SAN FRANCISCO: The issue of open - or forced, depending on which side is speaking - access to AT&T/TCI’s cable TV lines has whipped the San Francisco PR community into a frenzy.
SAN FRANCISCO: The issue of open - or forced, depending on which
side is speaking - access to AT&T/TCI’s cable TV lines has whipped the
San Francisco PR community into a frenzy.
With local media relations pros and lobbyists lining up on either side
of the issue and large telecom concerns fueling the campaigns, what was
once an arcane technological issue has suddenly become a hot topic of
At issue is whether or not San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors will
vote to force AT&T, which purchased local cable provider TCI last year,
to open its cable lines for use by other Internet service providers such
as AOL, PacBell and GTE. Excite@Home, of which AT&T owns 40%, is
currently the only ISP able to use these lines to offer high-speed
That is exactly why the San Mateo-based cable modem ISP brought in San
Francisco’s Access Communications to help sway reporters to AT&T’s side
of the fight. Of course, it’s also the reason GTE put up big bucks to
hire local government/public affairs firm Barnes & Clarke to frame the
whole debate as a consumer issue.
For its part, Access has taken the gimmicky route in selling
Excite@Home’s position. Led by account director Tuesday Uhland, the
Access team created faux Monopoly board press kits (filled with letters
of endorsement from various Silicon Valley VIPs) that were sent to 50
local tech-business journalists. Access also staged a game of ’human
chess’ - complete with San Francisco State students and Excite employees
costumed as kings and queens - on the steps of City Hall, an
irresistible photo -op that made the front page of the San Francisco
Barnes & Clarke, on the other hand, has employed more traditional
grass-roots and public affairs strategies in its work for GTE, a member
of the Bay Area Open Access Coalition. The firm collected 15,000
signatures and commissioned public opinion polls, the results of which
were delivered to city higher-ups.
Despite all the clamor, last week’s vote by the Board of Supervisors
wound up being uneventful. While approving the transfer of the local
cable franchise to AT&T, they tabled the decision on opening access
until mid-December. This is good news for the PR players involved, who
now have four more months’ worth of fees to bill as efforts are
And that’s not all. The movement is already migrating toward the South
Bay. SF’s Solem Associates, for one, is on GTE’s payroll, stirring up
consumer interest in Santa Clara County, where the issue doesn’t come up
for a vote until next year.