite of these 11th hour efforts, the
legislation later became the Cable Act of 1984. NATOA membership tops
1984 - Cable Communications
Policy Act and the Future of Cable Regulation
In September 1984, the Cable
Communications Policy Act became law. In the same month, the national
conference, titled 'Moving Forward: The Changing Landscape of Local
Telecommunications' was held in Tucson, Arizona. The conference centered
on how cable officers and local government officials could learn to live
under the new Cable Act. Many lively discussions were held around how
the FCC would define effective competition and technical standards for
cable. Also, in 1984, the first in a series of post-Cable Act
litigations was filed with Preferred v. The City of Los Angeles.
1985 - NATOA's Fifth
NATOA's fifth anniversary was
celebrated in St. Louis with the theme of 'Life After the Cable Act.'
Bill Bradley (Denver, CO) was elected as NATOA's fourth president. This
conference also hosted the first Joe Laposa Open Golf Tournament and the
first member door prize give-away, hosted by Donna Wilmer, Dekalb
County, Georgia. The City of St. Louis also hosted many members at a
fabulous dinner at Favazza's Italian Restaurant. Catharine Rice became
the new NATOA Secretariat. NATOA membership tops 400.
During 1985, the FCC deregulated
technical standards which were immediately challenged by NATOA, the NLC
and several member cities in court. The Preferred decision was
finally made by the Federal Court and was under appeal. However, at the
same time, the Erie, Pennsylvania decision reaffirmed local government
rights in cable.
1986 - A Year of Firsts
The Philadelphia Conference had many
firsts. They included the first member of the year award - Brother
Richard Emenecker (Pittsburgh, PA); first government programming awards
hosted by Brian Lamb, C-SPAN; and the first pre-conference training
seminars for new cable officers.
1987 - Cable Act Reviewed
Congress held 'oversight hearings'
regarding the 1984 Cable Act. Those hearings allowed local governments
and others to voice concerns about cable and the effects of the Act. The
hearings lead to the current cable re-regulation efforts.
The Milwaukee Conference theme was
'Telecommunications '87: Options and Opportunities.' Donna Mason
(Vancouver, WA) was elected President and Jayne Gerdeman (Covington, KY)
was chosen as Member of the Year.
The FCC allowed GTE to experiment with
cable in Cerritos, California, opening the door to the current
Telco/fiber optics debate.
1988 - Hot Topics in the
The first NATOA satellite
teleconference from Torrance, California highlighted that regional
conference. 1988's Miami Beach Conference was titled 'Hot Topics in
Telecommunications' and represented one of the larger turnouts for
attendance. Heavy competition between the cable industry and phone
companies for NATOA's attention also dominated this conference. Bruce
Crest (Beaverton, OR) was chosen as Member of the Year. Paul Berra (St.
Louis, MO) was elected President. NATOA membership is at 450.
1989 - Telcos and Cable
The year 1989 saw the beginnings of
the movement to re-regulate cable as consumer prices soared and customer
service levels fell. Telcos pushed hard for entry rights into cable. The
NLC and NATOA took positions supporting Telco entry under the same rules
as cable. The Scottsdale Conference, with the theme 'New Visions on the
Telecommunications Horizon' highlighted the growth of new cable
technologies. Joe Laposa (St. Louis, MO) was selected as Member of the
NATOA/NCTA also began discussions on
technical standards for cable. NATOA suggested cable legislation
language, developed a legislative priority statement and urged members
to contact Congress on cable issues. Cynthia Pols, legislative council
for the NLC and active on NATOA issues since 1979, left the NLC in June.
Catharine Rice, NATOA Secretariat (Administrative Officer) left the NLC
in November. Nancy Hiett temporarily fulfilled NATOA administrative
responsibilities. Membership held at 450.
1990 - Celebrating a Decade of
In 1990 Congress came close to passing
new cable legislation but Senate Bill 1880 failed to pass the Senate in
the last hours of the session. The FCC tried to assert more power by
producing it's own 'report card' on cable and announced plans to revisit
the effective competition issue. NATOA and the NLC reached a new accord
with a better understanding of their respective roles.
