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Kane County Chronicle, Opinion, by Greg Rivara 2-23-03
reprinted by permission from the Kane County Chronicle
© 2003 Kane County Chronicle

Comcast, SBC poll a bad idea

Comcast and SBC might want to put down the two tin cans and string they are using as a telephone system.

Then they can have their money men glance at a map. The Tri-Cities are the little dots to the left of Chicago. Look for the thin blue wavy line that denotes the Fox River. Take the map, write "Never Again" in big red, permanent marker, and hand it out to all of the corporate decision-makers who somehow believe their genetic superiority enables them to know more about local people and local politics than the poor souls who live here.

Hey guys, exactly what were you thinking?

A push poll? One that asks if you would pay for your neighbor's porn? If you will trade teachers for high-speed Internet? If you want Big Brother listening to your telephone conversations?

All you managed to do was offend your customers...again.

Comcast and SBC provide Internet, telephone and cable television service to central Kane County. Some Tri-Cities officials think they can do it better, and seek your permission to take out at least a $53 million loan backed by your tax dollars to build their own telephone, Internet and cable television system. Together, computer types call it broadband.

The Tri-Cities initiative must really have Comcast and SBC worried. Nothing else explains the monumental short-sightedness used last week with a telephone survey designed to push voters into a rabid frenzy against their towns.

The survey was written to intimidate voters and drum up opposition to the Tri-Cities broadband initiative. Why else ask if voters would support a large, expensive, ineffective bloated bureaucracy like that of Amtrak and the Post Office? Why else ask your opinion of mayors Sue Klinkhamer, Kevin Burns and Jeff Schielke, and if they are leading their communities in the right direction?

Fact is, a cheap newspaper subscription to the Chronicle would tell anyone who suffered through a PoliSci 101 class that the heavens would have to be in majestic alignment for this broadband initiative to pass.

Consider some facts:

  • People do not like taxes.
    Tax money would be used to support Tri-Cities broadband before it would become a user-fee system.
  • Despite popular belief, Tri-Cities officials are not in lock-step supporting the referendum and some of the top leaders believe it will fail.
  • Most people understand Internet, telephone and cable television service. Most people don't understand broadband. Take an unfamiliar concept, put six zeros behind it, and watch voters punch "No."

Comcast and SBC did not gather any information not already available. What they did do is give fence-sitters a reason to vote "Yes."

Greg Rivara is the Kane County Chronicle Managing Editor. He can be contacted directly at (630) 845-5355 or by e-mail at

Please read the letter to the editor which rebuts some of what Mr. Rivara has published in this opinion column.

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