This editorial was first published in the Times Herald-Record (Middletown, New York), a sister GateHouse Media publication. Guest editorials don't necessarily reflect the Daily Messenger's opinions.
Those happy with their cable service, with the choice of channels, the reliability and especially the price can take a break and not read this editorial. Everybody else can get ready to get more frustrated.
The news at the end of last week was shocking at a time when it takes quite a bit to shock New Yorkers.
The state Public Service Commission held a quick meeting and decided that it was going to kick Charter Communications out of New York. The company that took over Time-Warner had 60 days in which to hand over its Spectrum operations to somebody else and perhaps provide us with something better in the future.
Too good to be true?
But depending on which source you choose, it is not going to happen for two very different reasons.
The most obvious concerns broadband access and the Charter Spectrum promise to expand that service to many areas where it is now either not available or weak. Broadband once was an elite concern reserved for those with the fancy equipment that could take advantage of it or for those who spent an unimaginable amount of time online streaming entertainment or playing games.
It quickly evolved into a basic need, one that students had to have to do their schoolwork and businesses had to have to take and fulfill orders. Those farther away from populated areas often had to make do with slower service or none at all. Before it could get state approval to take over Time-Warner, Charter had to promise in detail where and when it would expand such service to those areas.
For the past few months, Charter has been bragging about how well it has done and the state has disagreed. On Friday, the state did more than talk. Or at least it appeared that way with the 60-day deadline and all.
But Charter has ways to fight back or delay. And stories about the sudden and welcome concern for the public from the Public Service Commission gave way to more normal analysis that this was all a negotiating tactic.
Put more pressure on and Charter will eventually do what it promised to do in the first place.
This being New York, however, there was another explanation. Not one that made any difference but that made more sense.
The Empire Center, a conservative think tank and no fan of our governor, pointed out that Andrew Cuomo had been saying unkind things about Charter because it has been engaged in a dispute with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, a Cuomo ally.
Last September, the Empire Center reported, Cuomo was critical of Charter at an IBEW rally, criticizing its failure to provide broadband but also saying something more directly appealing to the union members: “And I want to know how they’re going to improve customer service without the workforce that knows how to provide customer service.”
This week he badgered a Spectrum local channel reporter for daring to ask a legitimate question about campaign contributions.
Negotiating tactic or favor to union supporters?
Most likely both. In any case, don’t change that channel just yet.