The AT&T statewide cable franchise bill is headed back to the Tennessee legislature. Not surprisingly, the Knoxville News Sentinel has once again taken the pro-big business, anti-consumer anti-local government position and endorsed it.

I guess AT&T and the KNS are going to keep at this until they wear down opponents of the bill. But just as AT&T and the KNS can trot out the same old propaganda in favor of the bill, opponents can program hotkeys with the same rebuttals from last time around.

KNS: "AT&T claims the legislation will bring competition for cable TV services, which in turn will lower prices for the average customer because of the choices available."

REALITY: Comcast, Charter, and Knology already operate in the Knoxville market, generating millions in franchise fees for local governments. These companies were able to negotiate local cable franchises and operate them for years. (And that's not counting satellite providers, who don't pay franchise fees but do provide competition.) Why can't AT&T do the same? What's stopping them? In fact, AT&T has been invited by local governments to submit proposals. Curiously, they haven't.

KNS: "AT&T has said, however, that local governments will continue to receive franchise fees of up to 5 percent, they will continue to control access to public rights-of-way, and they will continue to have locally produced programming."

REALITY: With local franchises, communities can negotiate their own franchise fees and included requirements for build-out, customer service and quality standards, and for making local community access channels available. These negotiations can take into account each community's unique needs. The statewide franchise legislation proposed last time around did not have these requirements or the requirements weren't as strict. According to the Tennessee County Services Association, "The proposals would set up a single entity that would grant franchising rights, which include local highway rights-of-way usage provisions. The proposal prohibits build out provisions. It also causes problems with consumer protection, public information channels, emergency notification access opportunities, and services to schools and libraries. It also limits our abilities in verifying the accuracy of payments, and our ability to perform meaningful applicant due diligence."

KNS: "Another aspect of criticism centered on a charge that AT&T would cherry-pick the wealthiest neighborhoods for service, leaving low-income and rural areas to fend for themselves. AT&T answered that it would apply nondiscrimination standards with regard to new entrants and that it has no reason or incentive to redline low-income or minority areas."

REALITY: From USA Today: "During a slide show for analysts, SBC (now AT&T) said it planned to focus almost exclusively on affluent neighborhoods. SBC broke out its deployment plans by customer spending levels: It boasted that Lightspeed would be available to 90% of its "high-value" customers -- those who spend $160 to $200 a month on telecom and entertainment services -- and 70% of its "medium-value" customers, who spend $110 to $160 a month. SBC noted that less than 5% of Lightspeed's deployment would be in "low-value" neighborhoods -- places where people spend less than $110 a month. SBC's message: It would focus on high-income neighborhoods, at least initially, to turn a profit faster."

Average Guy's picture

Big Government, not Big Business

It's my understanding Microsoft answered the call of IBM to provide an operating system when others declined to answer. Hence, they bundled their OS with most all new PC computers early on, thus they have achieved the success in market share we see today. It was a good business plan. The government instead of applauding them, has done to them what they did to Ma Bell (ATT) back in the 80's - break them up.

"Big Business" is not the problem. Government via K-street colluding with business is the problem. Government keeps forgetting their role is oversight - not partnership.

SammySkull's picture

Microsoft answered the call

Microsoft answered the call in a way that made it nearly impossible for the majority of us to use any other system. I have no real problem with Microsoft, but I do have a problem with the near monopoly they have been given.

Big business is the problem arm in arm with a willing big government. Or, as an example and slightly off topic, we could examine this in terms of questioning why the automakers are still able to sell cars that are recognizably bad for the environment while simultaneously writing the fuel economy standards they must almost but not quite adhere to.

Big business is not entirely at fault, but they must be required to think of the best for us all and not just how much more full they can make their pockets.

Average Guy's picture

It's always us

with the near monopoly they have been given..

Who gave it to them?

why the automakers are still able to sell cars that are recognizably bad for the environment..

Who buys those cars?

