Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Who Do You Say That I Am?

That Saddam Hussein sure is a slippery fella. He’s on trial for his life and what are the first words that come out of his mouth?

“Who are you? I want to know who you are,” he says to the presiding judge.

It’s like the tactic SBC is employing in Walnut Creek. They’re challenging the City’s authority to require a franchise agreement for their delivery of video services. Their attorney fired off a missive to City Council claiming they were unlawfully interfering with their business plan and denying SBC their rights. Not so says Paul Valle-Riestra, assistant city attorney, Walnut Creek has every right under the Cable Act to require franchise agreements for video services.

While SBC, BellSouth and Verizon waste precious time wrangling with every community east and west of the Mississippi, Wall Street is looking askance at the viability of these companies’ video plans.

“The fundamentals…just don’t look very attractive,” said Dan Genter, president and CEO of RNC Genter Capital Management.

According to Reuters, concerns include:

· Worries about competition for basic phone service from the cable guys.

· Slow down of growth for wireless as it reaches 70% penetration (no doubt on that one, I think my husband’s ninety-eight year old grandmother is the only person I know without a cell phone).

· Huge amounts of capital spending on network upgrades.

and last but not least, pay close attention to this one…

· Health care and pension costs for retirees.

That last one should make you sit up and bark because if you’ve lived on this planet for more than five minutes you ought to know what is coming down the pike. Can you say United Airlines? Can you say default? Can you envision dumping it back on the taxpayers through the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation?

In other words, as I have said until I am blue in the face, these guys embark on a business plan that stinks from the get-go and is a decade behind, they can’t overcome the competition (Comcast, Time Warner), they can’t project their saturation point and they run around recklessly throwing money into the ground like a gold miner at a cat-house, and yet…and yet…places like Walnut Creek are supposed to give them a free ride and their own pensioners will probably have to take one for the team.

I just looked at the clock and realized it is way too early for me to be getting my blood pressure up. Breath in, breath out.

“Who are you? I want to know who you are.”

Brings to mind that last scene in the truck on the way to Fresno, when Ma Joad tells Pa that “We’re the People. We just keep a’comin cause we’re the people.”

Hats off to Paul Valle-Riestra and all those folks in Walnut Creek including Robert Rothgery (producer and activist) and to the Walnut Creek City Council. They ain’t buyin what the SBC guy claimed that “It’s a totally different technological concept than cable TV.” But then again, you have to thank Comcast for this one…remember months ago when Comcast was pulling stunts on Walnut Creek and Walnut Creek had to take Comcast to the shed?

Nope…just like good old Saddam…the Bell Boys don’t look very attractive. And just like Saddam, they’re really adept at shifting blame…all those franchise agreements, all that pension money. I’m just hoping that at the end of the day the verdict will be in the people’s favor.

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