Tuesday, April 17, 2007

We Want Choice Ohio Says: How About Some Healthy Competition for Cable Provider Service in Ohio??

Do you get as aggravated over not having a choice in cable companies as I do? At least with high speed cable I had a few choices. But cable TV? If it's Cleveland it's Adelphia er, now, Time Warner. Anyway, I hate the monopoly idea and did not know until a few minutes ago that there was a grassroots non-profit group working on this issue.

We Want Choice Ohio (WWCO). They make good points: competition can increase quality of workmanship, customer service (customer service was one of the main reasons I got rid of my cable TV service back in March). Prices could come down...apparently this has been true in areas where competition was allowed. Competition breeds creativity; creativity could be awesomely cool new features, and maybe - dare I say - less expensive ones.

What's up with Cleveland anyway? Just how long is their contract with Adelphia/Time Warner? Competition was just arriving in Lakewood when I moved back to Cleveland from Lakewood in 2005.

WWCO makes the point that since 1995 cable rates have increased 90 % Nationally and that here in Ohio rates have far outstripped the rates of inflation.

CNET.com did an article this month on a study done by the Univ. of California at Berkeley. They were estimating the kinds of savings that could occur in California alone, once telephone companies were allowed more inroads into the cable provider business. They were estimating a total of 690 million to 1 billion dollars a month for California consumers. Yes, per month! That got me looking at other articles on the competition issue and that led me to WWCO.

We Want Choice has a cool website. They have a 'take action' section. You can contact your elected officials. That's a great choice but the one I like is writing letters to local newspapers. They even have suggestions for things to mention in a letter if you need help.

One of the mantras here on this blog is jobs jobs and more jobs...can we have them please. Well, competition among cable companies would bring jobs for the laying of the cable as well as customer service, etc. Many good points on this website, check it out and see if there isn't a 'take action' item you might want to put into practice. The squeaky wheel, especially if we made it a lot of squeaks and not just a few, could get some results! Peace Out - 3C

April 18th update: A shout out to George Nemeth for pointing me to the fact that WWCO may be a non profit financed by AT&T and others with a vested interest. While I think they have the right to lobby us, I would prefer they do it openly and not disguised as a grassroots consumer group. Now for sure the phone company will not be my 'other option of choice' (not that they were anyway). Go to George's comment below to read more.


George Nemeth said...

see this post from Bill Callahan.

Cleveland Carole Cohen 3C said...

Okay so that was fascinating. In other words, the reason they use the phone companies as viable alternatives to what we have is because this group is paid by them? That sucks! I appreciate your pointing that out.

Gene Molloy said...

It's happening all over Carole. AT&T has been outed here in the Chicagoland area by authentic grassroots organizations. If I had time to veg out in front of the TV I might just be verrrrrrrry concerned.

Cleveland Carole Cohen 3C said...

I have to admit Gene it was a tad amusing to be duped lol. I have not missed my cable service since I deep sixed it for the same reason you mention...no time! We hae a Meet The Bloggrs event this Friday that focuses on the Senate Bill concerning this issue and as long as I don't have a house inspection that day I will be there!

Bonnie Erickson said...

My specific neighborhood in St. Paul has terrible cable TV service. I am told the cable companies have divided the city into segments and there's an informal non-compete agreement among them. As it happens, they all use the same cable which on my block is broken and shows severe arcing when it rains. We can actually hear the snapping inside when it happens. Multiple reports from all the neighbors to the cable company have fallen on deaf ears. I truly think competition would give incentive to improve the service.

Cleveland Carole Cohen 3C said...

That sounds like a royal pain in the you know what Bonnie. Competition would definitely help. Of course since the organization I featured here is a wolf in sheep's clothing (the phone companies) I would prefer 'true' competition lol. I would call the City of St. Paul or your Councilperson if I were you.

Maureen said...

Dang, I just stopped by to tell you you were had, and everyone beat me to it!

Bill Callahan said...


Setting aside the pain of getting momentarily snookered by astroturf, the key question you should ask about the "cable competition" campaign is this: What's stopping it from happening right now?

You pointed out that Lakewood already has a video services agreement with AT&T, in addition to Cox. So do Kent and Willowick, among others. Mentor just signed one. Westlake, Rocky River, Fairview and Orange have been talking with AT&T for months.

The fact is, exclusive local franchises have been against Ohio law for many years, and most cities would just love to get a second video provider (or third, in the case of Columbus). But they want the standard cable rules to apply: citywide service, standard franchise fees and public access provisions, city authority over public right-of-way issues like "big box" placement. AT&T doesn't want to deal with local governments on this stuff, so they're pushing statewide "video authorization" bills like SB 117 all over the U.S. And where there's a bill, there's a fake "consumer organization" calling for "cable choice" on TV.

At MTB Friday, Matt Zone told us that he was approached by AT&T about this legislation at the end of 2005! But AT&T didn't make its first approaches to Ohio cities to seek "video service" agreements (i.e. franchises) till the first half of 2006; the first one was approved by Grove City last May. At that point AT&T was already pushing a national franchising bill in Congress.

I'm pretty sure that AT&T has never asked the City of Cleveland for a franchise to compete with Time Warner. (Incidentally, Time Warner's franchise formally ended last September; they're operating under a "continuing service" provision right now.) And I believe they never will, if such a franchise means they'd have to build out their service to the entire city. So instead, they're trying to pass a bill that would lift that obligation -- and all other local franchise requirements -- from Time Warner as well as themselves.

Then, maybe, they'll consider "competing."

Cleveland Carole Cohen 3C said...

Hi Bill, this is kind of cosmic...I was posting another post on SB117 as you were writing here I think! I hope people read your post about the issue. I agree completely, each community has the ability to provide competition. I imagine it is up to us 'residents' to go to our elected officials and ask for more choices. Turning it over to Ohio makes no sense. I was so disappointed to not be able to attend the round table MTB on this but the podcast can help all of us understand it.

Personally, getting snookered would be if we passed it and did not know what it was all about. I thank you for stopping by. And for helping clarify the issue.