I'm guilty above of what I'm always railing against. I referred to our government as the government. It's not hard to forget who's ultimately to blame. But until the recent advent of community reporting/venting through blogs and other outlets, there way no way to get a politicians attention - unless you pay a lobbyist big money for the privilege. The Ron Paul camp understands the game being played. They got big press on the 5th of November for a $4 million day, so they keep raising more just to get attention to get their message out. Even those who want to change the rules have to play by the current stupid ones.

The MSM as R mentioned above has been totally complacent for years. I wonder what special pipeline Scripps may use to get out their content? Look for the AT&T and Scripps connection if they pull this off.

Big business is not entirely at fault, but they must be required to think of the best for us all and not just how much more full they can make their pockets.

Big business will never think of us. The higer the ivory tower, the less likely they know your name. Want more money? See your union. Want safer worker conditions? Have your union blitz your congressman's office? Don't have a union? Then bend over. It's the role of government and unions to look out for the working man - and right now both are either corrupt or non existent.

Feel your pain with the Automotive Industry. Have you seen Who Killed the Electric Car?; (link...)

bizgrrl's picture

Microsoft answered the call

Microsoft answered the call in a way that made it nearly impossible for the majority of us to use any other system.

I suspect Apple, Xerox, etc. would have done it the same way if they had just known how or had the marketing acumen of Microsoft.

Average Guy's picture

Apple deliberately kept

Apple deliberately kept their OS proprietary. Didn't pay off until a little something called an iPod came on the scene.

Average Guy's picture

Easy Mac

I can partition my Mac to accept the Windows OS. Can I load Mac's OS on my Dell?

Apple/Mac never had any kind of mentionable market share before the iPod.

Average Guy's picture

Ok, how and you can bet your

Ok, how and you can bet your ass I wish.

rocketsquirrel's picture

without an emulator?

without an emulator?

Andy Axel's picture

Xerox was just plain stupid.

Xerox was just plain stupid. By failing to file timely patents, PARC essentially gave away the GUI (to Apple) and Ethernet (to former PARC employee Bob Metcalf, who went on to found 3Com).


With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.

Andy Axel's picture

Apple/Mac never had any kind

Apple/Mac never had any kind of mentionable market share before the iPod.

Well, apart from owning the market in digital audio workstations and in digital prepress and publishing and ...


With the possible exception of things like box scores, race results, and stock market tabulations, there is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.

bizgrrl's picture

I bet you wish you had

I bet you wish you had bought AAPL a <$20 a share.

I wish I bought Dell at $6 a share in '92. I can't remember how many times it has split.

R. Neal's picture

I think you did. And sold

I think you did. And sold it. And bought some more. And sold it again. Should have held on.

R. Neal's picture


On PEG access:


“Representatives from AT&T met with several Michigan municipal cable television managers recently to explain the technology behind their plans to include public, educational and governmental access channels in their IPTV service.

They are not currently offering any PEG channels to their test market customers in Austin, Texas, and many of the details still are
not completely worked out.”

You should go read the laundry list of how expensive it will be for local communities to provide PEG even if AT&T lets them.

Then there’s this on AT&T’s rollout:


“AT&T has run into some roadblocks with its U-Verse broadband initiative. As a result, it has slashed its forecast for the number of homes passed by the service by the end of 2007 from 18 million to 8 million. It now hopes to hit the 19 million mark by the end of 2008. The company has also announced the availability of U-Verse in the Milwaukee area, although not without some opposition from the city and some of its residents.

Had AT&T chosen to follow the same route as Verizon—laying fiber to the home, using tested CATV technology, and willingly entering into local franchise agreements—U-Verse would be facing a smoother road. Instead of following what Verizon describes as its “good neighbor” policy, AT&T is doing everything within its power to ensure that U-Verse is rolled out on its own terms. We’ll know in a couple of years how well AT&T’s strategy pays off.”

You should go read the whole article about some of the technical hurdles and how the service will be inferior.

bizgrrl's picture

AT&T has run into some

AT&T has run into some roadblocks with its U-Verse broadband initiative.

AT&T seems to have problems whenever they try something different.

