Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Aerial Antics

I once had a drama teacher who told me that in comedy, timing is everything. Which is why I find Verizon’s antics so amusing. It’s that perfect sense of timing they possess.

Three days after the House passed their nefarious COPE bill, a group of us went to the Hill to talk to a Senate office. When I came home, my husband took me out into the driveway, pointed upward and said “Look.” Above my head, swinging like a Wallenda, was Verizon cable strung through the trees. Not just one tree mind you, but coming from a box two doors down, snaking through the trees around to the side of my neighbor’s house. Maybe 400 or so feet of cable suspended twenty five feet in the air, gently ever so gently.

The origination point, two doors down, came up out of the Verizon box, laid sloppily on the sidewalk and began its momentous ascent up a small tree where it was secured with black electrical tape. The aerial “install” had happened three days earlier but we hadn’t noticed it until my husband almost tripped on the cable while walking the dog.

At first I stared in disbelief. Then I howled with laughter. There were so many elements to be found amusing, among them the infamous use of black electrical tape. How many times have I been in conversation with regulators and the subject of Verizon’s use of black electrical tape comes up.

Cut an incumbent’s cable? Splice it with black electrical tape.

Cut a gas line? Wrap it with black electrical tape.

Their prolific use of black electrical tape makes me think somebody at Verizon must have found an irresistible deal at Sam’s Club.

More amusing was that only a couple hours earlier at the Senator’s office, person after person relayed various violations committed during Verizon’s deployment, including leaving open trenches that resulted in injury to both man and beast. And here I was staring at exactly what we had been talking about, the central reason behind the need to retain local control of franchising.

Lest the incumbents are feeling smug, farther down my street is a Comcast cable about 100 feet long that has been laying in the gutter for over six months. The boxes are not closed and even though Comcast covered the cable that crosses the sidewalk with a rubber strip, it’s beginning to come up and poses a hazard to dog walkers, skateboarders and children on tricycles.

While talking to my neighbor whose tree has been decorated with the cable and tape, she tells me another story perhaps more shocking. Seems the Verizon people came around after they did the initial install going door to door to drum up business. She told the man that she didn’t make such decisions without consulting her husband and that her husband was in another state attending to his dying father. The Verizon guy looked at her and asked “How long will that take?”

Needless to say Comcast won’t be losing a customer.

So what happens now with national franchising? We all get to go to the FCC to complain. I recently called the FCC about a cable modem complaint, was told they don’t regulate cable modem and my only recourse should the operator not fix the problem was to hire a lawyer.

I don’t mind hiring a lawyer for things like property disputes, divorces or copyright infringement, but it seems weird to hire a lawyer because I can’t get the cable operator to remove a couple bucks off my bill or make sure I can get my HDTV.

The cable is still swinging gracefully in the elms and the oaks and the pine trees. I’ll be making phone calls today to see how to get this resolved. Either that or I guess I could figure out some way to string lights on it to bring a bit of festivity to the neighborhood.

See for yourself pics of the lovely trees!

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