Title II Obama? Apple vs. Comcast? DISH vs. Bundle? -– Paul S. Maxwell

By Paul Maxwell Report Archives
Cover image for  article: Title II Obama? Apple vs. Comcast? DISH vs. Bundle? -– Paul S. Maxwell

My new book “The Revolutionary Evolution of the Media” continues! Read the latest chapter here.

Comment : Yep, I really love the Federal Confusion Commission. A “light” Title II followed by a rule telling states they can’t regulate municipal broadband followed by a little love tap saying let’s look at “effective competition” and invent a better regime to decide by shifting the responsibility to -- you guessed it -- municipalities. Of course, STELAR told them to do something like that. Reality check: DBS has been a more than viable MVPD competitor for years (and years).

Very impressive, too, is the Republican complaint about President Obama’s “secret” pressure on FCC Chair Tom Wheeler and the FCC to pass “light” Title II regulations … so secret the President did a video on his preference. Biggest news, though: Wheeler actually talked to White House aides more than any other chairman in history.

So Apple TV won’t have NBCU in its new copycat service -- that’s Comcastic! Dish’s Sling continues its own assault on the bundle via adding A&E and a compiled news group as additional $5/month add-ons. Very interesting; and DISH continues the Sling assault on any kind of a supplied STB. All of these new OTT moves are funny … “Let’s Cut the Cord and just use broadband!” Of course, usually the same “cord.” That’s why small cable ops are re-branding as ISPs.

In other happenings of note :

In its Ides of March edition, The New York Times ran an editorial about “More and Better Telecom Choices.” I’ve been thinking about it. The Times Editorial Board wrote (with my comments in parentheses): To encourage broadband competition, Congress could make it easier for private companies (not corporations?) and utilities owned by local governments to provide Internet services in more parts of the country (did they read the FCC decisions last week?). In the pay TV business, it could unify the different rules that govern cable, satellite and Internet-based TV systems (what about wireless?) so they all have the same access to TV programming, which would give consumers more choices. Lawmakers could also require those businesses to let consumers buy just the channels they want, rather than being forced to pay for bundles. (This cost-ineffective idea from the original bundlers of disparate newspaper sections!) Congress could make more wireless frequencies available and reserve some of them for small or new companies. (Like the DISH-driven spectrum bidders? And doesn’t the Editorial Board read the Business section? More frequencies on the way courtesy of the over-the-airheads. Just sayin’ …).

J. C. Sparkman was one of the first people in cable who shook my hand at my first cable show welcoming me to the industry. A few years later on a Thursday morning (Nov. 1, 1973), I answered a surprise call from TCI COO JC and his second in command, Bill Brazeal at my desk while I was working on editing the next editions of CATV Newsweekly and TV Communications for CPC. They asked, “Want to join us as we turn off the Vail cable system this evening?” They picked me up at the Evergreen exit and we drove the not-yet-finished I-70 to Vail where we, really, no kidding, literally turned off the system as JC nodded at Bill, who pulled the plug. With the lights out, I put a card on the only channel working that said call the mayor or city manager and we went to the Ore House (then where Russells is now) for a late dinner. Wasn’t long before Mayor John Dobson showed up in a rather agitated state. The Broncos were scheduled to play the next Sunday so the reaction from CATV subscribers was immediate.

Why did we shut it down? Well, the Town of Vail had copied an earlier franchise renewal letter and fight from Boulder (crossed it out; wrote in Vail) asking for top 100 market blue sky considerations for then a very, very small town and ended the letter with “The Town of Vail Hereby Terminates the Existing Franchise Agreement.”

So we took it seriously. Surprised the hell out of Vail officials. Quite the fall out. It was cable’s first serious action to counter the growingly insane requests for all kinds of stuff during the franchise wars. The situation eventually worked out and Vail is now, of course, a Comcast system. But JC and TCI took a big chance and won. JC was COO at TCI until it sold. You can read the details at the Cable Center. The TVCissue was Dec. ’73 page 30; the earlier CATV Newsweekly issue was Nov. 12, ’73 page 16.Very nice to see JC in the Hall of Fame.

The 18th Annual Cable Center Hall of Fame dinner is set for Tuesday, May 5th at the Navy Pier (600 East Grand Avenue in Chicago) during the INTX (nee: The Cable Show) that week. Since 1998, some 108 men and women who were instrumental in making the cable industry (or whatever you might want to call it) what it was, is and will be have attended.

In an almost 50-year career writing and reporting on media, Paul S. Maxwell started and/or ran some 45-plus publications ranging from CATV Newsweekly to Colorado Magazine to CableVision to Multichannel News to CableFAX and The BRIDGE Suite of daily newsletters and research publications. In between publishing stints, Maxwell served as an advisor and/or consultant to a number of major media companies and media start-ups including running a unit of MCI and managing a partnership of TCI and McGraw-Hill.

Send any and all criticisms, suggestions, rants, threats, corrections, etc. to him at cablemax@mac.com. He has a new Web site coming soon!

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