The Cable Europe Symposium takes place today in Brussels at the beginning of a new season of political drama and frantic debate about the cable industry, with months of negotiations ahead on issues including interpersonal communications services, market power, geo-blocking and country of origin.
We will all engage in this new season of Game of CyberThrones, kicked off by the latest Electronic Communications Code. And so will Liberty Global, a company historically seen as dealing with distribution and technology rather than entertainment.
But there is a reason I use the word ‘historically’.
We no longer live in such a ‘historic’ age where content, distribution and technology are separate. Liberty Global is now the largest international TV and broadband company with operations in over 30 countries; something made possible by the new digital era that thrives off convergence. Therefore I am pleased to say that several studios, including my former employer Time Warner, are represented in this fast moving tech industry as well.
The various sides are becoming more and more connected as the industry evolves. For example our latest deal with Netflix, allowing for the service to become available in 30 million Liberty Global homes. We are endeavouring to build bridges, not borders, as Parag Khanna recently noted in his work ‘Connectography’; ‘the Internet was born to overcome distance’.
With 76 million customers across Europe and a growing user market, Cable Europe – an organisation I am proud to serve as its President – are at the forefront of this connectivity, one which overcomes physical and social borders. The Internet is a universe made smaller and smaller every day by everyone in this room, bringing people closer together, seeking the common ground, diluting differences and putting pre-occupations in perspective.
On this day in 1973, Concorde made its first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic from Washington D.C. to Paris, now, due to our ‘world’, those two places can be connected within milliseconds. This connectivity, is something I’m incredibly proud to be part of. With spending amounting to $2 trillion on mobile infrastructure, and another $4 trillion by 2020, our lives are constantly changing, increasingly served by new customer centric businesses in real time.
Imagine a world where this did not exists, where all of us here switched off our networks. We are building the infrastructure of our age, one which we would be lost without. In Europe, Liberty Global services 28 million customers with a demand for data doubling every year, we cannot stop, we cannot wrestle with our ‘restless ambition’ and we have no interest in harvest without sowing.
This is why here at Liberty Global, we have come up with our latest approach, Gigabuild. An initiative implementing connection to 7 million new homes, with the promise of higher speeds and better quality, to ensure our network capabilities are not only more robust but also reliable. We must continue to expand and enhance, through investment, innovation and excellent customer service.
This mention of customer service leads us to today’s programme at the symposium. I think the concern of our industry is seen most prominently by the chronology of today’s events. Our aim is to ensure we safeguard what our customers entrust to us and with the amount of data constantly moving around the globe, its security is our highest priority.
This is why I am so pleased that Cable Europe have given us the chance to hear today from the pros on cybersecurity, tackling what worries our customers the most and what arguably is our biggest challenge in making the best of the big data opportunity.
Such challenges make us want to be a better company. They motivate us to give millions of households across Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean the opportunity to connect to our superfast broadband services.
They drive us to connect each other, by bringing together those in 120 refugee hostels, through the installation of free Wi-Fi services.
It is projects like these and events like today that make me proud to be part of an innovative future. The World Wide Web was born in 1989, the same year the Berlin Wall fell; demonstrating that this future is one that does not dwell on the historical divisions and ‘walls’ of the past, it is crossing new bridges and entering unchartered territory.
And to speak with Parag Khanna again: ‘Cyber civilization expands along digital rivers and tributaries much as human civilisation has grown along natural ones’.
I look forward to travelling down the Big Data version of the River Nile today, and seeing what we find.
Manuel Kohnstamm is President of Cable Europe and SVP & Chief Corporate Affairs Officer at Liberty Global.