Video and Communications in the 21st Century

Council 06.19.06

Lakewood City Council President Robert Seelie called the June 19, 2006 meeting to order at 7:40.

At the invitation of council member Ryan Demro (ward two), representatives of the Lakewood Early Childhood PTA addressed council with feedback from the recent "Meet the Trucks" event. Observer readers will recall pictures in the last issue of some of Lakewood's mightiest and shiniest fire trucks and work trucks that were on display at Lakewood Park for kids to climb on and sit in. The consensus was that this first time event was extraordinarily popular. Comments on the Observation Deck indicate that several 50 plus year old "kids" really liked the trucks, too. There was an award for Best Truck and just as in a dog show where the mutt sometimes gets the attention, here, the homely Zamboni ice finishing machine from Winterhurst won!

Next, Demro introduced a resolution commemorating the first anniversary of the Lakewood Observer. Well over 50 writers and volunteers gathered on the council stage for the customary photograph. Mayor Thomas George, surveying the assemblage of volunteers that included all members of council and most department heads, shrewdly said, "I'll sign the resolution."

Chances are, you're reading this article in the print version of the newspaper. That method of transmitting information has been around for many centuries. Maybe you're reading the online version. That technology is barely two decades old. Remember TV antennas on the rooftops of homes? They are about as common as the old transistor radios and black Bakelite telephones. Today the buzzword for information technology is convergence. Many technologies are coming together so the distinct lines between them are blurring or nonexistent. If you read this online you can talk on the phone through the computer and watch video all carried by cable, phone lines, or through the atmosphere.

The companies or enterprises which provide and carry this data are either new to the scene or in some cases close to a century old.
Cox Communications has been familiar to Lakewood cable television subscribers for 26 years. AT&T has been the primary telephone provider for over 100 years. Cox brings the trifecta of video, Internet, and recently added telephone services into your home. Because AT&T has gone through many business configurations over the years, it has evolved from a telephone carrier to include becoming an internet provider in the last twenty years. It now wants to add the third, video, to its offerings.

Denis Dunn presented the formal, public debut of AT&T's entry into the home video market to Lakewood Council. Dunn is the Director of External Affairs for AT&T Ohio and was most recently a member of city council as an at-large member.

Project Light Speed is the national AT&T label for what it describes as "next generation communications technologies" which it will deploy in 41 target markets over three years. Dunn said that Lakewood could be the second city in Ohio to be a test market. The homeowner would be able to subscribe to AT&T U-verse TV, which is an internet protocol based video service. The basic product offerings are expected to compete with those now offered by Cox. According to Dunn, "this choice contract will provide competition where there currently is only one provider." He cited studies indicating that in areas where competition existed that prices either came down or did not rise at the same rate as in monopoly jurisdictions. The inference was that the AT&T entry could bring prices down for cable and other video services in Lakewood.
Because of the complicated regulations on media transmission at the federal, state, and local level, the only certain need for Lakewood to address is whether to approve the construction of node boxes to handle the reception and transmission of video signals. The visual impact of these boxes has met with some resistance in Rocky River. According to Assistant Law Director Thomas Corrigan, the design and construction of these node boxes can be a matter for council to consider.

Dunn emphasized that the expected investment of several millions of dollars by AT&T, the 14th largest company in the United States, would represent a unique recognition of Lakewood at the national level. In addition, this would be a continuation of the long association of AT&T in Lakewood. "We are the third largest employer in Lakewood and have several hundred current and former employees living in Lakewood."

Cox now almost exclusively serves the market of consumers that AT&T is trying to target. Any entry by AT&T would therefore threaten the Cox customer base. However, at the moment, the Cox representative, Christy Frederick, has in a letter to council suggested "caution and due diligence when reviewing this new proposal."

The meeting adjourned at 8:50.

Reported by Stan Austin- Lakewood Observer City Council Reporter
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Volume 2, Issue 13, Posted 8:08 AM, 06.23.06