The annual conference in Dearborn,
with the theme of 'Celebrating a Decade of Service,' highlighted NATOA's
10th Birthday with special recognition of charter members and a lot of
stories about 'the old days' of cable regulation. Members voted for a
dues increase to support a new federal relations effort by NATOA. Cheryl
Pasalic was chosen 'Member of the Year.' Susan Herman was elected NATOA
President. Membership reaches 460.
1991 - Into a New Decade of
Cable legislation resurfaced in S. 12
with surprising regard for the rights of consumers and local governments
and a blast from broadcasters. NATOA issued the results of a survey of
its members representing nearly one quarter of the nation's cable
subscribers. The survey clearly demonstrated that localities do not
stymie competition; that rates have soared and consumers' complaints
were on the rise. As a result of the issuance of new 'effective
competition' standards by the FCC, NATOA led a press conference with
some members of Congress, consumer groups and local governments (NCC,
USCM, NACO) to call for more effective, consumer-friendly standards. The
FCC also called for a revisit of cable technical standards and led a
consortium of localities in negotiations with the NCTA on technical
standards. Judge Greene lifted the ban on telco entry into information
services. NATOA hired its first federal relations counsel with Arnold
NATOA was able to 'Chart an Ocean of
Change' at the 11th Annual Conference in Anaheim where Jonathan Kramer
was named Member of the Year, and MACTA (Minnesota Association of Cable
Television Administrators) received the first President's Award to
Chapter of the Year. With membership soaring to almost 500, Vicki
Williams was hired as NATOA Administrative Officer.
1992 - A Stampede for
Consumers and Telecommunications
With the overwhelming passage of
Senate Bill 12 in January and the companion House of Representatives
Bill 4850 in July, this year truly became the Year of the Cable
Consumer. In June, NATOA led the way with the National League of Cities,
the US Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, the
Consumer Federation of America and other organizations in declaring
'Cable Consumer Protection Month.' NATOA continued to lead the
consortium of government and consumer organizations in filings before
the courts and the FCC on vital issues such as effective competition,
video dialtone and landmark First Amendment challenges. To keep members
better informed of all of these important, rapid-fire changes, NATOA
launched a new NATOA NEWS FLASH, a monthly update of issues and
late-breaking events, and redesigned the quarterly NATOA NEWS. In
another victory for cable TV viewers, NATOA proudly watched the FCC
adopt the technical standards that NATOA had negotiated with the
National Cable Television Association. In August, jointly-sponsored
training sessions for the cable industry and local governments began to
be conducted across the country to prepare for the implementation of
these new and improved standards.
The 12th Annual Conference, a
'Telecommunications Round Up,' was held in Irving, Texas and took on the
Texas-size job of lassoing the many issues in telecommunications -- from
cable to telco entry, video dialtone, personal communications systems
and fiber optic urban loops. At this conference NATOA members met and
welcomed our new Administrative Officer, Renee Winsky, who actually
joined us several months earlier. David Olson was elected NATOA
President and Janet Quigley was selected as 'NATOA Member of the Year.'
As the annual conference concluded,
word reached us that the House/Senate Conference Committee had reached
agreement on compromise cable legislation. Larry Irving, House
Telecommunications Committee staffer and Bill Cook of Arnold &
Porter, rushed to the conference to brief us on the details.
Following the Irving Conference, the
new compromise bill, S. 12, was passed by both houses with slim, but
with what appeared to be 'veto-proof' margins. Unfortunately, President
Bush decided to not recognize the important consumer aspects of S. 12 as
he exercised his veto of the legislation. However, after intense
lobbying by a coalition of local government groups led by NATOA, as well
as a host of other supporters, both houses, on October 5, overrode the
President's veto (the first of his administration) and S. 12, the 'Cable
Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992,' was
Without even a few moments to savor
our victory, NATOA immediately began preparing for the all-important FCC
rule-making proceedings that would ultimately define major portions of
the new law.
1993 - Telecommunications
1993 opened with NATOA in the midst of
several critical FCC filing deadlines. Although NATOA's (and our
members) presence was felt in most rule-making proceedings, special
emphasis was placed on our efforts to influence the development of FCC
rate regulation rules and national cable customer service standards.
Our efforts were rewarded with the
establishment of a strong set of national customer service standards to
be enforced at the local level. These standards created the means to
provide all cable consumers with uniform protection of their rights.
