Friday, February 23, 2007

Councilman John Gieseke Speaks Out on AT&T Proposal To St. Charles

The City of St. Charles has the opportunity to introduce competition in the field of cable television delivery. AT&T has asked the City to permit them access under our master cable franchise ordinance in competition with Charter Cable. While I am in favor of the competition our City Attorney, Mike Valenti, made it clear in his brief that this would be far from fair competition.

One provision that is worrisome to me is that AT&T does not have to guarantee that they will cover the same area as Charter Cable. In other cities, AT&T has engaged in a practice called “cherry picking”. In the insurance field they call this practice red lining. This unfair business practice will leave many in our city without access to the new AT&T product. If AT&T wants to be part of the city I welcome them, but all parts of the City should be served and have the AT&T product available.

Secondly, the contract does not ask for any check and balance of customer complaints. This is required under the Charter contract and has allowed the city to monitor the lack of service we all have endured. Without this check and balance the City will not have first hand knowledge if AT&T is living up to the same service level as Charter. Having one company that is poor with service is bad enough, having a second that refuses transparency to customer service issues will compound the issue.

I believe that competition is the foundation of buyer’s rights. Lack of competition often results in service levels we are experiencing with other utilities. The same will hold true if we allow an unleveled playing field to a company the size of AT&T. They can lower rates in select areas and run Charter out of business. This will leave us once again with one carrier that refuses examination of their service levels.

In your business how would you react if the City decided to give unfair advantage to the competition? I am hopeful that AT&T will allow for just a few minor changes in their contract that will allow for fair and open competition. One would have to question AT&T’s true motives if they refuse.