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charter

Did you hear the good news? Charter Communications, Inc. is opening an headquarters in Henrietta and creating more than 220 jobs! The company, which just purchased Time Warner cable, will invest $2.9 million in the move.

Woohoo!

Governor Andrew Cuomo visited Rochester to make the announcement.

Here’s what was not said.

The state is giving Charter up to $2,5 million in Excelsior Jobs tax credits, meaning the company isn’t investing much at all.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found the Excelsior Jobs program is riddled with problems. Companies collected money without creating the promised jobs. Among them was Xerox, which also got a call center on the taxpayer dime.

Some of these new jobs will be at Charter’s call center. While these jobs are important to individuals, they are bad economic development policy. Call centers notoriously have high turnover and low pay.

The headquarters will be in the Calkins Road area of Henrietta. The first bus doesn’t arrive until around 9 a.m. and the last one leaves before 6 p.m. This means workers will likely have to drive. Transportation is a huge barrier to employment for many people. If we are serious about reducing poverty, we should withhold incentives from firms that do not locate jobs near people or on high service bus lines.

Charter Communications is now the second largest cable provider in the United States. It earned several billion dollars in profits last year. It earns BILLIONS of dollars and wants our help building out an office in Henrietta?

Instead of us helping Charter, the governor should be asking Charter to help us. Hey Charter, will you provide fiber internet, a la carte cable packages and lower charges for equipment rentals?

We need the jobs, especially after Verizon’s announcement is will shut down its Henrietta call center, killing 600 positions. (That’s what’s wrong with the call center economy. There’s no permanency.) But instead of making the business climate better for everyone, the state bribes a select few. The end result is one of the slowest growing economies in the nation. This kind of corporate welfare is not working and it’s not reaching the area’s neediest citizens.

Meanwhile, our cable bills are remain high.

TelevisionWe should all be paying attention to the Aereo TV case. Using antennas, the company delivers over-the-air broadcast channels to subscribers’ computers for $10 a month.

Broadcasters have sued. Judges have refused to issue an injunction stopping the Aereo service, which is not available in Rochester. Angered, Fox threatened to make its channel cable-only.

Poynter reports:

Aereo customers pay a monthly or annual subscription fee, based in part on how much digital storage space they’d like. Then, they’re assigned a tiny antenna – no cable box or any other equipment – that’s kept with all other antennas at an offsite location maintained by the company. That antenna allows subscribers to watch live broadcast television on their computer, and they can also save content to watch later.

(snip)

Broadcasters are “concerned from a revenue standpoint,” said Mike Cavender, executive director for the Radio Television Digital News Association. They worry that online subscriptions to Aereo could cut down on cable subscriptions for the networks – and that could mean less advertising revenue and fewer advertising deals.

I think broadcasters will lose this fight, if not this particular battle. Tired of $100 a month cable bills, 5 million households have cut the cord. It’s a small fraction of U.S. households, but it’s growing. As iPads get cheaper and online video content gets better, people will turn away from their television sets.

A la carte television is coming. We will end up paying for only what we watch. It will be a major disruptive force for the entire television industry. It could directly affect my own job as a TV reporter. But consumers want this kind of choice and services like Aereo will keep popping up to provide it.

Links of the Day:

– Lovely Warren is attempting to paint Mayor Tom Richards as a man without vision who’s focused on big business and downtown at the expense of neighborhoods.

– “He never seemed like a spy.” Albany is riveted by a Bronx assemblyman who wore a wire for four years.

Cuomo’s alleged coup against Silver backfired big time. Meanwhile, criticism of the governor grows, marking the end of his long honeymoon.

– Xerox could change the way electronic devices are made, with tiny chips woven into objects.

– Why is the news media fascinated when a child walks somewhere alone and is not kidnapped, but helped by nice strangers? This is the norm (and it’s not news).

Cicadas are returning after a 17-year sleep.

My blog post questioning Frontier’s future caused a bit of a stir at the company. Frontier is among the telcos with copper lines, which are not as fast as cable and fiber optic networks.

A Frontier spokesperson emailed:

Frontier continually upgrades it’s networks with over $75 million invested annually in Frontier’s Northeast Region alone. By integrating fiber and copper solutions with VDSL (very high bit rate DSL) and high capacity network solutions, customers can take advantage of a wide range of broadband products and services to meet their needs. Standalone high speed, high speed lite and max and wireless services, all at competitive speeds, are very popular. For families with multiple broadband users, Frontier has introduced a new service called Second Connect which doubles capacity for the home. Combining broadband products with low cost video options and highly reliable voice service provides added value for customers.

