Judith Davidoff has the story in today's Capital Times about Madison's unwillingness to allow AT&T free reign to plant its big video boxes all over the public rights-of-way:
More than 300 hulking, refrigerator-size "graffiti magnets" could soon sprout in Madison yards if state lawmakers pass a controversial cable TV deregulation bill, Mayor Dave Cieslewicz is warning.
"There would be hundreds of these boxes throughout the city," Cieslewicz said in an interview this week. "They would be on the street right-of-way and also in people's backyards. They are large -- five feet by four feet -- they make a visual statement and they could be graffiti magnets."
Under current law, Cieslewicz said the city can prohibit AT&T from installing the boxes without a franchise agreement, such as the one the city has with Charter Cable.
But the city's veto power would be severely curtailed under the deregulation bill that has already passed the state Assembly.
"We wouldn't have much to say about it," Cieslewicz said. "AT&T could go in and start installing these things right after the legislation takes effect."
What's worse, he said, is that the boxes are unnecessary.
"The only reason for them is that AT&T is trying to do this project on the cheap," he said. "They want to run fiber to the boxes, but then standard copper (lines) to the home. They need the boxes to transfer data. They could run fiber straight to the home which is what companies on the coasts are doing."
Earlier this week, David Callender reported Joe Wineke's announcement that he's jumping off the AT&T ship:
The move came only weeks after members of two county parties publicly criticized Wineke for lobbying on behalf of the telecommunications giant on a controversial bill that would open the way for AT&T to enter the cable TV market.
The bill has drawn fire, particularly from some progressive activists, because it would result in less funding for public-access channels and local governments and would lift many of the existing regulations on the cable TV industry.
But Wineke, who served as a Democratic state senator and lobbyist for several labor unions before becoming party chairman, had argued that the bill would also create more than 100,000 jobs in Wisconsin, with most of them going to unionized workers.
How many jobs? Numbers have been thrown around for months as the ballyhoo kept getting louder and more preposterous, but most of them have been in the hundreds. For there to be jobs created in the six figures in Wisconsin, AT&T would need to hire union members to change each customer's channels, and others to adjust each viewer's pillows. I would expect to see a correction in the Cap Times soon.
When are the unions (especially the Communications Workers of America) going to realize they are being played by AT&T as accomplices and dupes?
Update: Today's Cap Times ran a tiny correction on p. 2. It's 1,000 jobs, not 100,000. Consider the ballyhoo dialed down a few notches.
- Barry Orton