The FCC also issued, in May, a
surprisingly complex set of rules and procedures governing the
regulation of cable rates, as well as froze those rates for several
months until the rate regulation process could begin. The FCC predicted
that its new rules would provide a 10% rate reduction, on average, for
70% of cable subscribers nationwide. Unfortunately, much of the initial
public optimism over these new rules was lost with the confusion caused
by the FCC changing implementation dates.
NATOA also argued in Federal Court on
behalf of cable consumers and local governments in several court cases
including those challenging 'must carry' and local governments' right to
During these lengthy legislative and
court processes, NATOA was recognized as a national leader and
spokesperson for local governments and cable consumers. NATOA's
commitment to training in 1993 was also redoubled with a record-breaking
seven regional conferences/seminars held across the country with NATOA
sponsorship or support.
The 13th Annual NATOA Conference,
'Telecommunications Magic,' was held in Orlando, Florida, September
8-12. A record- breaking 500 conference attendees gathered and learned
about their new regulatory roles, the emerging 'information revolution'
promised by cable, as well as telcos, and the their role in shaping it.
The members also selected Bill
Squadron (New York City) as President, Susan Littlefield (St. Louis, MO)
as Vice President and Mike Reardon (Eagan, MN) as Secretary/Treasurer.
Following the conference, NATOA
continued its active educational role by encouraging local governments
to become certified for rate regulation, as well as to adopt federally
prescribed customer service standards. However, several extensions of
the rate freeze and constant changes to rate rules by the FCC cast doubt
on whether the rate review process would provide consumers the relief
envisioned with the 1992 Cable Act.
The ill-fated TCI/Bell Atlantic merger
dominated world headlines in October and caused a ripple effect across
the country for the rest of 1993 and into 1994. Talk of the 'information
superhighway' and the Clinton Administration's 'telecommunications
agenda' appeared in every form of the media. This 'technology frenzy,'
coupled with hard lobbying by telecommunications providers and Congress'
desire to reclaim its policy-making role from the judiciary, resulted in
calls for the complete deregulation of the telecommunications industry.
NATOA, along with the NLC, USCM, and NACO continued their coalition
efforts through an education campaign directed at legislators seeking to
preserve the rights of local governments to control the
1994 - Telecommunications
Bonanza or Bust?
The new year dawned with serious
federal legislative efforts underway to deregulate the
telecommunications industry without proper recognition of local
government's role in protecting the public right-of-way. The local
government coalition, with NATOA leading the charge, began early efforts
to change and influence the direction of the legislation. However, in
spite of all our efforts, legislation that would seriously affect local
governments' rights to franchise cable and protect the public continued
to move rapidly through Congress. The House passed HR 3636 in June by an
overwhelming majority and the Senate Commerce Committee in August, sent
forward for full Senate consideration an amended S. 1822, which appeared
to be even more negative towards local governments than HR 3636.
However, S. 1822 met an unceremonious end as the 'Baby Bells' withdrew
their support of the legislation and it was declared 'dead' by the
Senate leadership for 1994.
In spite of the negative legislative
front, NATOA continued its member education efforts, holding a regional
conference in Indianapolis in January. The conference centered around
the rapidly changing telecommunications environment, especially in the
area of telephone/cable convergence. NATOA was also active in providing
the membership with information about various FCC rulings and rate
regulation decisions. To that end, NATOA established a special FCC task
force headed by David Hankin (City of Los Angeles) to meet and work with
the FCC on issues affecting local governments. NATOA also continued to
file comments in various FCC regulatory dockets.
In preparation for the changing
telecommunications and regulatory environment, NATOA held its first
strategic planning session in Denver in March. NATOA Board members, and
others, met for two days in a facilitated session to map out a future
plan for NATOA. That plan was presented to the membership at the
Reno/Sparks Conference for consideration and the membership authorized
the appointment of a special task force to explore various future NATOA
management models and to bring their recommendations back to the Board
and membership in early 1995.
Our NATOA leadership also changed
during the year as NATOA President Bill Squadron and Board Member Tom
Robinson resigned from the Board due to job change conflicts. Vice
President Susan Littlefield became President of NATOA in May and Patty
Landers (Irving, TX) and Eileen Huggard (New York City) were appointed
to fill the open Board slots. We also lost our Administrative Officer
when Renee Winsky left to take a managerial position within NLC.
