Thursday, April 12, 2007

In Our Opinion:

Kudos To Mayor Delfino

The Westchester Guardian applauds the twenty-five month effort by White Plains Mayor Joseph Delfino and his administration to bring a VERIZON NEW YORK cable franchise option to the 22,000 households, of Westchester’s county seat. Last Wednesday’s preliminary public hearing, following the Mayor’s State of the City Address, was the first of several anticipated in response to the communication giant’s application currently before City government, thus beginning the final stages of the approval process.

Cablevision, best known to most Westchester residents for their NEWS12 Cable News Network, has enjoyed a virtual monopoly franchise throughout the County, conferred several years ago by the Office of the County
Executive. Their interests in the current Verizon application are represented by the law firm of DelBello, Donellan, and Weingarten, a partnership closely connected with the current County Executive.

Attorney Mark Weingarten advised The Guardian that his client, Cablevision, “acknowledges that there is going to be competition.” He stressed, however, that Cablevision, “merely expects that the City of White Plains will live up to its obligation to set up a level playing field,” in their negotiations and arrangements with each provider.
We heartily agree with Mayor Delfino who told us, “There’s no question that competition makes for a healthier marketplace.” Clearly offering consumers another option with respect to their cable, television, internet, and telephone communication needs will create lively competition and likely drive down the cost of services. And, that would be a good thing for Westchester residents, already facing the highest property taxes, and cost of living in the nation.

As importantly, We believe that the status quo, under which the Dolan Family, owners of Cablevision, have enjoyed a virtual monopoly, particularly as it pertains to the dissemination of news is not in the best interest
of County residents. For one thing, under FCC Rules cable television is not subject to any regulations whatsoever as relates to the “Fairness Doctrine,” traditionally imposed upon non-cable network broadcasters.
The content of newscasts may be as slanted, or as filtered, as the provider wishes. The Dolans have shown no reluctance to limit access to viewers sought by individuals and corporations whose interests may run counter
to their own.

We would remind our readers of the refusal by Cablevision, owner of Madison Square Garden, and the New York Knicks, to permit the airing of commercials by the Nets, and contractors, proposing the construction
of another arena on Manhattan’s West Side within the last two years. And, closer to home, observers of the operations of County Government have been concerned for several years regarding the awarding of a no-bid $23.5 million contract by the present County Executive’s Office to Lightpath, a wholly owned subsidiary of Cablevision, in March of 2000 for the establishment of a county-wide communications system. Its not unreasonable to assume that a “gift” of that magnitude will certainly influence the nature of information reported
by the recipient with regard to the activities and positions of the donor, the County Executive.W e believe that cozy arrangement had Deputy County Executive Larry Schwartz’ fingerprints all over it.

Once again, We congratulate Mayor Delfino, and express our hopes that other municipalities throughout Westchester will follow White Plains in opening up the opportunity to providers other than Cablevision
to service their residents’ communication needs. Competition, after all, is the American Way, ensuring the best service at the lowest possible price.

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