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
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
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
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."