The 14th Annual NATOA Conference,
'Telecommunications Bonanza,' was held in Reno/Sparks, Nevada, in
mid-September. A record setting 500+ conference attendees gathered to
learn more about the expanding telecommunications field, and to chart
NATOA's strategic future. Cathy Grimes Peel (Metro-Dade Co., FL) was
selected NATOA Member of the Year.
The Congressional elections provided
added interest and uncertainty for local governments and NATOA members
as the Republican Party sweep into power in both houses promising
governmental reforms and across the board deregulation of industry. As
the year ended, NATOA members remained optimistic that the future would
be a 'Telecommunications Bonanza' for local governments, and that they
would not be 'busted' by federal telecommunications deregulatory
legislation in the new year.
1995 - Telecommunications
Crossroads - Facing the Challenge
As the new year began, the new federal
legislative push for ''The Contract with America' appeared to place
telecommunications deregulation on the fast track with numerous other
reform efforts. The Congressional leadership promised comprehensive
telecom legislation from both houses by July with a final compromise
version on the President's desk by mid-summer. However, early objections
from both the long distance carriers and 'Baby Bells' slowed
consideration of the House and Senate bills.
The new House Commerce Committee
leadership eventually produced a bill which was patterned after the
failed 1994 measure, but with even more potential losses for local
governments. In the spring this measure was voted out of Committee while
the Senate continued to work on their version of the bill. By June the
Senate bill had moved to the floor, and after several days of debate, S.
652 was passed overwhelmingly. The House bill, HR 1555, then became the
target of the warring phone giants as both sides jockeyed to influence
the legislation. Finally, in the last days before their summer recess,
the House managed to pass HR 1555 after several amendments, some very
favorable to local governments.
NATOA's legislative action alert
efforts began early in this process urging government officials to
contact their federal representatives. Those efforts were successful in
getting the Hutchison Amendment included in the Senate bill which helped
to protect the rights of local governments. Similar efforts with the
much more deregulatory House bill also proved successful as the
Stupak-Barton Amendment was included in the final version. Both bills
went to the Conference Committee in September to develop compromise
While the legislative action was
taking place in D.C., NATOA moved forward towards its plan to become an
independent organization. Following the report of the transition task
force and recommendation by the Board, the membership, in late spring,
voted to approve the establishment of NATOA as an independent nonprofit
organization and the Board began a search for an association management
company to handle its affairs. The Board also began its search for the
first NATOA Executive Director to lead the organization. In August,
NATOA moved into new offices with the chosen Smith Bucklin management
firm. With this change NATOA bid a fond farewell to the NLC, our parent
of 14 years, and stepped out into the world of self-reliance.
In the area of membership education,
in 1995 NATOA held two successful regional conferences, one in Denver
and the other in Indianapolis. These sessions set the stage for planning
the annual conference, 'Telecommunications Crossroads - Facing the
Challenge' in Albuquerque, New Mexico, September 20-24 - celebrating 15
years of telecommunications leadership.
At the conference, attendees heard
updates on the legislation and everyone speculated about the final
outcome from the Conference Committee. Educational sessions stressed
ways to protect the public right-of-way, negotiate/renew franchises,
establish I - Nets, and how to prepare for the changes expected in the
telecommunications industry. FCC representatives also answered questions
as part of a lively discussion at one general session. Attendees took
time to kick-back at the New Mexico State Fair and soared to new heights
on Sandia Peak. At the business meeting Mike Reardon was elected NATOA
President and the members were updated about NATOA's new management
organization and Executive Director search. The 400+ attendees also
applauded Nick Miller's selection as NATOA Member of the Year.
Following the conference, the
announcement was made that Board Member Eileen Huggard from New York had
accepted the position as NATOA's first Executive Director. In her new
role, she and a coalition of local government groups continued their
exhaustive efforts to influence the outcome of the Conference Committee
regarding telecommunications legislation.
