Thursday, August 2, 2007

only the cable administrator can save us now . . .

This isn't my normal territory, but guest blogger Adam Pagnucco urged me to write about this, so here goes:

Last month, Comcast sent letters out to its hundreds of thousands of subscribers throughout the region stating that they had just changed their policy on resolving customer disputes, deciding to take matters that would otherwise be settled in the courts and give them to in-house arbitrators.

Of course, you were given until the end of July to opt out of that arrangement. But, in case you didn't - if you had a problem with Comcast, you would now longer able to file a lawsuit against them. Instead, Comcast's own guys would settle it for you.

Right to an attorney? Forget it.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

The story was covered in both yesterday's Gazette and Tuesday's Post, but neither does a complete job, says Adam. Comcast's letter came as part of your July bill. There was a time when someone called the Montgomery County Cable Administrator (are you surprised that there is such a position in a county that runs its own liquor stores?) would have to review that letter. If he or she had, a red flag would've gone up in Rockville; Ike Leggett would've raised hell; and this would've been a done deal.

But that wasn't the case. Last year, the County Council took away the Cable Administrator's duty to approve letters that go out from Comcast. In a transcript from that meeting, Councilwoman Marilyn Praisner (D-Calverton) admitted that the change in procedure would, indeed, screw over cable customers throughout the County, but that it was better not to watch over Comcast's shoulder:
". . . the company [Comcast] has a right to communicate with their customers, but we also know from a practical perspective that the phone calls, when those bills or notices or information hit the mailbox and hit some kitchen table, the phone calls are going to come to the cable office. And it would be better if the cable office knew about it ahead of time . . . but we have amended the language and I believe the Executive Branch is not opposed to the amendment."

As they say, ignorance is bliss. While the chances of You, the Individual, being thrown into some litigation with old Comcast is fairly slim, there may be other occasions in the future when a little County oversight could help you out. Long story short: we have to bring the Cable Administrator back.

This summer, we've already managed to overturn the parking meter increase and ensure First Amendment rights in Downtown Silver Spring. Sign this petition to tell Montgomery County and Comcast that your rights STILL aren't something to be toyed with.

Research, as always, done by Adam Pagnucco.

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