Wednesday, January 19, 2005

When I Am An Old Woman...

Hey Riley, here’s a news flash! You and me, good chances are, will both be dead in 40 years. That’s okay by me because that’s the natural order of things and I really have no desire to live into my nineties. But for my kids and my grandkids, that cable bill you submitted to the Virginia State Assembly could be a little problematic.

I visualize myself sitting in the Barcolounger asking my 64 year old daughter “Has that Riley Ingram bill expired yet?” “Not quite yet mama,” she answers “Don’t worry, finish your oatmeal.”

See it’s the language about granting unending franchises to cable ops or video providers that has me worried. You know, the part that says:

“Eligible video providers that comply with the requirements of this section are hereby granted a franchise that complies with Subchapter V-A of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended, §§ 521-573, for a term of 40 years.”

Riley, old pal, where did you come up with the number 40? Why not 50 or 60? Did you ask an eight-ball or do the Ouija board thing? Is that your lucky number? Or perhaps the reference is Biblical; Moses did wander in the desert for 40 years. The whole bill stinks but it’s the 40 year franchises that have me reaching for the gas mask.

And unlike your counterparts in Indiana you aren’t even making money on this one. So what possibly could have possessed you to attempt to gut local governments’ ability to manage their Rights of Way?

Work with me on this. Let’s not try to visualize the world in 40 years. Let’s just concentrate on the next 10 to 15 years. Who knows what the cable needs of local communities will be then? I imagine fabulous new technologies being introduced at such a rapid pace that the franchises we write today will be woefully inadequate. And folks will go to the bargaining table to write new franchises that reflect these changes. These new franchises won’t be written because “Cable television service has become a mainstay of the entertainment and education of the citizens of this Commonwealth,” but because the cities in Virginia won’t be able to compete for business or investment with antiquated infrastructure.

I really should care less, I don’t live in Virginia, but my daughter does and your bill does her a great disservice. It tells her that her future is way less important than that of the cable operators. It says that public interest is irrelevant.

Here’s my advice buddy, withdraw this piece of legislation, wash your hands of it before it’s too late! Otherwise, in 40 years, your reputation will not be that of a wise man, it will be the remembrance of a fool.

Postscript: I don’t make this stuff up. See Virginia HOUSE BILL NO. 2534.

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