Thursday, December 08, 2005

Cable Choice

Anyone else getting pummelled by these folks? Mailings, calls, you name it. They really want my attention. From the mailings:

Vote Now!
You deserve a choice in your cable service!
You deserve competition!
You deserve lower prices!

Instantly, I'm suspicious. So I checked out the site. Their purpose (from the web site):

A revolution in cable TV is in the balance. For American TV viewers to realize the benefits of their choice of cable providers, a new paradigm in cable regulation is needed. Cable monopolies must be roused from their cozy perches, hiding behind the shield and vagaries of local regulations, and forced to compete based on the quality of their products and services.
This will require a re-definition of how and why cable TV services are regulated. The hallmark of this change will be the transformation of TV viewers from dispassionate receivers of broadcasts to impassioned participants as cable services become more interactive and functional. Consumers expect and demand:
*Access to content of choice;
*Interactivity allowing them to send and receive information of their choice;
*Control over content;
*Accessibility for those with disabilities; and
*Standards that assure service quality and dispute resolution.
*The change will be welcome for America’s video consumers, who for too long have been paying too much and receiving too little. Beneficial competition will emerge from satellite, telecommunications, other over-builders and broadband internet providers. With competition, you will be in control - more choices, better content, lower prices and better service.

Ok. We're all for better content and lower prices. Personally, though, I'm less interested in having a choice of cable companies as I am in selecting service a la carte- paying for only the 6 channels I do watch and dumping the rest. But I digress...

I spent a while looking over the site until I found that what they want is support for Senate Bill 2912 sponsored by Joseph Doria (D 31.) They want other companies to be able to supply content besides the cable companies, who currently have a monopoly. Sounds understandable to me.

So, why am I suspicious as hell? Ok, because I'm a suspicious person, but besides that. This "NJ Consumers for Cable Choice" organization is clearly amazingly well funded to keep sending out this stuff. Most of the folks shown on the list of members are churches or clergy, not phone or internet companies. Churches in Jersey right now aren't know for having a ton of extra money to throw around. Church money after expenses tends to go toward ministries, which in my experience center on feeding the poor, not making sure they can pick better cable TV. What gives?

This group seems to be REALLY centered on getting you to sign up. The mailings have cards to send back, and you can't "back" button out of their web site- it just keeps going to the sign-up. Boy, they want my attention. Remember, also, it took some searching to find a number of the bill they want to support. Why?

Anyone who tells me repeatedly that I deserve better this and that and wants me to join their organization without being too up front on HOW they plan to meet these goals is usually someone I don't want to have anything to do with. (See Doug Forrester for example.) So, does anyone have more information on these people? Right now, my suspicious nature is telling me to run, run away.


Andrew said...

Looks like it's Verizon. Details here and here.

Rain Bo said...

The site is run by Convio, an organisation that apparently specializes in fund-raising web sites. What is interesting is that the "Contact" page at the consumers4choice site shows the names "Bob Johnson" and "Jim Conran" as President and Executive Director. A google search of those 2 names together shows no other hits on the entire web except on that page on on a site called "" which vectors back to the consumers4choice site. Suspicious at best.

Janet said...

Lately I've been getting consistent phone calls from Monmouth U, my grad school alma mater. Only I never pick up, even when I'm home unless of course it's to pick up only to hang up again. Some might say that it would be easier just to pick up and see what they want and say what I know I'm going to anyhow: "Thanks but no thanks". Of course those people don't realize how much money a private school like Mon U cost to begin with so the thought of even being asked to give them any more money makes my blood boil.

Sharon GR said...

Andrew: I'm not at all surprized. I guess Verizon gets to donate to the churches (tax-deductible!) and they support the cause?

Rain bo- Thanks, welcome. I noticed the same thing, searching on items in the list. The only physical address anywhere in NJ is a PO box in Hamilton. On the "links" page there's My Cable Nightmare run by Consumers for Cable Choice- same folks, just not NJ. They have a PO box in Indiana. Also, they're powered by Convio, of course. The whole thing just smacks of a shadow box.

Janet- I get tons of calls from Scarborough Research, too. I had a friend who did phone research in college and he always said how hard it is to get people to do phone surveys, so when phone surveyers call if I have time I answer. Now, I'm on some kind of list and they call me a lot. It was way worse during the gubernatorial race, when we were getting polled all the time.

Gotta love caller ID though, since you know who it is now!

Rob said...

Verizon wants to encourage choice because the only way they get their TV services into a town is with permission. Because the TV is technically on a "cable" (but fiber optic phone line rather then cable TV line) it's still regulated as cable by the FCC and the local governement as a utility - unlike Satellite which, because all the companies work nationally - doesn't have to get permission from the local town council to operate.

The fact is - what really needs to be changed is the thinking of cable TV as something local governments get to regulate. This of course will never happen - but when we eventually get good Satellite broadband internet - it might give the cable companies a real run for their money finally.

Finally - as far as a la carte goes - I've been talking about this for a while. We are seeing the seeds of this in iTunes offering downloadable content (granted way more expensive a la carte - if you want a season of a show it's $35 at least or $52 along the way). The eventuality is all content will be available on demand and for a fee. You'll pay for a few networks of shows, a slate of co-owned networks (like USA, SciFi and NBC - all co owned) or seasons of shows at discounted rates.. TIVO is jumping on things pretty early offering the more open source stuff for free download (CNet TV and Rocketboom and a few movies) and has announced that next year anything you record on TIVO will be able to be transferred directly to an iPod or Sony PSP.

It will all eventually pan out...but Verizon wants to be right in there with the traditional cable companies. They can't get there with the system the way it is.