Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Don't Make Me Have To Punish You!

I don’t like whining. In fact I have a rule in my home, no whining. I don’t even let the dog whine. You can complain. You can gripe. You can be irritated as all get out but whining is not allowed. That’s why I am really glad I wasn’t there for the speech given at the National Association of Broadcasters on Monday by Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg. Had I been there Mr. Seidenberg might have received the back of my hand and that would not have been good.

“We ask you to lend your persuasive voice in support of clearing away this barrier to video competition…” Seidenberg whined to the broadcasters “…and provide a true and compelling alternative to cable.” Blub, blub, blub.

He of course was commiserating about those cumbersome franchise agreements and those terrible franchise fees.

This is so reminiscent of when the Mamacita of phone companies, AT&T, decided to foray into the cable business. Frankly I thought they were really hysterically funny, at least they provided me with hours of amusement. They could never quite figure out how to deal with all those local communities they had to franchise with. At times they were an 800 pound gorilla and at others they threw themselves on the floor and kicked and screamed like two year olds. At the end of the day it wasn’t those local franchises that did them in, it was their complete lack of business acumen.

Now you have Mama Bell’s red-headed step children seeking to go on this road trip without a map and down about a half a tank of gas. They spent so many years being arrogant that they forgot to upgrade their infrastructure. News.Com reports that some parts of their copper wire networks are over 100 years old.

I am no genius and I certainly am not an engineer but even I understand that a Model T can’t compete against a Ferrari or some skate boards for that matter and I am a firm believer that you might want to change your socks at least once a week.

So Verizon and SBC and the crew sat on their hands for way too long and because they didn’t have the sense God gave a goat, we need to completely get rid of franchising and franchise fees. Let’s all rewrite the Telecom Act in favor of the Baby Bells so they can roll out their fiber and offer you and me those whopping speeds of 30mbps downstream and 5mbps upstream! Yahoo, now we’re flyin! Meanwhile the Japanese and Koreans (I know I talk about them all the time but there are some lessons there) are rolling it out at three times faster than that even as we speak.

And while Ivan is moaning to Viacom and ESPN that they gotta do something to help Verizon do what it should have done over five years ago, he doesn’t seem to mind sticking it to the consumers on DSL. On the same day that Seidenberg was playing the victim in Vegas, Verizon announced that in order to get stand-alone or “naked” DSL, subscribers would have to agree to move their landlines to a wireless carrier or a VOIP service like Vonage. Why do I smell a RICO violation there? Don’t we have laws about “restraint of trade?” Is Verizon now the Cosa Nostra of the phone companies?

I shouldn’t complain, after all if they didn’t behave like such knuckleheads I’d have nothing to write about. And there’s plenty of entertainment to be had when these big corporate execs take to the microphone. But as every parent understands, while you are tempted to give in to the whining and the temper tantrums just to shut them up, you will deeply regret it in the long run.
Childish behavior must be met with calm resolve. Perhaps we should all agree that Verizon and playmates are long overdue for a time-out and they shouldn’t be allowed to come out of the corner until they learn how to play nice with the local franchising authorities.

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