Sunday, October 30, 2005

Oct 24 '05 MFP Review - The Replacements

Both the usual and the usual happened at the October 24 '05 quarterly review of Montgomery County's franchisee performance.

The Replacements

First, the usual.

Comcast noted that the General Manager role was temporarily being filled by Jaye Gamble, a regional director at Comcast. Jay didn't show up for the meeting. Representing Comcast was Angela Lee, also a regional officer, so she's Acting as well. RCN sent Richard Wadman. And Verizon weighed in with a replacement as well: Brianna Gowen. Previous Director of the FIOS project, Donald Heath, resigned. Sigh.

Finally, MC Cable Administrator Jane Lawton is likely to be stepping down from her position as MC Cable Administrator. This is pending confirmation by Governor Erlich to a Maryland Delegate seat. Although a delegate seat is only a 3-month/year occupation, according to the Cable Office, a legislator cannot also hold a regulatory position. In the future, I hope to give Jane a proper sendoff with a blog entry covering just her - she has after all served in this position for 10 years and through tumultuous times - but I'll hold off until she's confirmed.


And now the usual.

The county noted that Comcast was again over the permitted levels of violations in several areas. Furthermore, Comcast had failed to turn in the required reports on time for 4 of the last 5 months. Comcast was also taking too long to fix safety-related issues. The county was prepared to issue a fine, using the "liquidated damages" section of the franchise.

RCN, by comparison, was doing much better; however, Cable Administrator Lawton noted that she was having problems getting her phone calls returned since the company's liaison had gone on maternity leave. This seemed to be a total surprise to the RCN rep in attendence. How can stuff like this happen?

For Verizon, it was good news / bad news. The good news was that complaints were down significantly. (However, that didn't stop Comcast from returning to the all our troubles are due to Verizon theme.) The bad news is that nobody was able to say anything positive about the proposed Verizon TV franchise. Actually, Verizon vaguely said it was going well. But the Cable Office said Verizon had not responded to their most recent proposal. And the Council couldn't understand why it was totally out of the loop. Summary: Not good. If the franchise is signed by April, I'd be surprised.

In other words, the phrase of the day was continued posturing. Does anything ever change? The council members raised the same questions as they always do. For example:
  • Why does Comcast insist their internet reports (required by county code) are impossible to provide?
  • Why does Comcast advertise for new customers when they can't appear to handle their existing customers?
  • Why does Comcast tell us things that aren't true - such as school connections being completed when they haven't been?
  • Why does Verizon shower us with statistics that seem to be, oh shall we say, meaningless?

Wrap Up

The council finished up the day with some more empty threats about how mad they were - both at the franchisees and at the county executive. The council has the power to make things happen but all I see at present are empty words.

Lastly, you can view some the council's prep material here. The council complained (for the nth time) about the Cable Office turning its report in late so that it could not be included in the Council's prep material. Same for Verizon. (Comcast and RCN don't even turn anything in, sigh.)

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