Yesterday, we had a storm in Rochester with 81 MPH gusts. Since our power grid is shit (lots of wires above ground, lots of trees), about 100,000 of the 300,000 or so households here lost power. Our local utility is working hard, but it will be 10 degrees tomorrow night and probably 25-50K households won’t have heat. I have a generator so I have (gas) heat and my food won’t spoil, but I do not have cable Internet. I know that sounds like the ultimate first world problem, but bear with me for a second.
In the past 15-20 years, cable companies have been selling packages that include TV, Internet and telephone. A lot of people purchased those packages, and tonight every single one of them in an area without power is also without a telephone. Even if you have a generator, you don’t have a phone if your phone provider is the cable company. We’re about 30 hours into this outage, so many of the housebound elderly and disabled don’t have much charge left on their cell phones. They’re huddled up under a blanket with no way to call for help, if they bought a cable package with a phone.
I still have a land line and an old-fashioned telephone. It’s working because our legacy telephone infrastructure is subject to the worst imaginable limitation on freedom: government regulation. The cable companies are much less regulated than the phone company, even though they have the same right to string wires on poles (as well as other monopoly rights) as the phone companies.
Over the years, cable companies have slowly but surely vacuumed money out of our wallets without providing quality service. TV bundling forces us to buy channels we don’t want. The speed of our cable Internet is a joke compared to other developed countries, and cable providers don’t deploy the latest technology unless thy are under competitive pressure from providers like Google. And they’re allowed to replace a far more reliable telephone service with one that is flaky at best, and dangerous at worst. This might seem like a minor issue in the days of Trump, but it is one that crosses class, race and gender. Everyone fucking hates the cable company. I’d love to see Democrats make this a signature issue. I get that there are a lot more important things in life, but I’ll bet that we’d get a bunch of votes from otherwise uninterested voters if we become enemies of these greedy bastards.