1996 - Telecommunications
Efforts continued into the new year to
influence legislation. In late January, the Conference Committee
released its report and final action was taken by both houses on the
compromise bill. As a result of efforts by the local government
coalition, local governments and individual members, the final
legislation preserved many of the right-of-way protections we sought,
and preserved much of our local authority to franchise cable as well as
play a significant role in the franchising/licensing of competitors.
President Clinton's signing of the 1996 Telecommunications Act in early
February changed forever the way telecommunications will be provided in
this country, while assuring local government's important role in that
NATOA immediately began the process of
adapting to this new law by developing local government positions on
pending FCC rulemakings that would shape some of its important sections.
They also began the long education process of members and local
officials on the law and the many changes local governments would need
to make in the regulation and administration of rights-of-way. Due to
the efforts of local government groups and others, early FCC rulings on
the new Open Video System (OVS) concept took shape with significant
support for the provision of PEG access. However, other FCC rulings,
especially in the controversial area of small dish placement totally
disappointed local officials. Efforts continued to support our OVS
positions and to try to alter the FCC's misguided dish rules. In
addition, early efforts by national telecommunications companies,
following passage of the law, resulted in successful state legislation
in Colorado essentially taking away much that local governments had
gained in national legislation. Similar efforts were expected in many
other states and members were gearing-up to meet this new industry
Members learned about the new law at
two highly successful spring regional training seminars in Washington,
D.C. and Clark County/Las Vegas, Nevada. A series of four spring and
early summer educational seminars co-sponsored by the NLC, PTI and NATOA
also provided much needed information, networking and education. Model
telecommunications ordinances became the phrase of the day and fair
access to the public right-of-way by users a new objective.
The 16th annual NATOA Conference,
'Telecommunications Tradewinds,' was held at the beautiful Breakers
Hotel in Palm Beach, FL. The members remained cautiously optimistic
about the new telecommunications world and their important role in it.
John Pestle was selected as NATOA Member of the Year. Byron West was
elected as NATOA President, and Cathy Cunningham of Irving, Texas and
Jane Lawton of Montgomery County, Maryland were elected to the Board of
Following the annual conference, NATOA
continued to evolve and change. A new management company, Association
Management Bureau (AMB), was selected to house NATOA' s operations in
Revolution or Evolution?
The competition for video programming
promised customers by the telecommunications industry during the debate
surrounding the passage of the Telecommunications Act turned out to be
as overblown as some skeptics had predicted. Telephone giants backed
away from commitments for video competition and instead battled over
entry issues and control of the long distance market. Cable TV
operators, clobbered by subscriber anger from significant rate increases
and new competition from DBS providers, were staggered by subscriber
losses and tons of debt as financial institutions reevaluated their
cable portfolios. Mergers at all levels of the telecom industry seemed
to take place daily increasing concerns about competition and
At the same time cellular and PCS
towers seemed to be springing up everywhere angering citizens and
forcing local governments to quickly rewrite old planning policies, or
to declare emergency moratoriums to cope with the situation. New
providers of wireless and wired telecommunications services also sprang
up everywhere and in a few instances the public began seeing the
beginnings of competition in some communications areas, especially
between wireless communications providers.
Internet and email became the new buzz
words as offices around the country added email addressees to business
cards and stationary. Virtually every company advertisement in the media
now contains a home page address, while terms like 'list serve,' 'html'
and 'URL' became more common in our vocabulary. NATOA enhanced its
existing homepage adding new services and 'links' with the assistance of
Webmaster Jonathan Kramer, and also began a new member list serve during
NATOA continued its active training
schedule to meet the changing information demands of the times.
Successful winter seminars on antenna siting were held in St. Louis,
Missouri and Tacoma, Washington. Spring regional training seminars drew
good attendance in San Jose, California, Aurora, Illinois and Baltimore,
Maryland. NATOA also teamed with Strategic Research Institute to hold a
mini-seminar in Washington DC prior to the Institute' s annual Cable
Telecom Roundtable. These efforts were complemented by information in
the NATOA News Quarterly, its bulletins/action alerts, the revised NATOA
Home Page and list serve capabilities.
