by Max Brantley
It doesn't surprise me that AT&T has a poll showing virtually everyone in Little Rock would like to see competition for Comcast. No, I'm not saying the poll is flawed. It was done by the most respected researchers in town. What I'm saying is that Comcast is paying the piper for years of being and acting like the only TV service in town (the dish notwithstanding).
On the one hand, Comcast makes a decent argument that AT&T should operate under the same rules under which it operates -- fees, service requirements, etc. On the other -- and this will carry the day before the City Board -- consumers are hungry for the competition AT&T promises, even if it doesn't serve all the city at once. `And AT&T can say it's already paying a franchise fee for the phone lines installed universally through which the TV signal will pass.
AT&T is going to get approval from the City Board. It might have to beat a lawsuit challenging the tax structure first. Then come the answers to the questions I have: 1) will competition actually lower prices; 2) will AT&T actually deliver advances in service, such as a la carte channel selection.
UPDATE: Roby Brock's Talk Business reports that Comcast has its own poll showing -- surprise -- that people think AT&T should play by the same rules that apply to Comcast. Too bad for Comcast the matter isn't going to a popular vote. Brock elaborates, too, on the threatened lawsuit over the AT&T not-a-franchise-tax-tax scheme.
AT&T release on the poll on the jump.
Little Rock, July 17, 2006 — Consumers in Little Rock strongly support the idea of competition for Comcast cable TV, with 91 percent favoring competition and 87 percent supporting advanced video services from AT&T as competitive offerings, a leading opinion research firm said today.
Support for competition is consistently high in all neighborhoods including downtown and southwest Little Rock and regardless of survey respondents’ income or minority status, according to researcher Dr. Ernest Oakleaf of Opinion Research Associates in Little Rock.
Those and other findings from the research show broad popular support for competition and for AT&T’s plan to offer advanced video services as alternatives to Comcast cable TV, Oakleaf said.
“Little Rock city directors, who will consider AT&T’s video service agreement at their July 18 public meeting, are on the right track,” said Ron Dedman, Director-External Affairs AT&T Arkansas. “The public wants competition because they know that will allow them to choose their video provider and give them control over what comes into their homes. They know that with competition, consumers always win.”
Citywide, 89 percent of consumers said competition will bring benefits to all consumers, even if video services from AT&T are not immediately available.
Dedman added, “Little Rock consumers do not support Comcast’s longstanding stranglehold on this market. They do support competition, regardless of where they live, their income, minority status, age or any other demographic factor.”
Key findings from the research include:
Little Rock Consumers Support Competition
• 91 percent of all residents favor competition for Comcast cable TV, including 90 percent of Comcast users.
• Competition for Comcast is equally popular in all neighborhoods: It has 90 percent support among downtown residents, 91 percent in southwest Little Rock, 92 percent in the Hillcrest/Heights area and 88 percent support in west Little Rock.
• 87 percent of city residents favor AT&T offering its advanced video services in competition with Comcast. By neighborhood, support ranged from 84 percent to 98 percent.
• 90 percent of southwest Little Rock consumers, and 88 percent of those living downtown, support competition even if AT&T’s advanced video services are not offered in their area immediately. Citywide, 82 percent of residents support competition even knowing that AT&T may not offer advanced video services in their area immediately.
• 89 percent believe competition will bring benefits to the neighborhoods that do not get AT&T advanced video services immediately.
• The Internal Revenue Service has a higher favorability rating than does Comcast, and Comcast has a negative rating more than double that of AT&T, the research reveals.
• Comcast received a 47 percent favorable/ 33 percent unfavorable rating, while the IRS was rated 65 percent favorable/ 20 percent favorable. AT&T was rated 73 percent favorable/ 15 percent unfavorable, and Central Arkansas Water was rated 84 percent favorable/ 8 percent unfavorable.
About the Research
Research results are based on a telephone poll of 503 adult heads of household in Little Rock. Telephone numbers were selected at random and respondents were screened so as to speak with an adult consumer. Interviews were conducted by Opinion Research Associates between July 13-16. The survey has a margin of error of approximately plus/minus 4.5 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. This means that 95 percent of all random samples of this size will produce results that can be expected to vary, as a result of random variation, by no more than 4.5 percentage points from the true population parameters. Findings are rounded to the nearest percentage point and may not add up to 100% owing to rounding error.