Impetus for change will come from the people, not the council
There was one humorous moment last week when at-large councilman Eric Turner held a public hearing concerning a new franchise agreement with Comcast for cable service in Peoria.
It came when the Comcast representatives were late.
“We are waiting on the Comcast people,” Tuner said to the crowd.
“They said they'd be here between 5 and 9.”
That was going to be the sole light-hearted moment of the evening.
It did not take long after Comcast’s representatives arrived for the mood to become angry.
There was anger about pricing.
There was anger about lack of service.
There was anger about moving channels.
There was anger about customer treatment.
The list goes on.
There was only one even halfway positive comment. It was from David Henderson of North Peoria. He said, “You people do fascinating work with the Internet, but your TV service sucks.”
What also sucks is that while some Peorians got some anger off their chests, it seems likely the only way things are going to get better is if Comcast decides they will get better.
The city council can huff and puff all it wants, but it likely will not amount to any kind of threat to Comcast.
The day of the public hearing, Turner and many other Peorians received a flier from Comcast stating prices were going to increase in April.
That is hardly the action of a company quaking at the prospect of facing the city council.
Then, consider that at the outset of the meeting, corporation counsel Randy Ray said the city has no control over what channels are offered and cannot regulate prices. He said the city has no authority over phone or Internet service.
Then consider that Comcast has little competition.
The city council can give Comcast a one-year franchise agreement. And, if, at the end of a year, Comcast does not improve, is the city council going to boot Comcast? It will not happen.
If Comcast is going to feel any real pressure to improve, it will have to come from its customers. Perhaps the company is PR sensitive and would react to media accounts of protests at their building. But, that is not likely.
What really matters is their bottom line.
If enough people move their Internet service to MTCO and enough people go to dishes and drop Comcast, the company would then take notice. But, until that happens, Comcast is likely to laugh all the way to the bank — as many monopolies do.
Fourth District councilman Bill Spears summed up his feelings at the hearing with this, “You feel like you are in a black hole when you complain because it goes nowhere.”
Complaints to the city council about Comcast are going to go into that same black hole, we fear.
Only two words are needed to sum up what will change this situation: Money talks.