StaceyDiamond's picture


I read that AT and T had been lobbying editorial boards and it sounds like they bagged the KNS, while at first the KNS seemed against this. What bugs me is that AT and T can't just work with the cities like everybody else.

Raymond Marx's picture

AT&T Should be allowed to get cable into state!!!

I don't want the cities being able to tell me how I can get cable services, hell the one I live in, has said that Crapcast is the only one that is allowed to have service in my area, and all they have done is raise their prices 1000 fold since they were given this privilege. What I have gotten out of it, is spotty at best cable service, tons of service calls that were previously unnecessary, on-demand movies stopping being played in the middle of watching them, and other lousy service. I demand that they pass something that allows AT&T entry into my county and over rides everything the idiots in the city did to keep me from being able to get competition in my area for the crap of service that their provider is providing me. I pay nearly $200 a month now for maybe 100 more channels, of the 140 total, I'm only interested in watching maybe 30 of those and out of those 30, over 80% of them are just the digital versions of the ones that I was paying 1/4 of that for less than 3 years ago! I'm sick and tired of local regulations and am in the group who demands that laws are at least changed so that NO company can be given "exclusivity rights" to an area, and that AT&T is allowed to come into our area and provide us with U-Verse service! I can care less about the cities making money off the deal, I can care even less than that if they don't like it that the state is taking it out of their hands, just for this reason. So what you few and far between "major" towns have access to more than one company, maybe AT&T just needs to skip your towns altogether!!! I WOULD! You don't come close to making up the majority of the states population and damn sure don't deserve the right to make the decisions for the rest of the state!

charlie3333's picture

I want to upgrade to this

I want to upgrade to this pretty bad, but of course there's no fiber optic coverage in my area. It's ridiculous how these big telecommunications companies won't go into more rural areas because they won't make enough money off of it. America's brand of capitalism has reached the point of ridiculousness - I live in Evergreen, CO, and the "high speed internet providers in my area" (look at the webpage and you'll see what I mean) is like the pirates of the carribean ride at disneyland. You wait for forever and then once you're finally on you get kicked off after about 5 minutes.

KnoxCatLady1's picture

RE: Reality

R.Neal some of the things in your initial post need to be clarified. You state the cable companies pay millions in franchise fees; while that is technically true, the reality is that the consumers pay the franchise fees. Notice on your cable bill and you will see where you are assessed a franchise fee. Federal law allows the cable television companies to pass this tax along directly to the consumers. While the cable companies do indeed literally send the check for the franchise fees, they are merely passing along revenues they have collected from their customers, so it is the consumers who pay millions to the local governments for the franchise fees.

While it is true that the franchise fees can be negotiated, Federal law prohibits one company from being assessed a higher fee than any other. Considering that it is a tax on the consumer in any event, I fail to see why anyone would wish to see the franchise fees increased.

Neither Charter nor Knology compete all across Knox County or even across the entire City of Knoxville. Charter operates in the Town of Farragut and a small portion of far West Knoxville. Knology is also in West Knoxville and a small portion of the Fountain City area. The people of South Knoxville, both in the city and county, in fact have no alternative to Comcast except perhaps for Direct TV, if they can receive a signal. The representative from Knology appearing before the City Council all but stated the company would never come across the river to South Knoxville.

Former Councilman Rob Frost continually insisted that Knology had failed to live up to the terms of its agreement with the City of Knoxville with regard to build out, etc. By a 5-4 vote, with Joe Hultquist providing the deciding vote for Knology, the company was not held to the terms of its agreement with the city, so it the reality is somewhat different than what you claim. Former Councilman Frost rightly, in my opinion, claimed that Knology had engaged in "cherry-picking".

For the people of South Knoxville, as well as many other areas of the city and county, AT&T is currently the only other option available on the horizon.

KnoxCatLady1's picture

Follow Up

My point being that even when in the hands of local government, the consumers frequently suffer as a result. Still, eliminating local control over cable companies is, in my opinion, a bad thing. It seems clear that Knology in particular was specifically waiting for passage from local control to state control with less stringent requirements.

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