Monday, January 17, 2005

My Biscuits Are Frying

I spent almost seven years as the Executive Director of the Alliance for Community Media fending off charges by the cable operators that offering Public, Educational and Government (PEG) access would cause rates to go up. Many times the ops argued that the consumers would suffer if they had to provide PEG support either directly or in the form of capital and equipment. Never mind that PEG access has proven critical to the health and welfare of local communities, especially in these times of loss of localism and media consolidation.

It’s no secret that cable operators raise their rates every year just because they can. Local governments can only regulate rates on the basic tier, equipment and installation. Rate regulation on the expanded tiers and all other services went the way of the Looney Bird a long time ago (thank you Congress!).

The last remaining stick to keep the ops in check is the Form 1205 that Local Franchising Authorities (LFA’s) can require the cable operator to file. The 1205 provides the LFA’s the rationale for rate increases and price setting by the op, and gives local government the chance to tell the op they are charging too much. But given that the information on the 1205 is provided by the cable operator itself, how can LFA’s figure out if the rates are justifiable?

Enter two guys, Garth Ashpaugh and Dick Treich. They were hired by a group of LFA’s to review the filings and determine if the cable operator (in this case Comcast) was being forthright. After many months and a reported 1,000 man hours conducting the review of the 1205’s, Ashpaugh & Treich have released an enlightening 42 page report. You can view an Executive Summary of this report by going to this page on my website:

The most notable (or notorious) page of the summary is page 5, Recommended Rates. There are seven areas of hardware and installation charges that Comcast reports and Ashpaugh and Treich seem to differ with, and these differences are not insubstantial. Then the pair goes on to note general and specific issues that are problematic (like reporting of bonuses and commissions.)

But more than anything else, there is a constant theme of non-cooperation. Ashpaugh and Treich had difficulty getting information from Comcast. What a shocking surprise! Whoddathunkit?

So yes, it fries my biscuits good to read this summary, after all the years of hearing knucklehead excuses as to why the poor ops could not support PEG and the nonsense they spewed about being concerned for the subscriber. It is time to end this tyranny of rate gouging and maybe it’s time for Congress to be horse-whipped for letting these fiends get away with bloody murder.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: