Time Warner “Holds Back”

April 27, 2007 at 12:25pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

One of the Journal Star’s headlines in this morning’s paper, “Time Warner holds back information from advisory board”, seems designed to elicit a particularly negative response from readers. But to me,  the information that Time Warner declined to provide isn’t very shocking. The company answered “unknown” to questions about how many customers had or are having problems, and how customers have been compensated for their problems. Regarding the latter, the company said the information is “confidential and competitively sensitive”. That makes sense to me.

That’s not to say that I am defending Time Warner for providing a defective product. But put yourself in their shoes: would you willingly release information about your company that could be used by competitors to harm you? I sure as heck wouldn’t. Nothing short of a court order would get me to release that information.

Without seeing all of the questions posed and Time Warner’s answers, it’s impossible to know just how cooperative Time Warner was overall. The Journal Star doesn’t offer any information one way (“the remainder of the company’s answers were complete and informative”) or the other (“most of the company’s responses were short with minimal information”). If they were obstinate all the way around, well, heck with ‘em. If, on the other hand, they offered 57 generally helpful responses and refused to answer just these 3 questions, I have a hard time getting worked up.

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The Comments

Fletch April 27, 2007 at 3:53pm

I concur. If anyone recalls back to our initial comments about the debacle of the TWC software conversion, I was as mad as the next guy. Believe me. I sent a lengthy list of concerns and outrages (very politely) to TWC and the City Council. Lo and behold, TWC called me right away, and they’ve taken care of really all my issues. PLUS - they listened to my ideas on ways to make the software better. I actually got to speak with programmers and upper-tier people. I’ve had people in my house to see my set-up first hand. They offered me some compensation. In fact, the software update last week included 3 or 4 exact things that I talked with the software engineer about.

I spend a ton of money on my TWC bill, but since they day of the City Council meeting and that email, they’ve been a dream for me. I still keep asking for more HD channels, etc., but I can’t complain.

I was contacted by the Cable Advisory Board for my input, and I told them pretty much the same thing. I was quick to criticize here and on the LJS website, so I wanted to be quick to say that I think they are working hard to fix the situation.

Neal April 27, 2007 at 6:43pm

While I’d agree with you in most situations, Mr. Wilson, I think what makes this different is the fact that Time Warner doesn’t have any competitors in Lincoln because the city grants them a monopoly. So if the city is granting them a monopoly by way of the franchise agreement, I think that ups their obligation to provide information when the city is analyzing their performance. It also really diminishes that “competitors” argument when there aren’t any. If the city is willing to grant them some anti-competitive privileges, I think Time Warner should sacrifice some competitive privileges.

That said, that’s really cool what they’ve been doing in Fletch’s case.

Mr. Wilson April 28, 2007 at 1:46am

I understand where you’re coming from, Neal, but there is some imprecision in your comment that I think needs to be addressed:

...because the city grants them a monopoly.

That isn’t (entirely) true. What Lincoln has granted them is the right to do business here. Although Time Warner has a de facto monopoly, Lincoln hasn’t “granted” them that status. The only thing keeping the monopoly from collapsing is the entrance of another company into the market. The contract between Lincoln and Time Warner does not forbid new cable competition. Furthermore, satellite television companies may not be in the exact same market, but the two markets do overlap. For evidence one need only look at the topical advertisements that local satellite television vendors ran at the height of the “scandal” several weeks ago.

Long story short, that’s why I buy the “competitors argument”. Still, like I said in the post, Time Warner is contractually obligated to be at least somewhat cooperative. The LJS article wasn’t really informative enough to tell me whether or not Time Warner met that burden overall.

I should throw in this last point: if the information that Time Warner is hesitant to provide could be made available to the Cable Advisory Board but not made public, I think Time Warner’s obligation to provide it would increase. I have no idea if the Board has the statutory ability to withhold information from the public, however.

Neal April 28, 2007 at 4:32am

Unless it has changed, the agreement as it stood in 1999 (which was the only time I read it) granted them a monopoly in exchange for services provided to the city, such as the community access stations and some services to LPS.

Mr. Wilson April 28, 2007 at 8:04pm

You may be right, Neal. That’s not how I remember reading the agreement, but since I threw away my printed copy (Robbie got into it) and I can’t find the dang thing on Lincoln’s website, I can’t confirm one way or the other.

Neal April 29, 2007 at 7:27pm

Ahhh, not the old “My infant ate my copy of the city’s franchise agreement with the cable company” excuse??!!! ;P

Karin April 30, 2007 at 3:18pm

I know few people that actually have cable anymore and there’s less every day. I’ve heard from 3 friends and co-workers in the last week that are dropping their cable service (though most are keeping internet.)

Is anyone else noticing an exodus away from cable, or is it just in my very small circle?

swoof May 1, 2007 at 4:42am

Not having cable TV is so relaxing.  I cancelled mine in January and haven’t missed it since.  Now I just need to get rid of the awful $50/month bill TW lets one pay for broadband if one doesn’t get TV or phone.  I think I hear Windstream in my future.

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