Saturday, September 06, 2008

TV4US Astroturfing Alexandria

This is rich. TV4US, the telco astroturf organization that promoted the recent statewide video law is now back with the same tired "If you disagree with AT&T running roughshod over local communities you are against competition" nonsense.

A "your mail" letter to the editor from TV4US's Lizanne Sadlier in the Alexandria Town Talk claims that "Some cities are now saying that the Consumer Choice for Television Act, passed overwhelmingly by the Louisiana legislature and signed by Gov. Jindal, is not good for us." (The "us" Ms Sadlier is referring to is unclear; maybe its those of "us" who live near her up in her Arlington, VA suburb of Washington, DC?—a point raised in a sharp post at CenLamar.)

What Alexandria, the Louisiana Municipal League, and the Police Juries are actually saying (in a lawsuit) is not so much that AT&T got the legislators to enact a law that stripped communities of control of local property for the benefit of their corporation but that the legislators voided constitutionally protected, long-standing contracts the cable companies had long had with local communities. Alexandria is merely the first city to face the consequences of cable companies benefiting "Consumer Choice" Act—which as in North Carolina does NOT include competition. The practical consequence is that the cable companies that TV4US and similar astroturf organizations rhetorically attack in order to get laws passed are the actual beneficiaries; they get to ignore local property rights and do exactly as they please. In Alex that has meant suddenly dropping ongoing negotiations with the city to find out why the cable company was not keeping its promise to open a customer service center. Apparently since the city no longer controls the property they need to sell their product, why bother with them or even return their calls?

Oh, and that competition thing TV4US and AT&T say justified their manipulation of state law? Savvy watchers will note that since that law passed here there has been NO (count 'em, zero) new instances of competition from the telephone companies.

What is going on in Alex is, of course, just the same sort of sleight of hand that went on in North Carolina: the telcos get a law passed that is supposed to "enable" a competition that was perfectly possible without it and then, shock, no additional competition appears. But the cable companies immediately start exploiting their new privileges to shortchange local communities. A little bait and switch?

Getting a little attention from a faux "grassroots" organization for sticking up for local rights should be a badge of honor. Good for you, Alexandria

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