(not published yet... as of 2-25-03, we'll
let you know if and when they publish this)
by Terry Flanagan, Geneva
Once again the Chronicle has stepped up to the plate and struck
out. If any institution understands "monumental shortsightedness",
it is the Kane County Chronicle. They continue to demonstrate why
they are the newspaper least likely to ever win a Pulitzer. In taking
Comcast and SBC to task for their ridiculous survey, the Chronicle
has exposed its own ignorance and arrogance.
Criticism of Comcast and SBC for this ludicrous survey is a no-brainer.
Even the Chronicle could not afford to overlook such a public display
of ineptitude. Faced with the prospect of real competition both
SBC and Comcast apparently decided to take the low road in a ridiculously
transparent attempt to stifle competition. Perhaps their monopolistic
tendencies never quite disappeared and they can't help themselves.
But judging by the negative ads both companies have run lately,
you may surmise that the survey is a prelude to an ad campaign that
attacks the broadband initiative here in the Tri-Cities and possibly
criticizes local officials as well. Should that happen, I would
hope that the Chronicle has the moral fiber to refuse to place any
defamatory or misleading ads.
As absurd as the actions of Comcast and SBC are, the Chronicle
has perhaps done the bigger disservice to the community. Any self-respecting
newspaper would have done their own research on this issue and attempted
to at least educate their readers about broadband and how other
communities have fared in similar situations. Instead their coverage
has been limited pretty much to somewhat related AP press releases,
a biased report published by a conservative think tank promoting
a Libertarian agenda, and a few news items about city council actions
related to the referendum. Mark Foster seems to be the only member
of the editorial staff giving the matter any serious thought.
Unfortunately for the voter there is a wealth of misinformation
on this issue. You would think that the Chronicle would feel obligated
to try and clear up the confusion. It would appear from Mr. Rivara's
comments in his editorial last Sunday that the Chronicle would prefer
that the voters remain in the dark about broadband and just accept
the views of the Chronicle as gospel. The Chronicle editorial staff
apparently feels that their readers should be satisfied with Scramblr
and Sound Off as alternatives to any real useful information.
While accusing Comcast and SBC of misleading the public, the Chronicle
does a little misleading of its own. I don't know whether Mr. Rivara
has studied the broadband plan or not, but he claims that it will
be funded by tax dollars before it ever begins operating on user
fees. Officials have consistently stated that general obligation
bonds will be used to fund the broadband project. Subscriber fees
will be used to retire the bonds. City officials have been working
on this plan for over two years and they believe that it can work.
Apparently so do SBC and Comcast.
Mr. Rivara also fails to point out the most obvious lessons of
the survey. SBC and Comcast, both of whom should understand this
business, apparently believe that this plan could succeed. All of
the research and the plan are publicly available and I'm sure both
companies have seen it. Unlike your friendly neighborhood cable
company and SBC, who could not even state publicly what percentage
of Geneva is served by DSL, the local governments must provide a
full accounting of what they are doing. The public is not only informed,
but they can actively participate in the decision-making process,
starting with this referendum. Mr. Rivara does point out that Comcast
and SBC are worried, but dismisses their concerns because the omniscient
Chronicle staff knows that the voters will turn the referendum down.
However, this is not SBC's, Comcast's, or even the Chronicle's decision.
It is up to you the voter. The other obvious question you should
ask yourself after this survey is whom do you trust with your cable,
phone, and Internet business. Do you really want to do business
with any companies that would stoop to the tactics used in this
survey? Or do you think that the local government will provide you
with better service at a better rate with full accountability and
citizen participation as they have already done with your electric
I suspect that it would take some "majestic alignment"
of the heavens for the Chronicle to ever expend any effort to conscientiously
research the facts and publish informative articles on broadband.
They will probably instead devote an editorial paragraph or two
in the days prior to the vote to say that it is a bad idea. But
as they used to say on the X Files "the truth is out there".
Unfortunately, you will probably not get much help from the Chronicle
in finding it. So it will be up to you, the voter, to become as
informed as possible before the referendum vote. You can always
start by visiting the city web sites. Geneva's site is http://www.geneva.il.us.
Batavia is http://www.cityofbatavia.net.
St. Charles is http://ci-st-charles.il.us.
You can also visit the Fiber for our Future site http://www.tricitybroadband.net.
This group will also be doing presentations to various local groups
including the League of Women Voters. You should also be able to
get more information at your local city offices and possibly the
libraries. For a different view you can start with Heartland Institute's
for the Libertarian viewpoint. Learn as much as you can because
this may be our last chance to do this right.