Friday, August 11, 2006

Drama Queens

When you’re young, your lover can greatly upset and bewilder you by storming out the door. But as you get old and cranky, if your lover pulls that stunt the reaction becomes “Well, try not to let the door hit ya. By the way, have you seen the remote control?”

Verizon’s behavior in Montgomery County and New Hampshire remind me of that high strung fella I dated for a while. Everything was always drama. We couldn’t just disagree we had to have a huge fight. He would storm around waving his arms, rolling his eyes, making demands and finally I got tired of it. I mean I am the one with the degree in theatre and he made Gloria Swanson look like a librarian.

It is documented that Verizon did not negotiate in good faith with Montgomery County.[1] Meetings were requested and ignored, promises were made and broken. Not by the County mind you, but by Verizon. Months dragged on with the County sending various letters reminding Verizon to submit documents. Almost a year into the talks Verizon notified the County that they had switched out the negotiating team, meaning what I am not sure. Then at the end of June, out of the blue, the big V files suit against the County in federal court.

"Verizon regrets having to take this step, but the county's unlawful demands leave us no other choice," said John P. Frantz, Verizon vice president and associate general counsel, who is leading the company's legal team on the case. "We would prefer to reach agreement on a franchise that would offer Montgomery County consumers more choice for their cable services, but after a year of essentially fruitless negotiations, we are at an impasse."

The suit claimed not only anti-trust violations but also First Amendment transgressions.

Are you ready for your close-up Mr. Frantz?

The federal judge denied Verizon an injunction and ordered the parties to mediation.

While this is going on, Verizon has abruptly pulled out of New Hampshire.

Spokesperson Jill Wurm (love that name, are you a conqueror, Ms. Wurm?) says they took their equipment and franchise negotiators to New Jersey to get their statewide franchise, so there! It is reported that last spring Verizon was given thirty days to submit a franchise to Salem and it never did. Maybe they were just way too busy swooning and getting the vapors to file their run of the mill proposal we’ve seen in countless communities across this country.

Ms. Wurm also allowed that the company hadn’t called for statewide franchising in New Hampshire just yet.

“We have not filed any legislation specific to that in New Hampshire just yet.”

Curious, I didn’t realize that Verizon held a seat in the New Hampshire legislature. I also didn’t realize that they were the ones actually filing legislation here and there. I was under the mistaken impression they had namby-pamby lackies loosely known as legislators at their beck and call and on temporary payroll.

In the middle of the country, not to be outdone, at&t made a presentation to the Wisconsin Alliance of Cities. During which company spokesmen claimed that they are seeking “competitive video agreements” rather than cable franchises because they are not offering video they are offering video. Very different stuff.

One of the gents said he didn’t think the boxes were extraordinarily humungous. That assertion gives me a wild urge to get two green refrigerators and set them on his front lawn and see how he likes it. If anybody can get me Mike Klasen’s home address I’ll put in a call to a used appliance store.

Mr. Klasen also said they want to digitize Public, Educational and Government access television and put it out over the internet.

“It takes a re-orientation of ‘what does community access mean?’ in our system versus a conventional cable network.”

Why does Mr. Klasen’s “re-orientation” program give me hallucinations of little red books and the Gang of Four? Ever notice how when people really want to pull a fast one they contend it’s your thinking that has to change?

Here’s the classic dramatic demand people…you simply must suspend your disbelief!

Curtain up, light the lights, step, vault, change. Be very careful not to upstage these grand dams, because if you do, you could land yourself in court or stand helpless as they exit stage right or get digitized out of existence. And if you have to be caught up in these performances be sure to have plenty of eggs and tomatoes on hand and be sure to have your pitching arm ready to go.

[1] See FCC Ex-parte filing, March 17, 2006, Miller Van Eaton.

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