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WI: Cable: Point/Counterpoint

By saveaccess
Created 05/04/2007 - 11:25pm

Alas, objective and critical thinking always lands one a leftist label. Fortunately, we're accustomed to that when we venture into the dark side of american political discourse and the media industrial comlplex.

from: Spring City Chronicle [1]

Cable: Point/Counterpoint
Thursday, May 3rd, 2007...10:19 am

State Representative Rich Zipperer [2] says,

“Competition in the marketplace is a staple of our economy. The ability of the average consumer to take his business wherever he can get the best quality for the best price ensures constant innovation. While most of our economy has flourished under this model, a few industries, such as cable TV, have been largely immune to true competition due to limits in technology and government regulations. Finally, though, new technology and a bill in the state Legislature provide the opportunity to change that.

Everyone who purchases cable television knows the price is too high, and it takes a big chunk of our family budgets. One of the main reasons for these soaring costs is arcane regulations in Wisconsin that prevent new companies from offering an alternative to the current available television choices. While companies are now able to offer television service through new technologies, such as through phone wires, Wisconsin still operates under outdated regulations put in place in the 1970s and ’80s, a time when traditional cable television was the only way to receive service beyond the over-theair broadcast stations.

It’s time for Wisconsin law to be updated, just as we’ve all updated our cars, computers and cell phones over the last 20 years. Without government regulations getting in the way, our video service would improve through lower costs, increased service and potentially a greater television product in the future. Take the wireless phone industry as an example. Without artificial barriers to competition, cell phone companies have adapted and changed to meet the demands of consumers, providing greater choice, less expensive calling plans, improved technologies and improved customer service. The days of clunky cell phones the size of bricks are long gone due to competition and innovation.

Every day the obstructionist Democrats hold up this bill delays cost savings for consumers. A one-year delay of the bill is estimated to cost consumers $149 million. If the bill is delayed for five years, the estimated loss to Wisconsin consumers is $660 million. If we can save consumers that amount of money and at the same time increase access, service and competition and pump millions into the Wisconsin economy as companies expand and improve their infrastructure, I say it’s time to act.”

Meanwhile, commenter Michael says,

“Well, first of all the competition myth likely won’t lower prices. This just hasn’t happened in any state where state franchising has already passed. Duopolies never reduce pricing - and generally only fix them.

Second, your municipality will have no say over the use of public rights of way, resolving of consumer complaints, or oversight/enforcement of build-out to prevent the red-lining of portions of your community.

If you even can receive the service, you might notice the loss of the public, educational and governmental channels - these will be severely defunded or eliminated under the planned WI franchise.

Finally, AT&T’s U-verse has had a terrible roll-out so far with hulking telco boxes are landing in people’s front yards, exploding ones in some cases. The service is buggy (software by Microsoft) and inferior to cable and Verizon’s FIOS offering.

So, what does the consumer get? A choice between the same channel offerings at the current price (sans PEG). Meanwhile, the telco and cable companies are relieved of many public interest obligations and your elected reps get some hefty campaign donations. Good deal - eh?”

Michael gives his website as which is hosted by a leftist website ( which serves non-profits). I don’t understand, therefore why the union person at my door last Saturday had a sign saying “Stop Time Warner”. Since unions are notoriously lefty, are the unions split on this issue as well? I wish that lady would come back. In any case, I find that my initial decision to support the bill was intuitively well-founded.

Update: Confusing things even more, the chairman of Wisconsin’s Democratic party registers as an ATT lobbyist. Now I don’t know which side I’m on. A conservative Republican assemblyman and a Democratic party leader on the same side.


Filed under Palaver

May 3rd, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Alas, I’ve been outed as a leftist, though I have to say that PEG is really a first amendment issue that is about protecting everybody’s right to speech. Leftists often take unpopular positions - like protecting the freedom of speech of their opponents.

Anyway - as far as the CWA. It’s simple, telephone companies are union shops - cable companies aren’t. To expand and protect union jobs the CWA wants the telcos to have the edge on cable. Telcos are really murdering the unions, but this position gives the CWA leverage.

The CWA national shamelessly supported the recent FCC decision on video franchising and they’ve supported virtually all the really terrible state video franchise legislation. They even supported the AT&T/Bell South merger. Go to the CWA web site or their ’speedmatters’ campaign site and you’ll see that they have very strong public interest principles on paper. Reality, at least for the union’s national office, is quite different. More here:

WI: CWA switches teams - backs AT$T in state franchising

Big Telecom Screws CWA, Everyone Else

CWA: A Free Internet Splits Labor

Hope that helps - just remember when there’s big money involved - nothing is as it seems . . .

May 3rd, 2007 at 9:34 pm


A few more comments. First, cable rates were deregulated in the Telecom Act of ‘96 (Clinton Whitehouse, Republican Congress), the rate increases went into effect later in ‘98. Do the math - all the studies used by the telcos to further their case cite the rate increases in the last ten years. What they don’t say, is that they have been able to offer the same video services since 1993 (after the FCC video dialtone ruling).

Only municipalities maintain some control over rates, but once a second provider enters the market, the FCC can remove this local control (which they have done as telcos have received franchises around the country). At this point prices are free to rise at the discretion of the companies involved - prices drops simply do not occur. In fact, the only cases where there is true competition and rate decreases have been the few cities where there is municipal funded broadband/cable.

Finally, I don’t know where your 148 million figure came from. But if it’s from the Heartland Institute, the Freedom Works Foundation or many of the other ‘free market’ think tanks weighing in on this issue, I encourage you to check their donor lists. This ‘independent’ research so often cited in the press and elsewhere is actually funded by the telephone companies. This is where truth diverges from reality - it’s not a partisan issue, just plain old dishonest politics.

You seem to be a genuine representative willing to weigh issues carefully. Check the background and I think you’ll see this issue is not what it first seems. Yes, people want cheaper TV services - but don’t we also want them to have non-commercial television that encourages them to participate in their communities as citizens? Don’t we want our children to have real educational channels that are local? And finally, shouldn’t the community organizations that serve our communities have an outlet on these local channels? This is PEG - and it’s what the Wisconsin legislation will eliminate entirely.

take care,


Huckleberry Dumbell, Chief Skeptic
May 4th, 2007 at 2:48 pm

Thanks for your explanation. Hope you feel like dropping by to read again.

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