Monday, June 13, 2005

Senator Vitter gets no (public) response on municipal broadband

A big thanks to Doug over at LUSFTTH for catching this one which was buried in a "day in the life" piece about Senator Vitter in the Advertiser this Sunday. Here is the snippet about Vitter's meeting with the cable guys. There is a list of things to bear in mind as background in reading this snippet:
  • Vitter represents the entire state. He makes his home in Metairie.
  • New Orleans has recently been mentioned as the next candidate for a Lafayette-style municipal telecom utility.
  • Vitter endorsed the fiber optic initiative during his election campaign.
  • Gary Cassard is the head Cox guy in Lafayette.
  • Tim Tippet is the public affairs officer—the guy who deals with municipalities—of the Cox division that includes Lafayette but not New Orleans or Baton Rouge.
  • Lafayette is about a month away from a referendum that—prior to the anticipated misinformation media campaign by the incumbents—looks set to pass in Lafayette.
  • "Open agenda" doesn't mean that the folks who requested a meeting with a federal senator don't know what they want to talk about. It means they don't want what they plan to talk about published in the senator's daily agenda.
  • Representative Sessions of Texas has introduced a bill that would have the federal government take away the power of any local government to start a telecom utility.
Now it might not be apparent to everyone that a little talk about Lafayette and municipal franchises more generally might have been part of the not-published agenda of this meeting. But it seems pretty likely to me. Oh yes, two more bullet points to bear in mind when reading this snippet:
  • Vitter showed up at the meeting with a reporter in tow who was doing a "day in the life of" piece for the daily paper in Lafayette. Vitter's conservative voting base was more likely to read about their new Senator's day in that paper than other readers.
  • That daily paper has endorsed the fiber optic initiative in a string of stinging editorials.
Now, take a look at this snippet and tell me what you think.
At 4:05 p.m., Vitter joined one of his last meetings in one of his office's conference rooms with representatives from Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable. Gary Cassard, from Lafayette, Cox's regional vice president of operations, Cheryl Rummel, president of Time Warner in Shreveport and Tim Tippet, from Tyler, Texas, vice president of public affairs and government relations for Cox Communications wore nametags as attendees to the Key Contact Conference 2005. Their agenda with Vitter was open.

Vitter brought up the issue of television decency and said that 'the divide between network and cable doesn't make a whole lot of sense to people.' Before Vitter entered the room, Tippet had said that the decency issue had moved to the 'back burner,' but once the senator brought up the issue, it was quickly moved to the front burner.

As the meeting was drawing to a close, Tippet asked Vitter if there was anything else he wanted to discuss. Vitter brought up the issue of municipally owned utilities 'like in Lafayette.' Tippet said that he preferred to talk about the utilities issue at another time. The meeting adjourned at 4:25 p.m.
I think the conversation would have been entirely different if the reporter hadn't been in the room. And I think that Tippet, the Cox VP from Tyler, Texas, will indeed make the effort to "talk about the utilities issue at another time."

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