Robbins to Telcos: Bring it On

Cox Communications President and CEO Jim Robbins came out swinging for his keynote speech yesterday morning.

I want you to know were ready for you, he told the TELECOM 05 audience. As Ive always said to competition Bring it on.

While the major telcos are just starting to roll out video services to complete their triple play bundles, Robbins said Cox already delivers the triple play to more than 1 million customers and that more than half of its customers buy more than one service from Cox. He added that Cox was the first service provider to deliver the triple play on one network, which it launched in 1997 in Orange County, Calif. And Cox already offers advanced video features such as high-definition TV and DVR, which 70 percent of Cox customers use daily.

After showing some Cox commercials advertising its various services, Robbins added: I just hope Lee Ann sees those commercials as SBC aspires to do what weve done for years, he said, referring to Lee Ann Champion, senior executive vice president of IP operations and services at SBC, who spoke with USTelecoms Walter B. McCormick Jr. at the top of yesterdays keynote lineup.

He also showed a slide indicating that while the cablecos are positioned to capture 12 percent of the residential phone market by 2007 and 21 percent of that market by 2009, the telcos are expected to capture just 2 percent of the video services market by 2007 and 5 percent by 2009.

In the end, the victors will be decided largely by who delivers the best customer service, indicated Robbins, who will retire his post later this year after heading up Cox for 20 years.

While Verizon is laying fiber, Robbins said, flashing an unattractive image of a fiber laying in an open trench in a residential yard, Cox is delivering a variety of services and has gained customer loyalty and trust. He offered an anecdote about how a lady who ordered Coxs digital TV asked whether On Golden Pond was part of the offer, and a Cox customer representative called her back two weeks later just before the movie came available. Thats customer service, he said.

He also noted that Cox had received top honors in 2005 from J.D. Power awards for its residential ISP service and for its residential phone service (in the Western region of the U.S.).

Cox, which offers services in 22 states, can provide integrated or separate bills for the multiple services it offers, he said, and customers call one number for problem resolution, Robbins said. Believe me, these things make a difference, he added.

Still, Robbins expressed concern over the regulatory environment, specifically the recent Texas franchise rules that he said gut rules — unless youre a cable company under the old guard. (In August, SBC ended up on the winning side of a hard-fought battle over franchise rules in Texas when the legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill that overrides local franchising with a requirement that carriers obtain just one state-level license.)

Let us go head to head, he added. We will all benefit. But dont try to tilt the regulatory field.

For voice services, Robbins said cablecos and telcos should also go head-to-head, but added the caveat once competition has taken hold, noting that voice competitors must be protected to ensure they have required access to incumbent telcos ubiquitous networks.

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