empires, war and peace, life and death
Expanded from the 4-6-2003 Daily
Sparks, Nev., Tribune
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. As regular readers know, I have recently been busy down at the ledge fighting for cable TV consumers. Last month, Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, introduced Senate Bill 278, which would reauthorize municipalities to provide cable service. Authority to take over the local system should the provider default was written into the current Charter Cable franchise with the City of Reno back in 1988. But the cable bandidos went to the legislature in 1997 and got that provision made illegal.
Ratepayers engage the industry all across the nation
I have yet to find a reason in the record as to why the 1997 legislation was needed. However, just a few months after the law went into effect, Cox Cable purchased the powerful Greenspun family's majority interest in the Las Vegas area cable system for $1.325 billion.
The only cutout in the current law is for small communities, largely because the City of Fallon, which owns the local phone company, wanted to preserve the option of providing cable services to its residents and recently began. The rate differences, especially for full service, are spectacular. Go to <http://www.cccomm.net> and see for yourself.
I suggested SB 278 because the City of Reno's recently published $53,903.69 study came loaded with red flags about potential problems proceeding from Charter Cable's serious financial difficulties. Needless to say, the cable companies tried to paint the bill as some form of neo-communism and governmental interference with the free enterprise system. But there's nothing sacrosanct about a government granted deregulated monopoly. (Charter admits to owning 61 percent of the business in the northern Nevada market, monopolistic control under anyone's definition. Satellite and closed-circuit TV, like Quadravision, have about 20 percent of a still uncompetitive situation.)
and Smoking Guns
TOLJASO DEPT. Charter and Cox anti-consumer legislation comes back to bite Nevada ratepayers in the ass. (3-28-2006 update)
Legislative power plays intensify
BARBWIRE April 13, 2003
Reality TV A government meeting about Reno's cable franchise gets too hot for television
Reno News & Review April 10, 2003
City of Reno lifts censorship of cable panel TV program
Reno Gazette-Journal April 6, 2003
Cox Cable jacks up Las Vegas Valley consumer rates
Cable industry move to impose tax on satellite competitors revealed
Officials oppose public access channel
because Las Vegas community morality standard is too low
Las Vegas Review-Journal March 26, 2003
Charter and Cox execs have tried to paint SB 278 as a nefarious scheme opening the way for governments to go into the cable business. I'd love to see it, but it can't be done save for the rare Fallon exception. Building a competitive system in the Truckee Meadows would make Reno's railroad trench look cheap.
So what's the typical corporate reaction when competition rears its ugly head? Stomp it out. On Wednesday morning,* Sen. Randolph Townsend's, R-Reno, commerce and labor committee will hear Senate Bill 429, the direct opposite of Sen. Neal's bill. It would further limit community options and put Fallon out of the cable business altogether. The bill would reduce from 50,000 to 30,000 the size of a county which could provide cable service. Last year, the state demographer estimated Churchill's population as 25,116. Which means the county will have to sell out to Charter in the near future, with a commensurate huge rate increase.
CABLE PILLAGE, PART DEUX. On Tuesday afternoon, the state senate taxation committee, chaired by Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, will hear Senate Bill 492, a cable industry-backed bill to add a five percent tax to satellite and closed-circuit TV services. All in the name of fair competition, of course. The proposed protective tariff would equal the current five percent franchise fee paid to local governments for use of their rights of way. Over-the-air programmers need no such services and thus pass through no such fees to ratepayers. Which just ticks off the cable monopolists. This one promises a lotta laughs. Links to lawmakers and more info at DecidingFactors.tv.
PEACE IN THE FAMILY. City of Reno lawyers have cleared the first televised meeting of the Citizens Cable Compliance Committee for rebroadcast on Sierra Nevada Community Access Television (SNCAT) Channel 13. As I noted last Sunday, after the original live cablecast on March 27, city staff ordered it pulled from the schedule. I chaired the meeting and have yet to be informed as to their objections, but apparently a review of the tape has allowed cooler heads to prevail.I have received nothing but positive comments about the program all the way from Reno to Fallon. You'll have the opportunity to judge for yourself in the next week or so. Watch this column and DecidingFactors.tv.
WAR AND PEACE. The City of Sparks is sponsoring a "support the troops" event today. Attendees would do well to remember war historian Gwynn Dyer's mid-1980s remark: "The purpose of a soldier is not to fight. The purpose of a soldier is to die." Politicians, as always, make pawns of our people.
My position on war remains as it has always been: I'm pro-life. The best support of the troops lies in ending this jingoistic madness and bringing the troops home alive.
A town hall on the Iraq War will be held at Reno City Hall tomorrow night from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. "Community leaders and concerned citizens of all viewpoints are invited to meet in council chambers to discuss the war in Iraq in a non-confrontational format," stated an announcement from the organizers, who add that they "hope to stimulate thoughtful debate about the ongoing conflict in Iraq, possible outcomes and settlements of the war and the future of American international relations."
The city will not allow SNCAT to record or cablecast the event, a policy I intend to ask the city to revisit. Event organizers will allow anyone four minutes to speak from any perspective. I hope for civil discourse. Alas, very few people will be able to see it unless it is recorded for broadcast.
The organizers need several digital videographers (Hi-8 format at least) to record the speakers. If you can help starting at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow, call Patricia Axelrod at (775) 787-8528 or Micki Lewis at (775) 225-4539.
LIFE AND DEATH. "Four out of five of the deaths (in road) work zones are of the motorists," stated a Douglas County Record-Courier editorial last week.
"Seven work zone crashes occurred in Nevada in 2001 resulting in seven deaths, according to the Office of Traffic Safety. Five of those were either drivers or passengers. All would still be alive if an over-hurried motorist had just slowed down. Sponsors of National Work Zone Awareness Week (April 6-12) hope drivers will hear their message: 'don't add to the numbers -- stay alert and obey the speed limit.'
"It sounds like a no-brainer," editor Sally Taylor wrote, "so, why are so many people still dying?"
For the answer, see "The Flagger Moms of Orange Cone Hell" at NevadaLabor.com. And be careful out there.
Be well. Raise hell.
* On Monday, April 7, the day after this column was published, the hearing on SB 429 was moved from Tuesday to Wednesday, 4-9-2003.
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Copyright © 2003-06 Andrew Barbano
Andrew Barbano is a 34-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org. He hosts Deciding Factors on several Nevada television stations. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.
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