Thursday, August 31, 2006

Topsy Turvy

Irony is such a fabulous thing. I love it when people say or do things that are grist for making fun of them. Especially when those people are seeking to pull a fast one or are absolutely convinced that the nonsense spewing out of their mouths is sacred gospel.

The California State Senate passed out its bill for statewide video franchising which makes the Public Utilities Commission responsible for issuing franchises to our friends at at&t and Verizon. Good news is that unlike other states that have passed similar legislation, this doesn’t take effect until January 1, 2008. It’s a bizarre lag time given that one wouldn’t imagine the bell boys will take up twiddling their thumbs for almost a year and half waiting for their state franchises. Instead, it will be business as usual going community to community. Makes me wonder what that number for local franchises will be on December 31, 2007, especially given that at&t still hasn’t figured out how to do what it says it wants to do.

When pressed at the National Association of Officers and Advisors conference in Orlando last week, a one Mr. Howard Peak, said that at&t had just finished some trials in San Antonio and had some more “testing” to do before they would be ready to roll out there. He speculated that they could be ready by end of year. Then he mentioned they were going to do the same kind of deal in Houston and might be ready for a full blown video service by end of ’07.

He also said, and I quote, in response to how they were going to deliver Public, Educational and Government access programming over their system:

“Our technology is very much evolving for the whole system. It’s a new thing for us, new protocol, new technology. We’re trying to match our capabilities to what they want to do.”

“Evolving,” was said a couple more times.

So for all the brouhaha and the $18 million spent just in California on just one bill (not to mention the $500,000 or so in campaign contributions) there really is no “there” there because “there” is still evolving.

Makes you wonder why the California legislature got their pants on fire and shoved this tripe down the Golden State citizen’s throats. Ooops! I forgot, there was a lot of dinero being spread around.

Megan Taylor of the League of California Cities said their amendments were met with “no” as the legislative offices were instructed to say by at&t. Obviously a puppet act that would make Charlie McCarthy proud.

Then it looks as though the Public Utilities Commission is gonna need to hire some two hundred warm bodies to fill seats up there in San Fran. Working for Commission President Michael Peevey, the new hires will have to sort through all the complaints. Peevey has allowed that the PUC isn’t so stellar in that regard. When asked how they handle the volume of just utility complaints, he said:

“With difficulty. We get besieged.”

When asked about the Commission’s five year long debate on a consumer bill of rights for telecom, Peevey said “A bill of rights is a nice and clever term” and went on to say “I'm intrigued by that, but I'll tell you why I'm doubtful that will work. Some companies could implement certain aspects of it by a date, say May 1, and others couldn't. That was why I dissented on this originally.”

I guess answering the phones, delivering a reliable signal, showing up on time for installations, properly installing the equipment and giving prompt rebates is way too much to ask some companies to do.

Peevey is probably just keen to work for given he holds himself to an exacting standard that rated him an “F-“ from the Utility Consumers Action Network. They noted he doesn’t play well with others and needs constant supervision.

The height of irony in the California bill is, like the others, there are no build out requirements. What makes this wildly amusing is that the upscale Marin and Orange County neighborhoods at&t so eagerly wants to build in will be the recipients of those blight producing, graffiti attracting, DSLAM boxes. Imagine driving your Benz down the driveway of your two million dollar home that you have meticulously landscaped to be aesthetically worthy of a spread in Architectural Digest and sitting right next to your custom designed mail receptacle is a huge white albatross whose only function is to give you and a couple of your neighbors service that is inferior to the cable service you already had without the offensive metallic eyesore.

This may be one of the very rare times poor people have actually made out better than their wealthy counterparts.

My favorite current photo of the boxes is #9 being sported by Light Reading. Here’s the link:

Yes, everybody at all levels of government have done a smashing job of wrapping up the summer. Now they can reward themselves with a few weeks of gleeful campaigning, having conducted a fait accompli in true bipartisan spirit. Kenneth P. McNeely, Western region president for at&t noted that “Today’s Senate vote reaffirms that both Democrat and Republicans alike support the benefits of video competition.”

Makes you wonder, when it comes to corporate giveaways, if it’s even worth going to the polls.

Here's a shout out to all the NATOA and Alliance folks who worked hard to get amendments in the crappy piece of legislation to secure and protect PEG. I am amazed at how far the legislation came and certainly is the result of an effort worthy of enthusiastic applause!

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