Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The "Look"

When my kids were little they were quite adept at reading my facial expressions. Especially that expression that communicated to them that I was not pleased. Today they call it the “look” as in “remember when mom would give you the look?” I believe that moms are uniquely endowed with the “look.” The “look” meant “whatever it is you are doing right now, stop it immediately because I do not approve.” It was unnecessary to accompany the “look” with any verbal communication, the “look” spoke for itself. And it was powerful enough to make them immediately stop in their tracks and slink timidly away from the offending activity.

Since I believe myself to be a master of the “look” I feel it is my duty to give the “look” to some cable and telecommunications companies.

The first “look” goes to Time Warner Cable for attempting to sock it to their customers by rolling out a metered broadband access plan. Particularly aimed at people who watch and download online videos, Time Warner couched their plan as more equitable. According to, the company said that “they wanted to give lower rates to customers who use the Net least and higher rates to those who use it most.” Isn’t that just like Time Warner? Always looking out for the little guy.

“We don’t want to spread our infrastructure and service costs to all users, we’re nice that way!”

Communities began complaining and firing off letters to TW, but it was after Senator Charles Schumer and Representative Eric Massa (both of New York) became involved that Time Warner backed off. There was some mumbling about cherishing their relationship with Schumer and some further mumbling about how they were just misunderstood, that’s all.

CEO Glenn Britt said in a press statement that it was “clear from the public response over the last two weeks that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about our plans to roll out additional tests on consumption based billing."

Mr. Britt, I have a sneaking suspicion that the general public understood your plans quite well and so did I, which is why you are getting the “look.”

My next “look” goes State Senator David Hoyle of North Carolina, a DemoRat and Chairman of the Board of the Citizens South Bank Corporation and a Director at a waste management company in Louisiana. Hoyle is the proud sponsor of a bill in North Carolina that would prevent local governments from building municipal broadband and prevent them from taking any broadband stimulus money.

The reports that the legislation’s impetus may have come from the City of Wilson’s wildly successful muni-run cable service, Greenlight, Inc..

“…the city offers an expanded basic cable (81 channels), 10 Mbps (download and upload), and a digital phone plan with unlimited long distance to the U.S. and Canada, all for $99.95. A comparable plan from Time Warner Inc., with six fewer channels (no Cartoon Network, Disney, The Science Channel, ESPNU, ESPN News, or ESPN Classic) and lower upload speeds costs $137.95, for an introductory rate, which lasts a few months and then will likely be ratcheted up.”

According to DailyTech this was all too much for Time Warner and Embarq so they schmoozed the North Carolina legislature and believe it or not, found a simpatico in Hoyle (the real estate developer, banker and whatever it is you call people who run “waste management” in the South, I know what we call them in the Northeast).

Hoyle! Are you feeling me pal? Yeah, I’m looking at you.

The final “look” (for today) is for anybody and everybody involved in the digital television transition. Nobody seems to have any clear data on the transition’s effect on rural communities, particularly those with terrain. There has been very little to no education that the converter box is not the only piece of equipment people in those communities will need, an antenna, and not just rabbit ears but the big honking kind my daddy used to have up on the roof, is also needed. According to the Daily Yonder, the National Telecommunications and Information Agency has funded digital assistance centers, with most of them being in metropolitan areas with large media markets. The Denver Post reports that as many as two out of five television translators are not going to work.

But, my favorite is this from the Daily Yonder:

“…the FCC discovered in late December that almost 11% of local TV stations across the country are using the digital conversion as an opportunity to change their coverage areas. Stations are focusing their broadcast signals on higher income suburbs, dropping coverage of poorer and more distant rural communities.”

There will be more looks in the future I am sure, I never tire of pointing out rotten behavior. But as of this minute I am worn out from expecting better from people and corporations. My one burning question is: who raised these people?

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