AT&T open access debate keeps Bay Area pros busy

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.

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

conversation.



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

Internet access.



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

Chronicle.



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

extended.



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.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.