Tuesday, February 08, 2005

A Maze of Quibbles and Fog

Sophistry, as defined by Ambrose Bierce (The Devil’s Dictionary), is “the controversial method of an opponent, distinguished from one's own by superior insincerity and fooling.” It forms the basis for what we would call today, being “sophisticated.” Comcast rates high on the sophistication meter, if they didn’t they certainly would not be where they are today. See Money Blog below.

So it’s no surprise that Andrew Johnson, Vice President of Communications for Comcast would say “It’s like Contra Costa County is one big doughnut and Walnut Creek is the hole.” That’s sophisticated Andrew, but are we talking Dunkin Doughnuts or Krispy Kreme? And the last time I looked, not every doughnut has a hole, so there goes that doughnut analogy.

Seven cities in Contra Costa County California formed a consortium to negotiate a cable franchise agreement with Comcast. Those negotiations have drug out almost six years. Seems they are really close to finalizing, but as usual Comcast is being stingy over the PEG channels. They want to hand them over to the cities to run without providing adequate funding and Walnut Creek, among others is balking at the deal. Comcast is also refusing to build an I-Net for local government and the schools.

Concord Mayor Laura Hoffmeister nailed it, “It’s almost like they’re setting us up to fail.”

Johnson says Comcast is on the side of the customers and the customers don’t want PEG, but the cities own surveys indicate that PEG is a vital resource. This little factoid would prove that Johnson is “superior” in his insincerity and fooling, a gift that could earn him the title of “Sophisticate Royale.”

A local competitor, Astound, has offered not only an I-Net but also hasn’t complained about running the PEG channels for Walnut Creek. I guess those guys fell off the turnip truck yesterday because they certainly could use some lessons from their more worldly competition, the ever dapper Comcast Corporation.

But those high-tone Philly boys better be careful not to strut their stuff too ambitiously. In 2002 they got nailed by the City of Oakland in an out of court settlement that required them to pay Oakland $17.4 million for taking over the PEG channels. Oakland, you contraire gal, you deserve the all time “Tres Chic” award. No doughnut holes there, Oakland is a fine Éclair! Hey that rhymes!

Paul Valle-Riestra, Senior Assistant City Attorney for Walnut Creek, sets the record straight, “There is no correlation between PEG channels and customer rates. Once you’ve made your initial investment, cable systems are total cash cows.”

The question I have about these cows is who exactly is being milked? It doesn’t take too much sophistication to figure that one out.

Source: East Bay Business Times, "Comcast may end six-year franchise fight," Eric Lai, 02/04/2005.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Bunnie,
I appreciated your comments about the Walnut Creek situation. The article you quoted was the first of a series of strategic plants that were published just prior to Comcast sueing Walnut Creek. The idea seemed to be that the suit would shut up Walnut Creek on the details of the "upgrade issue."
Fortunately two weeks prior to the injunction, an interview was recorded with Valle-Riestra where he outlines the specifics of the issue. This program will be placed on the public access channel within a few days. They will be obligated to play the tape twice.
I see two fundamental issues at work here. First is the right of local communities to regulate cable providers through franchise agreements. As you mentioned there is an overbuilder in Contra Costa County. Astound has built a 860mhz system and an INET. Comcast wants to upgrade thier 450 mhz system to 750 mhz and stuff 2500 subs on each broadband node. Walnut Creek wants better for its residents and has not approved Comcasts parsimonious proposal -as is their right under the Cable Act.

Secondly, there is law in California that requires franchises to have a level playing field. Walnut Creek is saying that what is good for Astound is good enough for Comcast. Comcast appears to think otherwise. They want to charge more and, of course, offer less to consumers.

There is a fine donut shop here run by a family and not a corporation. They sell the most delightful and fattening donut holes. I think Comcast has visited them and now insists on the donuts and the holes in their business doings.

Robert Rothgery,
Minister of Pain