MI: Let the cable wars begin: AT$T takes on Comcast

Posted on February 18, 2008 - 3:10pm.

from: Mlive.com

Let the cable wars begin: AT&T takes on Comcast
Posted by Tom Gantert | The Ann Arbor News February 18, 2008 10:39AM
The Ann Arbor News

For 17 years, Annisa Bowden of Ann Arbor watched cable television on Comcast.

She never thought it was that good of a deal, but shied away from satellite because of reception concerns during inclement weather.

So Comcast ruled. "It was the only thing you can have that was guaranteed even in storms," Bowden said.

But not anymore. Last month, Bowden made the switch to the new AT&T U-verse, a service via the Internet.

It's AT&T's answer to Comcast's cable. U-verse is provided through a fiber network.

Competing TV deals

AT&T U-verse and Comcast are both available now to city of Ann Arbor residents. Here's what each offers for television-only deals:

• U-100: Up to 100 channels for $44 a month.
• U-200: Up to 200 channels for $59 a month.
• U-300: Up to 260 channels for $79 a month.
• U-400: Up to 320 channels for $99 a month.

• Standard cable: $53.49 a month.
• Digital starter: Over 100 channels, promotional offer of $24.99 a month for four months, then $52.98 a month.
• Digitial preferred: Over 145 channels for $70.44 a month.
• Digital premier: Over 145 channels and five premium channels for $108.99 a month.
To provide the service, AT&T installed large utility cabinets throughout the city. Many residents complained last year when the 5-foot-tall boxes appeared on easements in their neighborhoods.

Of course, Comcast has had its own problems. Its plan to move community access channels from 16 through 19 to positions in the 900s drew fire and led to a courtroom battle.

And the company's dispute with the Big Ten collegiate athletic conference left fans unhappy with one or both parties. AT&T carries the Big Ten Network, but at this point Comcast retains a firm hold on the local television market. The franchise fees the companies pay the city provide a barometer of market share.

AT&T's first quarterly payment went to city hall in August. It was for $14. By November, when the next payment came along, it had grown to $1,400. In contrast, the city received $353,000 in August and $326,000 in November from Comcast.

Those dollars are earmarked for the city's Community Television Network, CTN.
AT&T's entry into the market has brought a mixed reaction among city residents contacted for this story.

Ed Schwartz said he knew AT&T's U-Verse was available, but wasn't interested. "I'm satisfied with Comcast," he said.

Jim Skupski said he would look into which company offers a better deal, but was skeptical that competition would lower costs. "Everything is all the same price," he said.

Making comparisons between AT&T and Comcast is difficult because many differing options and packages are available. Comcast and AT&T often combine high-speed Internet access with their TV service, with varying channels in each package.

Tom Gantert can be reached at tgantert@annarbornews.com or 734-994-6701.
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COMMENTS (1)Post a comment
Posted by MacSunset on 02/18/08 at 12:07PM

It will probably be years, if not decades, before there's real competition in the outlying areas - the areas where Charter has picked up significant service.

Until then, we're at the mercy of these gigantic corporations, protected by their contributions to our politicians. Service will lag, choices will lag, prices will continue to increase 10% every year.

It's good to see a competitor begin to get a foothold in Ann Arbor. But I fear the expense of true competition and the power of Charter and Comcast's friends in Washington will quickly reduce this effort to bankruptcy.

Deregulation only works when there isn't a government protected oligopoly in control of the marketplace.

( categories: AT&T | Comcast | MICHIGAN | State Franchises )