Thursday, February 10, 2005

If Ever There Was A Man

Because the nature of this blog is to inform and entertain (and my tendency to be sarcastic), I have removed the contents of this post and re-posted these comments on the Grand Rapids Community Media Center website at:

Go to this website to see this post and the many wonderful posts about Dirk Koning.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Vexed On All Sides

The very first blog I did on this site was about the start of the new legislative year and while all eyes are on Capitol Hill, the real action would be in the state house. What? Am I Cassandra?
Not exactly, no omniscient seer here, it’s just that “divide and conquer” is a strategy dating back even farther than the Greeks and it’s one that works.

Indiana, Virginia, Florida, Arizona, Nebraska, Ohio and Texas have all had negative legislation introduced and this is only early February.

Bills to sidestep the local franchising process. Bills to prevent municipal entry. Bills to limit collection of franchise fees. Bills to dictate the number of PEG channels a municipality can require. Bills to eliminate control of Public Rights of Way. Bills to limit I-Net delivery. Bills to allow redlining. Bills to limit compensation for street damage. Bills to stifle competition.

We got more bills than Picasso got paint.

It is overwhelming but predictable and it is only a hint of things to come, but it might be okay after all.

There is organizing going on with great fervor at the local and state level. Coalitions between municipalities, consumer, PEG access and anti-media consolidations groups are now forming in strategic ways. As they battle at the state level they are laying the foundation for a grassroots movement that can be mobilized on a nationwide basis when the Telecom Act starts getting sliced and diced. These groups and coalitions have a very powerful tool at their disposal; a wide and assorted communications network.

When I was at the Alliance for Community Media it seemed the task to stay ahead of lousy legislation was daunting. We were up against a $65 billion a year industry with 24/7 lobby capability at every level of government. However, the thing I learned was we had a motivated grassroots who were very willing to write letters, make phone calls and turn out when called on. The cable ops might have all the money but it is certain that nobody is ever going to show up to protest on their behalf and we can load up busses in a heartbeat if we need to.

Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) has announced that he intends to hold hearings around the country before beginning a formal committee review of the Act. These hearings will be a golden opportunity to turn out the local coalitions. It will also be a great opportunity to use established resources (cameras, television stations and web streaming) to educate the general public on these issues.

Since I started with the Greeks, I will end with the Greeks. All of this legislation, like the snakes on Medusa’s head, is scary and distracting. But it wasn’t the snakes that turned people into stone, it was Medusa’s concentrated stare, her focus, if you will. She was eventually beheaded because she was outwitted and that is the key. Don’t let the snakes scare you, don’t get caught in the cross-hairs of the telecom corporations and use all the resources you have to outwit them.

And if you live in one of the states mentioned above take a couple minutes today to find out what’s going on.

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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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