There are technologies that can increase the speed of copper lines. Developing higher-speed networks is a huge priority for companies with legacy copper networks. They face increasing competition from cable and wireless providers in the broadband arena.

News of copper’s death may be greatly exaggerated. Given the rapid pace of change and customer’s increasingly demands, it will be interesting to see how Frontier keeps up. Maximizing copper’s performance is vital, but it might also be just buying time.

Links of the Day:

– Can Frontier Communications compete? An interesting blog post questions how Frontier can survive without offering higher speeds and new products.

Frontier Communications, having gobbled up a number of unwanted Verizon markets and debt back in 2009, continues to tread a precarious path where they’re supposed to be a broadband company, but can’t offer a compelling next-generation product that seriously competes with cable (or in some cases, 4G wireless).

We tend to focus on how Frontier can survive in the cell phone age, but broadband is also important. I asked Frontier in the fall of 2010 about its future plans. They did not include an upgrade to higher-speed networks. The company doesn’t believe most people need super-fast Internet.

Although cable broadband can offer higher speeds, (Ann) Burr said, “We’re constantly upgrading our local networks to make sure they can get higher and higher speeds.” Fiber lines are installed in newer developments, and neighborhoods that report problems with DSL lines get attention from technicians.

Burr said there are no plans to offer the super-high speed fiber network in Rochester, known as FiOS. She said most customers do not need speeds that fast, and Frontier’s broadband service is available in 95 percent of the market.

Frontier has 1,300 workers in Rochester.

– TV is going online. I’m convinced we’re moving to a day when everything we watch on TV will come from the web. Comcast announced it’s offering a streaming service to compete with Netflix.

– “Live from the Hollywood and Highland Theater.” A Los Angeles television station reports that’s what the former Kodak Theatre owner’s landlords want the place called during the Oscars.

– Some of the LeRoy girls are all better, because they accepted the diagnosis of conversion disorder.

– Chinese women are occupying men’s bathrooms in a fight for “potty parity.” I stand in complete solidarity.

Your clothes could be injuring you.

There’s evidence today cord-cutting is happening.

Nielson reports the number of households with only the Internet and free television is on the rise. TechCrunch reports:

Although representing less than 5% of TV households, the number has grown 22.8% over the past year.

In addition, the behaviors within these homes are unique. These broadband/broadcast-only households stream video twice as much as the general population, says Nielsen, and they watch half as much TV.

Nielsen says people over 35 are watching more television. People under 35 are watching less television ON a television screen. That could have major implications for broadcast networks, especially local news operations.

People watch more than our hours of TV a day! Ninety percent of households still pay for television. Cord-cutting may be taking hold, but it’s happening very, very slowly.

Links of the Day:

– We still watch a ton of television on an actual television.

Nielsen reported the average American watches 32.5 hours of traditional TV a week, compared to 3.6 hours a week on the Internet.

The data leads All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka to proclaim people won’t be cord-cutting a wide scale anytime soon:

Because they actually like TV quite a bit, and watch tons of it every week, and they’re okay paying for it, too, even if they say they’re not. They just want to pay less for the stuff they want.

One solution to the problem is cable companies offering lower-priced tiers and bundles, which some are now doing. The practice of downgrading is known as “cord-shaving.” (I’m a cord-shaver, having gone to basic cable plus HBO. I probably watch less than 5 hours of television a week.)

Another issue with cord-cutting is the cost of Internet, especially if you are mobile.

– Kodak’s inkjet plant in Dayton, Ohio, could play a key role in the company’s future.

– The signs are there that Governor Cuomo is gearing up to do battle with teachers unions.

– Buffalo is contemplating banning the under-21 crowd from downtown bars.

The Wall Street Journal has a delightful column about breaking up with cable. Cutting the cord. Going Internet-only. Excerpt:

I’ve changed over the years. I’m hardly at home. And when I am, it’s not live television I’m watching. It’s stuff that’s been queued up on my DVR for weeks. But mostly, when I’m on my couch with a remote in my hand, I’ve been…streaming.

