Wednesday, December 13, 2006

New era arrives for cable customers

Spent all day yesterday trying to figure this one out- add coffee, instant telecommunications expert!

No. Not really. This was very confusing legislation that opened up all sorts of questions, and I went to bed with a raging headache, trying to decide whether or not I wanted to go to war with the people at MoveOn, who made some wild accusations about what this would do in regards to net neutrality. Apparently they think if it wasn't added to this bill RIGHT NOW it would be the End of the Internet As We Know It (And I Feel Fine). Since it wasn't, they charged that Granholm single-handedly destroyed the internet, which you have to admit is a pretty neat trick if she could actually pull that off.

No. Not that much power rests in one state. The end of the internet will come later if we don't fight at the federal level. Anyway-

Will this bill do what it says- lower rates and improve service? I have my doubts because I have heard that so many times before. Comcast is probably busy figuring out ways to make me pay for all the advertising they are going to have to do should they be faced with competition. And I don't trust AT & T either.

LANSING -- Consumers can prepare for a new world of cable television, phone and Internet services as legislation to open up telecommunications to more competition in Michigan speeds toward enactment.

The change is expected to spur huge investment in money and jobs to extend fiber-optic lines that will carry service at warp speed.

Lawmakers approved new rules Tuesday that eventually will end contracts for TV service between local communities and cable companies, and place all cable providers under statewide rules.

Someone said that is illegal- breaking existing contracts. I honestly don't know. One of the many questions that came up.

Those agreements have allowed cable companies to offer customers three main services -- TV, phone and Internet -- while telecommunications companies like AT&T and Verizon have been effectively barred from offering cable TV in communities.

Liz Boyd, a spokeswoman for Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said the governor would sign the bill because "it's good for consumers and good for Michigan jobs."

A statewide franchise system got heavy backing from AT&T, which hopes to become a big provider of video services to compete with traditional cable companies like Comcast.

AT&T shook up the debate two weeks ago when it announced that if the legislation were passed, the company would invest $620 million in Michigan to upgrade its broadband services, creating some 2,000 jobs over three years, including 1,200 next year.

AT&T Michigan President Gail Torreano said Tuesday the company would live up to that promise. She said competition would mean lower prices and better service for customers.

Fears are that they would cherry-pick the rich customers and neglect poor and rural areas; I can see them doing that.

This next fear is one that I just don't see happening. Blocking Google would be incredibly stupid.

Others fear that open competition will mean that Internet providers would charge Web site operators to have access to customers. Google, the dominant search engine company, opposed the legislation, fearing it might not be made available on AT&T's Internet service.

Blocking Web sites such as Google from customers is technically possible but not likely, said Scott Stevenson, president of the Telecommunication Association of Michigan, a trade group. He said it would be foolish for Internet providers to keep their customers from popular Web sites.

The second any provider blocks and/or slows down service is the second they lose customers. I know if Comcast starting blocking sites I would be gone in a heartbeat.

This is why I don't have the fear about net neutrality that others seem to have- America gets what America wants, and they want it all and they want it now. Are we going to pay more for it? My cynical mind says "yes", but we don't know that for a fact. Perhaps this will work like they say, but I won't hold my breath.