Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Hillsdale Underground strikes!

We were lying in wait, Wes Risher and I. We had in our sights two corporate giants.

Comcast and Qwest had been flushed out by last night's Mt. Hood Cable Regulatory Commission hearing.

Because the hearing was about Qwest's bold bid to compete with Comcast in the Portland Cable TV market, Wes and I knew executive heavies would be out in the open.

We prepared to pounce, and we did.

We told the commissioners how neither communications colossus had buried its overhead cables in the underground conduits installed next to Hillsdale's new, landmark Watershed Senior Housing development.

See the photo: the Qwest and Comcast wires trail off to the right from the big, ugly pole on the left (more on that later).

PGE, wearing a white hat, put its wires underground along the side of the building. Note how the top cables disappear at the pole, which PGE owns.

Wes and I want all Capitol Highway's overhead clutter buried in the central Town Center, but last night we would take what we could get.

As the corporate brass prepared to walk away after the hearing, we cut 'em off. After introductions and pleasantries, we got to the point. "So how can you help us? The conduits are just waiting for your cables etc."

We displayed our public spirit, knowing both firms want to make nice with a public that soon will be choosing between their services.

It helped that KOIN-TV was there taking all this in.

It is not a time for bad PR.

So we had 'em. Who would do the right thing? Who would underground? Who would not? Would competition lead them both to underground righteousness?

Sanford Inouye, Comcast's vice president of government affairs, promised to have someone call me in the morning. Judy Peppler, president of Qwest in Oregon, asked that I e-mail her with the specifics in the morning.

Here's where we stand.

I e-mailed Judy. Actually I addressed her as "Ms. Peppler" (even though this IS Oregon). She can call me "Rick." I shared the specifics and did some overreaching (why not?) — perhaps Qwest, Comcast and PGE could band together and remove the obtrusive utility pole in front of the tower (see photo). I reminded her that Wes and I also had approached Comcast with the same undergrounding request.

It is now 12 hours since I sent my e-mail. I haven't heard back from Peppler, but then it's summer time and the living is easy, right?

Not so at Comcast. I'm into my second cup of coffee this morning and I get the call, the first of two from Comcast. They don't know what the problem is in Hillsdale because when conduit is provided Comcast ALWAYS underground.

Sounds like a deal.

Well, it's a deal when it's done, but so far in the niceness sweepstakes, Comcast is first off the line and building speed. Qwest is still in the blocks. (Yes, I know I've egregiously switched metaphors — and am flailing this one — but this is a heady time.)

No need to place bets. This is no contest — we want everyone to win, especially Hillsdale.

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