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Exhibit-Less CMA Proves That the Show Can Go On.

What's an annual conference and exposition without exhibits? Just fine, thank you! Since it added exhibits to its annual conference in 1977, the Communications Managers Association has seen its meeting gorw at a healthy clip, constrained only by the lack of space at its annual site, the Rye Town Hilton.

So, to allow growth, CMA moved this year's meeting to the Long Island Marriott, with the adjacent Nassau Coliseum to provide space for a record number of exhibits. A union dispute, however, lead to an 11th-hour decision to cancel the exposition. Nevertheless, CMA proved that the show must go on. (By the way, the strike was settled on the morning the conference began, but too late to do anything with the exhibits.)

While missing the exhibits, CMA members had plenty to do at 40 seminars at three general sessions focusing on information needed by telecom managers to make key decisions in the fast-changing industry. One plus resulting from the lack of exhibits was that the allocated time for viewing could be used to repeat the morning sessions, making it less difficult to choose from a half-dozen concurrent sessions.

CMA has grown considerably since its founding in 1948, with some 185 companies now included on the membership roster. To honor some of its members who have made above-normal contributions to the group, CMA this year created the Walter D. Young Award, honoring one of the founders and first president. The first well-deservign recipients were Chet Bellairs (American Broadcasting) and Chuck Schweis (Ciba-Geigy), both of whom have been prime movers in spurring CMA growth.

Keyed to the three main areas of management, data and voice, the sessions focused on a wide range of topics, from divestiture and regulatory issues to product selection and personal computers in business.

Former FCC Commissioner Anne Jones, now a communications attorney with Sutherland, Asbil & Brennan, viewed the equal-access provisions of the AT&T divestiture. Recapping the efforts of the BOCs to gain line-of-business waivers to diversify into new markets, she noted that judge Harold Greene's 65-page opinion on their filings expressed unhappniess with the "headlong rush" by the BOCs, but indicated he woudln't prevent them from entering new areas at "a measured pace."

She also observed that the Justice Department's response to the waiver requests "makes it seem chair that the department has abandoned its January 1982 position that the BOCs should be limited to POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service), as long as it's satisfied of clear lines between regulated and unregulated activities."

According to Jones, the recent appointment of Bert Halprin as chief of the FCC's Common Carrier Bureau will signal greater deregulatory moves. She explained that he "will be very much in tune with the present administration's policy of deregulation." In other words, she added, "You ain't seen nothin' yet!"

Other sessions relating to divestiture covered the areas of bypass, LATAs, circuit of ordering and billing issues.

Addressing the Wednesday afternoon general session, AT&T Technologies Vice Chairman Donald Procknow said that telecom managers "have absorbed the shcok waves of divestiture more directly than any other group outside of the old Bell System itself. The communications manager's job has been complicated by the disruption of services that you took for granted in the past."

According to Procknow, "In 10 years or so, business school case studies may very well look to the period we're going through now as a time of great progress; a time when the scope of corporate communications began its rapid expansion into the Information Age; a time of new ideas, new players and new technology. The transitional problems associated with tis period will be overshadowed by the eventual benefits. But neither you nor AT&T nor any other communications company has the luxury of sitting out this transition period."

According to Procknow, "Having the best technology is a little bit like having the best intentions; you don't get anywhere unless you utilize them. And in some important ways, our Information Age technology is seriously under-utilized. The data processing side of the information industry right now is in a situation not unlike the one the telephone industry was in at the turn of the century. At that time, a business person in a medium-size city had to have three or four telephones on the desk in order to reach every telephone subscriber in town. That's because there were at least that many phone companies competing against each other. And their ssytems didn't connect with each other. Is this beginning to sound familiar? We have a parallel situation in today's corporate communications. Most of the advances in business communications can be considered under the collective banner of the automated office. And the automated office today seems to be a jungle of incompatibility when it comes to moving and managing informatin."

MCI Chairman William McGowan, at the Thursday general session, looked at key trends that are having and will have an impact on the industry in general and on communications managers in particular (see story, page 128).

Concluding the conference at the Friday general session, Yankee Group President Howard Anderson told CMA members how and why they should BYOB ("Be Your Own Bell"), a move he sees as being "the only alternative left to the large corporate user."

Even with the cancelation of exhibits, vendor participation continued with sponsorship of some of the functions. RCA Globcom provided breakfast each day, while Siemens offered refreshments during the daily morning and afternoon breaks. Luncheons were sponsored by New Jersey Bell, Racal-Milgo and At&T Communications. MCI hosted Thursday evening's reception--and even managed to use its exhibit after all in the Marriott ballroom while guests mingled. Racal-Milgo brought an Octoberfest to CMA on both Wednesday and Thursday evenings. More than 30 suppliers also provided session speakers, and some had hospitality suites.

Next year' CMA conference will return to the Long Island Marriott and Nassau Coliseum (with exhibits) on November 15 through 18.
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Publication:Communications News
Date:Nov 1, 1984
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