By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Revenge of the nerds

Paul McMorrow’s Weekly Dig account of yesterday’s Statehouse hearing on Verizon’s bid to do away with local regulation of cable television franchises is so entertaining that I’ll forgive him for deriding “local legislators and cable access nerds” as guys who wear “pants from Kohl’s.” Even though I’ve been known to wear pants from Kohl’s. (Not today, though. They’re from Bob’s.)

What undermines it, unfortunately, is characteristic Dig cynicism. To wit:

At the heart of it, this is a battle between two mega-corporations — Verizon and Comcast — over who gets to have a near-monopoly where. Comcast is fighting the legislation, and is reportedly helping to fund a massive, Yay local! ad effort to defeat it. Verizon, pissed that Comcast is muscling in on its phone market, is pushing back by getting all up in Comcast’s digital-TV grill. At the end of this fight, somebody’s gonna end up richer than they were before, and it’s probably not going to be you.

Thanks for the link, Paul. And I certainly agree with the proposition that Comcast’s motives are no more pure than those of Verizon. But at the moment, at least, it’s in Comcast’s corporate interests to keep cable franchising and regulation at the local level — and that’s what’s best for consumers and local media as well.

More coverage from the Globe, the Associated Press (by way of the Herald), the Eagle-Tribune, the Springfield Republican and State House News Service (via the MetroWest Daily News) can be found here.

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  1. metallicaMobes

    I haven’t bought a new pair of pants in over 3 years…Does that make me a nerd?

  2. Tony

    It seems illogical though that Verizon would want to cherry-pick inside a city or town though, since, even in the poorer communities, the purchase of phone and cable services are kinda standard. Speaking from experience, most lower-middle class folks choose to spend a bit more on cable because they don’t have a ton of money to spend on entertainment outside of the home, like theaters, or buying/renting DVDs. In other words, more often than not, it’s a captive audience. As far as PEG stuff goes, I’m torn about how I feel about it. I’ve seen what great operations they have in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, and I’ve also enjoyed the programming in all three cities. SCAT does an amazing job and Boston’s NNN and Talk of the Neighborhoods is great programming. It always seemed a worthy cost in those communities, since the bulk of the costs for PEG are just passed on by the cable companies to their customers anyway. Why would Verizon be complaining about that?On the flip though, I’ve seen what has happened here in Concord, N.H. The media access center is an embarrassment. It’s not worth the $240k-plus we pay for it, especially when we used to only pay $60k for it. It has few original programs which are repeated over and over again. During the renewal talks with Comcast two years ago, the city tried to force Comcast to donate two more channels to the access center. Comcast laughed that proposal off after they started tracking the broadcasts and found that 91 percent of the programming was repeats or billboard notices. The local newspaper complained that the programs are “like a couch left on the curb” and said of the station’s picture quality: “no, you don’t need glasses, it’s the TV.” Despite an influx of $350k for capital equipment last year, the government meeting coverage looks like it is 14th generation tape. It has also been alleged that a few years back, a sitting city councilor conspired to oust the station’s original executive director. She then took the job for herself, and later, had an outreach coordinator position created for her. Despite constant outcry about these actions, the council refuses to do anything about it. In fact, despite cuts to the city budget, including a number of departments and services for the poor, the non-profit that runs the PEG stations are scheduled to receive additionally $11k and will be hiring a fourth full-time person, along with two part-timers. You would think this is some town in Massachusetts but no, it’s New Hampshire.

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