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Comcast, SBC say surveys 'legitimate research'

By DAN CHANZIT
reprinted by permission from the Kane County Chronicle
© 2003 Kane County Chronicle

Comcast and SBC officials on Friday distanced themselves from the backlash their telephone surveys generated but did not directly address how inflammatory language generates useful information.

How do you feel about tax money being used to pay for television pornography and suggestions that teachers would be cut, class sizes increased and afer-school programs eliminated if voters approved a government-operated broadband system were among telephone survey questions Tri-Cities residents answered this week.

Comcast and SBC acknowledge they are conducting telephone surveys, but have not directly commented on the specific questions. The Kane County Chronicle obtained a list of the questions from one survey, but neither company will confirm they created they created the specific queries.

The survey comes just more than one month before the April 1 election, when Tri-Cities voters will decide if Batavia, Geneva and St. Charles should use at least $53 million in tax-backed loans to start their own broadband service to provide telephone, Internet and cable television service.

Comcast and SBC officials acknowledge their survey is tied to the election, but denied the push poll was intended to sway broadband supporters into opposing the governments' initiative.

"We don't mean to upset anyone," SBC spokeswoman Andrea Brands said. "We are doing what any legitimate business would do. This is legitimate research."
"The things that have been said that we are asking about are not true," Comcast spokeswoman Pat Andrews-Keenen said.

Both companies said they plan to use the information to compete against a Tri-Cities broadband utility. The questions also ask residents about their views on mayoral leadership and if competing with two private companies is an appropriate use of public tax money.

"A principal purpose is to determine the public's current view of issues being placed before them on the next ballot," according to a letter Comcast corporate affairs director Carlo Cavallaro sent to Geneva officials on Friday. "We also hope to gain insights relating to customer's perceptions of their current cable service, perceptions of Comcast as a company, and the extent to which our competitors' services are being purchased."
Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke said the surveys are the first volleys in what will become a heated political battle.

"When the discussions first started about offering broadband, I advised the city council that this whole thing would become a minefield of political flack," Schielke said. "I guess we just wait and see what happens next. This is going to become intensified."
Earlier this week, Schielke and Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns demanded SBC and Comcast supply the survey questions.

"SBC has yet to respond," Burns said Friday. "It's upsetting. Their silence is an admission. I can only assume that by not hearing from them, they are scrambling to free themselves from this morass of poor judgment."

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