Friday, December 22, 2006

That Cat Is High

It’s funny. That’s how I usually sign off on a letter to somebody when I want to be “pissy.”

“Thank you for your interest in this important matter. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.”

That basically means “Go pound sand,” or “Bite me.”

And there was no warm-fuzzy at the beginning of the letter FCC Chairman Kevin Martin sent to Representative John Dingell regarding the recent “Report and Order” that decimates local cable franchising. You’d think at the least there would have been a holiday greeting. The letter is so curt you know a lawyer wrote it. The tone is quite defensive which is not altogether surprising since Dingell basically was asking “Where do you get off?” Then again, Dingell gave Martin until January 3rd to respond and the Martin response letter was dated the same day as the Order so I suppose somebody had it in the hopper, knowing they would be questioned.

Then there’s the matter of the “Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” which usually happens and is meant to be a pacifier to all you people out there who are appalled. The FCC Three will give you a chance to formally register your objections, but in truth, it’s a done deal, because no matter how you slice it, three beats two any day of the week.

What I find really amusing in the letter from Martin to Dingell is how many times the Brand X decision is cited. That’s the one where cable modem was declared by the FCC not to be a cable service but instead an information service, and therefore not subject to franchise fees. I get the sense, by the repeated citations, that Martin is threatening Dingell, or anybody else who challenges the Order, with a swift trip to the woodshed. Or maybe it’s just a braggard’s ploy, “Hey, we beat you like a red-headed step-child at the Supreme Court on that cable modem thing and we’ll do it again.” Neener, Neenar.

When the Order came down I really didn’t get that excited. I knew the first "order" of business would be to stay the sucker and I knew all my buddies over there on Connecticut Avenue were in rapture over how fun this one was going to be. There’s about a million buckshot for this one. You got the Communications Act. You got your Contract Law. You got that Imminent Domain ruling. There’s a couple Takings cases out there. You got your States’ Rights. I can even see some EO decisions thrown in the mix.

Meanwhile, on the same day the FCC handed down their order, Milwaukee took at&t to court because at&t says it ain’t offering a cable service, it’s offering an internet service and internet ain’t subject to franchising. The at&t guy, Jeff Bentoff, said at&t was all for “revenue sharing” with the city when a cable customer shifts to their product. Well, isn’t that “white” of him?
Once again, San Antonio and Houston were mentioned as the places where at&t has rolled out. A month ago I spent a couple hours putting in twenty San Antonio zip codes and I couldn’t find at&t “U-Verse” service for any of them. Not to mention the Houston “rocket” situation that took out the fence alongside Mabel’s house.

Jonathan Adelstein wrote a strong dissent to what the FCC majority of three have done.
“In crafting an overly broad and aggressive solution, the majority engages in “legal gymnastics” that would only impress an Olympic judge whose vote has been promised before the competition even begins.”

Mmmm…votes promised? How could that happen?

Adelstein even mentioned the Verizon trucks in his neighborhood rolling out the Fios and how he’s hoping he can convince his wife to switch over. I’m perfectly happy to give her a call if you want, Jonathan, but I’ll wager right now she’s a bit appalled over the holes and the mess and the spray paint up and down the sidewalks, so let’s wait a bit. If your neighborhood is anything like mine, it’ll take a while for your neighbor’s grass to look ok again, if ever, and all those street cuts really do add flare, although no appreciation, to the homestead.

I really can’t complain about Verizon, at least they don’t have those stinkin’ whale sized boxes.

So it’s court, court, tort, tort.

Surely Martin knew that or should have known that. But he’s a young guy (happy 40th birthday Kev…sorry I missed it) and he did spend his formative years lobbying for the Bell Boys and who knows, maybe he’s got an early mid-life crisis going on.

Keep your eye on the litigation and stay frosty when Congress starts up. I have a feeling there’s a horse whipping coming.

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