Consumers clamor to be heard among service provider din

Consumers, caught in a maelstrom of retransmission fights and municipal cable proposals, are fighting back, or at least fighting to be heard. Those following the story should not be surprised that Tuesday's Opelika, Ala. city council meeting was jammed to the rafters with consumers offering thoughts on a proposal (up for vote via referendum Aug. 10) that the city build its own fiber optic system and become a cable provider.

Among the interested parties was Knology (Nasdaq: KNOL) General Manager Royce Ard, whose company is looking to become an alternative cable provider in town. While his presence was noted, the lack of hometown presence in cable operations (Charter Communications (OTC BB: CCMM) is the incumbent) is a reason for building a municipal network, said local businessman John Rice, a proposal supporter. "These are our people," he said of the city's utility board.

In New York City, council members are arguing for the rights of consumers caught in the middle of cable-broadcaster retransmission fights. "Consumers will be seated at the table when the big boys fight," Council member Lew Fidler said in comments directed at broadcast industry lobbyists. "You will not decide how much you can suck out of our pocket without our participation. You operate under a public license on public airwaves and the public will not be damned."

A contentious retransmission dispute between Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC-WI) and Disney (ABC) is warming things up in the Big Apple and its Left Coast counterpart Los Angeles where Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik questioned why consumers should bear the brunt of the battle of the behemoths.

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