Cable television is a grassroots movement.
In the early 1950′s there were 70 cable systems serving almost 15,000 people nationwide. By the early 1960′s those numbers had grown, and 800 systems served about 850,000 subscribers.
In the early 1970′s, responding to broadcast television industry concerns, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) put a freeze into effect limiting the ability of cable operators to offer movies, sporting events, and syndicated programming. In 1972 gradual cable deregulation led to more modified restrictions on importing distant signals. By the end of the 1970′s nearly 16 million homes subscribed to cable.
1984′s Cable Act gave the industry a better regulatory framework, and investments in cable plants and programming were at unprecedented levels. In fact, the expansion of cable became the largest private construction project since World War II, with the industry spending more than $15 billion between 1984 and 1992.
At the end of the 1980s nearly 53 million homes subscribed to cable, and those numbers continued to grow. By the end of the 1990s, there were 65 million subscribers, about 70% of television households.
During the late 1990s cable also expanded its offerings to customers with broadband networks that provide high-speed Internet access, multichannel video, two-way voice, high definition and advanced digital video services all on a single wire into the home.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 created a major shift in the regulatory and public policy of telecommunications services. The low-key regulatory environment for cable operating and programming companies gave the cable industry the opportunity to speed the release of broadband services. As a result, consumers everywhere have more choices in information, communications, and entertainment services.
By 2002, roughly two thirds of homes had access to cable television, cellular phones and personal computers. Digital cable is expanding its footprint, being used in 18% of U.S. television homes and 20% of cable customers with PCs are use high-speed modems. Cable is quickly becoming the technology of choice for DSL (digital subscriber line) service and more than 2 million customers used cable for their phone connections.
From its grassroots beginning, the cable television industry continues to have a strong entrepreneurial spirit. In the future, the industry will continue to face new challenges with the same determination, creativity, and resiliency it has shown in the past.