Press on with broadband
August 18, 2004
Most people don’t really track what goes on at the Truckee Donner Public Utility District meetings, much less attend them in person. They don’t understand that Director Pat Sutton goes far beyond the “lone voice of reason” that recent letter writers to the Sierra Sun imagine her to be. Mrs. Sutton objects to – and votes “no” on – everything having to do with the broadband system, and most other issues the board considers. Some recent letter writers, including a former town council member, also tried to imply that Mrs. Sutton is justified in what she does because she is an elected official who represents the “voice of the people.” Mrs. Sutton is no more “elected” than Ted Owens will be “elected” county supervisor. It’s simply that no one ran against them! They won by default – hardly a ringing endorsement. Neither the letter writers nor Mrs. Sutton understand the difference between being a gadfly and being an albatross. I appreciate the desirability of hearing an opposing viewpoint, but Mrs. Sutton has destroyed her own credibility through her compulsive negativity and lack of perspective. The few good points she raises are lost in the sea of irrelevant objections. If she could limit her objections to the few percent that are relevant she could be much more effective on the board, but she gives no indication that she is even aware of the problem. Her foot-dragging has only served to impede the progress of the vitally-needed PUD broadband system. Jim Maass, the district’s board president, did a good job describing the differences between the PUD’s proposed system and any other cable system, but I think it can be said even more succinctly: the PUD’s system will always be better than any for-profit competitor’s. The PUD has no shareholders demanding profits. In fact, the PUD can’t even keep any profits over the long term. Profits will be rolled into better services and lower prices. USA Media raked millions of dollars out of Truckee, provided terrible service, and broke the law. The town government (including Maia Schneider, Owens, Ron Florian, Josh Susman, Beth Ingalls, and departing Town Manager Steve Wright) had their opportunity to rectify the situation when I and others brought complaints about USA Media before them. But instead of protecting their constituency, they took deliberate steps to avoid investigating these complaints, thus allowing USA Media to continue breaking the law. The town was criticized by the Nevada County Civil Grand Jury and still took no action. It took an FCC investigation to finally reveal some of USA Media’s transgressions. Further, a county investigation revealed that USA Media had been underpaying franchise fees to the county. It would be reasonable to assume that they underpaid the town as well. To the best of my knowledge, the town hasn’t even followed up on that. When newcomer Cebridge wanted to take over from USA Media, the Town Council (as expected) just rolled over and let them have it, even though I had made all of them aware of numerous complaints by current Cebridge subscribers. We can’t count on the present town government to honor its oath to provide “the best possible cable service” to Truckee; we can’t even rely on it to act in the best interests of the people. We are lucky to have dedicated people like Bryan DeVoe, Emilie Kashtan, and many others who are brave enough to speak out against the town’s misdoings despite the town’s best efforts to intimidate and silence them. The only hope Truckee has for a decent “landline” broadband network is the TDPUD, who will excel at it because that’s their mission (rather than raking in profits). And they will succeed, in spite of the albatross of Pat Sutton around their neck.George Blanz is a Truckee resident.