April 11, 2007
Guard Your Local Cable Franchise Like Itís Your Remote
I want competition as much as the next guy, but not at this cost
I noticed the ads for ďcableĒ first. Cable is great, they preened. I scratched my head, and flipped to a different cable channel. Itís not a new concept. So why the big advertising buy? Why now? Some time before I started seeing opposing spots, for ďthe new AT&T,Ē I read about legislation that would introduce the beautiful Tennessee countryside ó all of it ó to hi-speed internet. Hmm. Expand broadband access. Uncle Cable and Ms. Bell duel in the public square. Slowly, and with generous assistance from folks like R. Neal at KnoxViews.com, these ideas began to connect.
In the intervening two or so months, a piece of legislation that would make cable franchises statewide has seen a modest increase in media coverage, and surely no abatement in the ad war over its perceived impacts. Hopefully Iím not bringing up something new. However, I still sense that the urge to act on this issue is rather sparsely distributed among us ó and, like Mr. Neal, that the importance of broadband access rivals that of most major 20th-century technological expansions.
This all could have started somewhere around the second half of the previous decade; however, the market hadnít matured as rapidly as had some of the technology. That has now changed. There are considerably fewer people who canít turn on a computer today than there were in 1995. Now that mergers and acquisitions have streamlined the revenue, and Granny wants a MySpace page, there is real money ahead, and the cable and telephone industries are locked in a fierce struggle over the profits.
With whose side should the average consumer align? Which of these monoliths has your interests in mind? I think there is a clear answer to the first question, but it has nothing to do with the probable answer to the second. We get there by asking ďwho else wants the same thing?Ē AT&T seems to be by itself. Cable, on the other hand, has wide support among local governments across the state, op-ed authors, and citizen journalists. Iíve lost count of the number of resolutions passed by counties and municipalities against a statewide franchise, because it strips their ability to ensure distribution and infrastructure as seen fit locally. Many have snickered about the revenue angle; but all you have to do is tell me that PEG broadcasts (er, thatís Public, Education and Government, like cable channel 3 here) are threatened, not to mention that service quality standards would be loosened (gasp), to get me on the hunt for this beast.
I hope youíve contacted your Representative and Senator about this as well. The other thing to keep in mind is that committees determine the destiny of a bill pretty early on. The Senate version of the anti-local control bill (SB1933) is on the calendar this week in the Commerce, Labor & Agriculture Committee. Since the scheduled hearing precedes our publication date, I wonít list the specific Senators that committee comprises here. I do encourage readers to find out the current status of SB1933 and its House companion, HB1421; and, unless the proposals have been successfully dispatched, directly engage the General Assembly with your input to whatever forum will hear them next.
[Cross-posted from the Pulse.]
Pulsations | By joe lance | 12:26 PM