I’m quitting you, cable.

This will go easier if we can just admit it: We’re not right for each other anymore.

I took a big step toward cutting the cord by subscribing to only basic cable plus HBO. (I’m thrilled HBO GO is arriving for Time Warner customers – one less reason to DVR.)

I’m starting to wonder, however, if the concept of cord-cutting is a false choice. In order to stream all this great content, you need the Internet, right? You need pretty fast and reliable Internet. Broadband costs anywhere from $30-$60 a month, depending on promotions.

You might be able to lop off $50-$100 from your monthly bill by cutting cable TV, but you can’t ditch the Internet. Time Warner and other cable companies know it, which is why they’re positioning themselves as broadband companies that do TV on the side. Kind of like how Netflix wants to stream and do DVDs on the side.

Complicating matters is the fact the Internet is meant to be mobile. My dream is to have one low-cost Wi-Fi bill for my phone and home. Right now, I pay about $50 for a data-capped phone plan that includes tethering and $45 to Time Warner for home broadband. That’s $105 a month, before taxes, on Internet. So much for reducing my TV bill. (Mi-Fi’s begin to address this, but they are still on somewhat slower over-the-air networks and the cost of entry can be high.)

Consumers will ultimately have more choice and pricing tiers as Internet TV gains a larger foothold. But we’ll always need broadband and I’m convinced we’re replacing one bill with another.

Links of the Day:

– Time Warner pulled MSG from its lineup, after failing to reach an agreement on how much the cable company should pay to carry the sports network. Sabres and Knicks fans are in the dark. Each side is blaming the other, according to a report in the Buffalo News:

The two sides have been arguing over how much Time Warner should pay to carry the MSG networks. Time Warner has said MSG sought a 53 percent increase; MSG said Time Warner’s offers are outdated and not in the ballpark with what other cable companies pay.

The delivery of niche channels like MSG still relies on the distribution power of cable companies. I bet channels and shows will be individual commodities in the future, perhaps accessible on your iPad or Internet-connected television. That could make these contract disputes a thing of the past and give consumers choice and control.

Fortunately for MSG-watchers, Verizon FiOs picked up the network recently. Rochester, of course, doesn’t have Verizon FiOs, to the lament of many.

– An awesome story in the Democrat and Chronicle details the revival of the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood. This is very real. A photographer and I drove down West Main Street last week and talked about the resurgence.

– Central New York’s Amish communities want their own school buses. The Syracuse Post-Standard reports on a battle between a school district and the Amish, who don’t want their children exposed to modern kids. The Amish also need to start school later because of farm chores.

– What’s more important? Chicago’s shipping economy or keeping the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes? Everyone who cares about the lakes should pay attention to this debate.

– Last week I called Rochester’s New Year’s party lame. Evidence surfaced yesterday that maybe it’s not so lame. Now I’m convinced it is indeed lame. Buffalo’s New Year’s festivities brought 100,000 people to its downtown. Wow. We have work to do, Rochester.

Links of the Day:

– It’s a good idea to call your cable provider a few times a year to negotiate a better monthly price, reports the Wall Street Journal. The article says the average TV subscriber pays $128 a month for cable, Internet and phone. During the recession, a lot of subscribers bolted. Excerpt:

To stanch the bleeding, some cable companies have begun to quietly offer stripped-down plans to retain viewers. They frequently go unadvertised in many regions and customers might have to hunt for them on providers’ websites to find out exactly what to ask for.

It would be nice if prices and tiers were more transparent. I went to basic cable because I wasn’t watching the premium channels (or much TV, besides news). But Internet jacks up the monthly bill to previous levels.

I believe Apple or some other company will dramatically change how we consume television, in the same manner iTunes changed how we consume music. It’s already happening with online services, but the masses are still tied to the cord.

– Speaking of cable, the cable guy is now better dressed and trained. The New York Times says many have backgrounds in computing and engineering.

– What if your birthday fell on a Tuesday every year? That could happen if this permanent calendar was adopted.

– Remember book-of-the-month clubs? Now there are shoe-of-the-month clubs. Is there a way to sign up for stilettos?

My “halo over Rochester” post made its way to Buffalo. Do we need downtowns?

– I will be filling in for Bob Lonsberry today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hope you can tune in and call in! 222-1180. The broadcast is also available online at wham1180.com.