NATOA had important roles in several
national issues including the Troy, Michigan/TCI case and several
filings on important FCC rulemakings. Court efforts on behalf of local
governments were rewarded with a unanimous decision in the 5th Circuit
Court in the Baltimore case. That decision overturned the faulty FCC' s
ruling that allowed cable operators to deduct from their gross revenues
that portion of the bill paid by subscribers attributed to the 5%
franchise fee. Thanks to a strong local government coalition lead by
Laredo and Dallas, Texas, and the able work of attorneys Tim Lay and Joe
Van Eaton, this decision potentially saved local governments tens of
thousands of past and future franchise fee revenue.
The annual conference in Tucson,
Arizona was a success for the organization with a record attendance of
over 650. Jonathan Kramer was selected as NATOA Member of the Year. Tom
Weisner was elected as President of NATOA at the annual business
meeting. Darryl Anderson of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Jonathan Kramer of
Encino, California, and Paul Smolen of Austin, Texas were elected to the
Board of Directors.
1998 Sea Change: Navigating the Next Generation of
Telecommunications and Cable TV
NATOA members and local governments were swept up by a
sea change in the world of telecommunications with waves of advanced
technology, global strategies, and a new information-driven society. In
most localities, the original franchises were coming up for renewal and
local officials were preparing for local needs assessments and
compliance reports. Cable companies were ramping up to offer high speed
data modem services, and citizens were preparing for Internet and IP
telephony over cable.
The expectations that the 1996 Telecommunications
Reform Act would generate meaningful competition, generate more value
for the paying customer and reduce rates did not materialize. Cable
rates continued to rise and cable operators themselves paid higher and
higher rates to programmers. Consumers also saw no improvement in local
or long distance telephone rates. Industry players spent limitless time,
money and energy to convince state legislators that local governments
were the villains who were stifling competition.
NATOA announced its STAR (State Telecommunications
Assistance and Response) Program designed to assist local governments in
educating and impacting state legislatures considering
telecommunications legislation. Regional Training Seminars were held in
Baltimore, March 11-13, 1998 and in Denver, April 15-17, 1998, and in
August, 1998, the NATOA Ad Hoc Committee for Rights of Way policy
published its Local Government Principles Relating to Rights-Of-Way
Management and Compensation and Ownership of Telecommunications
Facilities. FCC Chairman Reed Hundt appointed the first Local and State
Government Advisory Committee, made up of local elected officials, to
advise the FCC about issues of common concern.
At the close of 1998, AT&T moved to acquire
thousands of TCI cable franchises, giving rise to the new era of
convergence of telephone and cable. The NATOA Annual Conference, held in
San Diego in September, 1998 was alive with the news, and industry
representatives attended in record numbers to respond to the concerns of
local officials who would be called upon to approve these transfers and
help AT&T' s game plan become reality. Broadband services over cable
were touted as the best medium to address future telecommunications
needs, and suddenly, AOL and other Internet Service Providers (ISP' s)
seized the idea that they should be afforded access to the cable
pipeline. Local officials found themselves squarely in the middle of the
fray - the convergence of telephone and cable and the conflict
between cable and the ISP' s.
The 18th Annual NATOA Conference in San
Diego broke attendance records with over 700 participants and an
excellent group of speakers led by AT&T President John Zeglis, who
delivered the keynote address. Ken Fellman was named NATOA Member of the
Year and President Tom Weisner selected the Florida Chapter of NATOA as
'Chapter of the Year.' Past President Byron West was awarded lifetime
membership status. Jane Lawton was elected President of NATOA and Darryl
Anderson was elected president-elect. Rick Maultra of Indianapolis,
Indiana and Denise Brady of San Francisco, California were elected to
the Board of Directors.
1999 - Telecommunications Transformation
The 19th Annual NATOA Conference in Atlanta
focused on the issues of competition in the cable industry, 'Open
Access' to cable broadband networks, and the future of
telecommunications. One highlight was FCC Chairman William Kennard's
visit to the conference where he addressed the attendees at a keynote
session. David Olson was honored as NATOA Member of the Year and
outgoing NATOA President Jane Lawton and William Pohts were made Life
Members of the organization. Darryl Anderson was elected NATOA President
and Ron Mallard, President-Elect. New members elected to the NATOA Board
included Joyce Gallagher (Chicago, IL) and Carol Mathewson (Tacoma, WA).
