Bandwidth bandidos
Expanded from the 7-29-2007 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune

Updated 8-5-2007, 8-8-2007

"In a world filled with little men and big machines, the only way to win is to build a bigger machine."
– Donald Duck's Uncle Scrooge c. 1957

Some of the best political satire ever written came out of Disney's comic book division half a century ago. I can't believe that Uncle Walt didn't know what his boys were doing, but he apparently gave them complete freedom to get away with stuff that would have intimidated President Eisenhower, Joseph Welch and Edward R. Murrow during the heyday of Joe McCarthy's red scare mass hysteria.

Somehow, 'toons could fly under the radar. Little did they realize what damage was being done to young minds like mine. Thank God.

As legendary animator Bob Clampett noted in the 1975 retrospective Bugs Bunny Superstar, the censors never noticed that Porky Pig wore no pants.

The emperor was undressed many times by Disney's toonmeisters and nobody but us kids paid attention. And remembered.

School Board Agenda

(15 Min. Presentation)

Kirk Turner Senior Director, Information Technology
Linda McKeand, Purchasing Supervisor

RECOMMENDATION: That the Board of Trustees reject the appeal of AT&T with respect to the District’s recommendation of the award of a three year contract in the amount of $2,732,392 to Charter Communications as the preferred vendor to provide upgraded wide area network capability to the District.

School District Staff Report

Uncle Scrooge's advice about a big machine being needed to fight a big machine will be tested this Tuesday afternoon before the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees.

Charter Communications has apparently come in with a low bid to provide telecom services to all 110 school district locations. It remains to be seen just how Charter plans to service remote Gerlach where it has no cable system. (Smoke signals from the Burning Man on the nearby Black Rock Desert perhaps?)

AT&T is planning to show up with guns a'blazing.

The company and its union, Communications Workers of America Local 9413, plan to raise serious questions about the bidding process.

First and foremost is a scenario right out of the revolving door of Pentagon contracting. A guy who worked for the school district and played a role in developing the bid specs went to work for Charter.

The decision is supposed to be made from points awarded by a committee of six, three from school district staff and three from outside – the information technology directors of the Nevada System of Higher Education and the cities of Reno and Sparks.

An interesting pattern developed when the scores were published: the district staffers tended to downgrade AT&T while the three non-district employees generally rated Ma Bell's bid much higher.

Charter apparently didn't underbid AT&T by much, but an old shell game may be in play: underbid now, get the job, say circumstances have changed and move in for expensive change orders.

One area of concern will be asbestos control. Charter has committed to absorb all costs associated with asbestos problems, the equivalent of buying a used car sight unseen. Many of the district's older facilities are shot through with the dangerous carcinogen.

School district officials have reportedly refused to meet with AT&T about the asbestos issue.

Charter's longstanding reputation for cutting corners seems not to bother school district staff. In my three years on the City of Reno Citizens Cable Compliance Committee, I uncovered many Charter horror stories. One of the worst involved Charter service techs being forced to cannibalize used parts from one house to make repairs on another. (Charter's financial problems remain legendary.)

Watch the board meeting live
(Windows Streaming Video format)

Rerun times on SNCAT
Charter Cable Channel 17
(Reno-Sparks-Washoe County)
Saturdays:  8:30 p.m.
Mondays:  9:00 p.m.
Tuesdays: 7:00 a.m.

School Board contact info
School Board e-mail

Charter uses a lot of freelance subcontractors for its service work as opposed to AT&T's staff of longtime union journeymen.

I called Reno City Hall on Friday and asked for current information on Charter outages and service complaints. Staffers told me I could have the info in about a week. It appears that my warnings have come true. Right after the Reno City Council was greased into giving Charter an ill-advised 15-year franchise renewal, the city has reverted to its asleep-at-the-switch posture.

The McNeely administration tried twice to kill the cable committee. We beat the city manager both times, but after the council killed my reappointment in 2005, the citizens committee never met again.

Consumers will be in real danger if Charter succeeds in skating the huge school district contract from AT&T. It will allow Charter to proliferate its system at public expense.

The meeting starts at 3:00 p.m. at the school district building, 425 E. Ninth Street in Reno. If you are afflicted with Charter cable, like me, you may view the proceedings live on digital channel 200. The re-run schedule will be linked to the web edition of this column.

Readers of this newspaper know that no one has been a bigger critic of both Charter and AT&T whenever I have caught them doing something anti-competitive. I've built two websites to prove it. (Go to ReSurge.tv or BarbanoMedia.com.)


With Barbara Clark dissenting, the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees voted to grant Charter Communications a three-year wide area network contract with options to renew.

The Empire Strikes Back
BARBWIRE 8-5-2007

School board rejects
AT&T appeal

Sparks Tribune 8-1-2007

My concern, as always, lies with those who will pay – consumers, students, taxpayers and, of course, AT&T workers.

This time, Ma Bell has a helluva story to tell.

MORE MEDIA MEANDERINGS. Earlier this year, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada began raising money for a non-profit radio station.

Now, Sierra Nevada Community Access Television is getting into the act, finally moving forward on a long-discussed radio spinoff.

Notwithstanding its call letters as KJIVe, I don't think it will specialize in jazz or FOX noise network programming. The movers and shakers are having two meetings this week according to a memo I received from Sarah Peters: High Sierra Community Radio, in association with SNCAT and Truckee Meadows Community College, is looking for volunteers to assist with its Internet (and soon-to-be FM) radio station in on-air, support or sales capacities. The format is eclectic and experience in not necessary. We will train you. To find out more about volunteer opportunities at KJIV, please attend a one-hour orientation meeting, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 5:30 p.m. or Saturday, Aug. 4 at 7:00 p.m. in the Reno SNCAT offices, 4024 Kietzke Lane (at Peckham). For more information, call (775) 828-1211.

SELF-CONGRATULATION DEPT. Spoiling for a good fight and not having anything better to do a few weeks ago, I launched the best web handle of my checkered career. I understand that the usual suspects at Reno City Hall have taken the expected unenlightened umbrage. For the latest in corporate welfare kicks, click on cabellyup.com.

MORE CONGRATULATIONS: To longtime KOLO TV-8 anchor Tad Dunbar on the occasion of his Friday retirement, and to former Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, on the occasion of his 72nd birthday, yesterday.

You done good, gentlemen.

Be well. Raise hell.


The Dean's List

   The Dean of Reno Bloggers could very well be Andrew Barbano, self-described "fighter of public demons," who started putting his "Barbwire" columns online in 1996 and now runs 10 sites.

      RENO NEWS & REVIEW, 11-9-2006

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Copyright © 1982-2007 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 38-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org and a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO. He served on the SNCAT founding board in 1990-91. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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