Sunday, October 22, 2006

Internet Video v. Cable--It's the Money, Honey

If you think for five seconds that ATT's proposed internet video offering is going to happen quickly...

Think again.

Your municipality wants some money. In fact, they want a LOT of money. They already get that from the cable companies. In return, the municipals provide "protection" for the cable companies. Think of Milk Carton Tommy with a violin case.

Local officials are debating whether AT&T Corp.'s planned Internet video service would interfere with cable TV franchises that now reap millions of dollars for municipal treasuries. It's part of a nationwide struggle between telecommunications giants that is already being fought in Congress and over the airwaves, and that is swiftly working its way into city and village halls, state legislatures and perhaps the courts.

Interesting phrase there: "would interfere with"...

Here's the trick the municipalities are playing with:

A Washington, D.C., law firm has given Milwaukee city officials a legal opinion that says U-Verse [the AT&T video offering] would meet city ordinances' definition of cable television service, the "one-way transmission of video programming or other programming services," Leonhardt says.

How MUCH money?

Time Warner Cable is paying Milwaukee $3.7 million this year, rising to $3.8 million next year, said Patrick Curley, Mayor Tom Barrett's chief of staff.

Of course, if AT&T provides better services for less money, then Time Warner loses subscribers. When that happens, Time-Warner's "contribution" to the City's coffers goes down, down, down.

How can the City stop AT&T? One way: make their equipment installations illegal:

Unlike satellite television or streaming video, however, U-Verse uses the public right-of-way, and lots of it, Curley said. Project Lightspeed has already started installing metal boxes more than 5 feet high near curbs and alleys and in boulevard medians in Milwaukee and elsewhere, to provide interfaces between fiber-optic cables and copper telephone wires, Bentoff said. Each box is expected to serve 300 to 400 homes.

Local officials fear the boxes could be unsightly and might block drivers' view of pedestrians and other cars. Downtown Ald. Bob Bauman has introduced an ordinance to give aldermen limited veto rights over boxes in their districts. Kenosha has slapped a one-year moratorium on the boxes.

Bentoff said AT&T has the right to install the boxes, under the laws governing telephone poles.

Can the municipalities get their pound of flesh? Will Gary Grunau's Time Warner cable monlith become yesterday's news and wither away? Will AT&T, with its "more service for less money" promise, prevail?

Will YOU get better service for less?

Not if the municipalities have their way. They LOVE 'hidden-tax' revenues, which is exactly what the cable companies give them in return for 'protection.' And your Gummint will fight tooth and nail to keep the money.

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