Through 1999 and into 2000, NATOA members found
themselves busy with system transfers as merger and acquisition mania
continued with AOL buying Time Warner, AT&T acquiring Media One, and
Paul Allen' s Charter Communications acquiring enough cable systems to
become the 4th largest US operator.
New technology breakthroughs allowing cable systems to
offer more than just cable, and the availability of venture capital,
brought about the birth of the first real competition in the cable
industry. As we entered the new year, names like RCN, WIN, and WOW
dominated the trade headlines as these new competitors sought
competitive franchises across the country. Many of these new systems
will begin construction before the end of 2000, which will provide new
choices for many subscribers.
NATOA held successful spring regional training
seminars in Colorado Springs and Boston where attendees learned about
the new competitive providers, transfers of ownership, and right-of-way
management issues. A second successful Litigation and Regulation Seminar
was held in Washington DC in June where legal experts discussed changes
in telecommunications law and competitive franchising.
In late June, the Court of Appeals for the 9th
Circuit overturned the AT&T 'Open Access' decision of 1999. This
action finally caused the FCC to announce that they will formally review
the issue to address whether Internet over the cable platform is a
telecom or cable service. NATOA joined with others in filing an Amicus
Brief before the Court of Appeal for the 4th Circuit in the
Henrico, Virginia case where the lower court had determined the
provision of high speed Internet service by Media One was a cable
As we move toward NATOA' s 20th Anniversary
conference in Los Angeles in early September we will celebrate our
history and past accomplishments. We will also look forward to a future
of new communications technologies, the beginnings of cable competition,
and the many challenges these changes will bring NATOA, local
governments, and citizens in the new millennium.
2000 – Beyond the Big Screen
The 20th anniversary NATOA Conference was
held at the historic Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles in
September. Over 700 attendees heard presentations on franchising
competitive providers, digital communications, and other broadband
technologies. Highlights of the conference included a keynote
presentation by Jim Robbins, President & CEO of Cox Communications,
a visit from FCC Sr. Legal Advisor to Chairman Kennard, Anna Gomez, as
well as a presentation by Robert Sachs, President and CEO of the
National Cable Television Association.
In celebration of 20 years of service, NATOA’s
anniversary events included the introduction of NATOA’s remaining
charter members in attendance who were each presented with a
Outgoing president Darryl Anderson and long-standing
member Nick Miller were made life members of NATOA as Ron Mallard
assumed the leadership of the organization. New Board members elected
were Bruce Anderson (Village of Hoffman Estates) and Dean Smits (Denver)
-- (Note: following the conference Sandra Allen (Tallahassee), was
appointed to fill the unexpired term of Jonathan Kramer). Susan
Littlefield was honored as NATOA’s Member of the Year.
While the "buzz" before and during the NATOA
conference was the excitement over the number of competitive providers
seeking franchises across the country, the declining stock market and
evaporation of venture capital money soon changed this picture.
Franchise efforts first slowed, then halted, and eventually stopped in
all but a few of the communities approached by these new providers. As
2001 dawned, the promise of real competition in the cable market and the
hope for choice for millions of subscribers had become another casualty
of the financial marketplace.
NATOA’s two regional seminars, held in the Spring in
Seattle and San Antonio brought out NATOA members and local government
officials seeking information on renewals, transfers, broadband
technology, use of Web sites, institutional networks and management of
numerous telecommunications companies using public rights-of-ways.
Court decisions continued to negatively affect
telecommunications and cable policy for local governments and consumers,
but NATOA’s involvement before the FCC and the courts did not dwindle.
From participation in the FCC’s Notice of Inquiry into High Speed
Service over Cable Modems to participation in numerous Amici briefs
filed before the federal courts, NATOA continued to pursue and protect
the rights and interests of local governments across the country. As the
2001 conference approached, NATOA had just announced its support for the
City of Tacoma’s pursuit of a petition for certiorari before the U.S.
Supreme Court on the Ninth Circuit’s Auburn et al., v. Qwest decision.
Rights-of-way management and the deployment of
broadband services, as well as potential mergers, take-overs and
transfers are all issues of concern as members approach the upcoming
2001 NATOA Annual Conference in Miami Beach, Florida in September.
NATOA' s History is provided by Charter Member, Mr.
Bruce Crest, Beaverton, OR.