Pole Snow Job: A Commentary

I made a mistake. At the Ledger forums I posted a comment in the discussion on their article City, Bright House Try To Resolve Fee Dispute. I thought I could slip in, add an important point, and slip out. I should have remembered it isn’t that easy.

One poster’s reply started with, “Your aggression is focused incorrectly at Bright House. The fact is that this is simply another tax by Lakeland Electric or the city of Lakeland.”

This what I wrote:

First, I feel no aggression toward Bright House, and I also don’t feel a city (and its citizens) should give away its resources.

The attachment fee is not a tax. It is a cost of doing business. I believe Bright House labeled it a tax hoping the word would shock citizens who didn’t study the situation.

We paid to put up those poles. We continue to pay for them. In order to allow cable and other companies to attach to the poles, we have to buy taller poles than the electric company needs.

I have a suggestion. Would you be amenable to Bright House putting up all their own poles? That way they would have to repair them when they’re damaged or old. Oh, and your bill would go way up to pay for all those poles.

When cable first started the companies were given discount rates to attach to the poles because they were “new.” Not just in Lakeland, but all over the US. The rates have not risen with the costs. The attachment fees in Lakeland and other municipalities are fair fee for the burden the cable companies put on our resources.

I surely believe the same people would complain if the headline was “Lakeland Gives Free Ride to Bright House.” I’d read, “How dare they not charge that company. No wonder my taxes are so high!”

As I mentioned in my personal statement about Lakeland Local, I’ll try to keep everything as transparent as possible. For those who ask, I’ve never had a single problem with Bright House service other than expected equipment failures. No problems with bills, no over (or under) charges, no rude technicians or sales staff. On the other side, except for a single instance, I’ve found the members of our city government very open, forthcoming, and helpful. In order words, I don’t have a special like or dislike for either entity.

I believe the attachment fee is fair. I believe the company management at Bright House made a mistake by not reporting every pole where their techs attached cable leads. I also feel they dealt in a little propaganda by calling the fee “a tax” and using an inflated number when reporting the fee to their customers. I really hope the attention on this issue will help the two sides sit down and quickly reach an agreement.

I urge all Bright House customers to study the pole fee attachment issue as it relates to cable companies. Don’t settle for what I, or the Ledger, reports. Especially don’t settle for what Bright House and Lakeland Electric puts on a single slip of paper in your monthly bill.