Just returned from the Public Service Board's hearing on Comcast's bid to buy Adelphia, which is in bancrupcy. The deal would make Comcast the largest cable TV provider in Vermont. The PSB hearing was held via Vermont Interactive Television, so although the host site was in the state office complex in Waterbury, citizens were able to interact with each other at 13 locations throughout the state, which was pretty cool.
I watched from the Waterbury site, where I got to talk with moderator James Volz, and representatives from Comcast and Adelphia. Not that we talked a whole lot. Mostly we were there to listen. At least 30 people showed up to sites around the state; the meeting was announced just a week ago. Most of the people who spoke worked for one of the PEG stations — that's what they call public, educational and governmental access channels. They want the PSB to issue guidelines to Comcast protecting Vermonters' access to PEG resources. The funding for PEG channels comes from cable subscribers, via the cable company. The overwhelming majority of speakers warned the PSB to be wary of Comcast, which one speaker called an "800 pound gorilla."
I'll give a more detailed report in next week's paper — a decision's not expected until the end of the year, with the formal hearing scheduled for October. The bottom line is that the people who spoke were wary of Comcast, and pissed, as usual, at Adelphia for high rates and poor customer service. Except Melissa Pierce, of Essex, who praised the company, and said, "I am a satisfied Adelphia customer."
After hearing her comments, Paul Lagasse of St. Albans mused, "I don't know what she's talking about. It almost sounds like she works for Adelphia." Pierce got in front of the microphone again at the end of the hearing to say that yes, in fact, she does work for Adelphia. But she's still a satisfied customer.
Comcast's PR man, Rob Wilson, assured me that the companyappreciates everyone's input. "We look forward to the opportunity tocome in here and show that Comcast is a great company," he said.
The photo shows Adelphia and Comcast representatives (and James Volz facing forward, behind the table) as they watch a guy from Bennington go on about how "Comcast has a really terrible reputation in the industry." Bill Simmon of VCAM tells us what he thinks on Candleblog. And there's still time to add your voice to the chorus.
UPDATE: Here's the Burlington Free Press article from today's paper with more comments from Comcast. This link will disappear in a week, so look now.