Through The Wire: Maybe They Wanted to See Gloria Estefan

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One man is glad that he didn't have to punt on Super BowlSunday. That's the general manager at Time WarnerCable's Hillsboro, Ohio, system. He's had to scramble five times in the past twoweeks to get his system back online, after vandals have cut the cable.

But GM Mike Rector had some help Jan. 31. Some of the attacks seemed timed for maximumdisruption: One cut blacked out President Clinton's State of the Union address. So theHighland County Sheriff's Department beefed up its defense and put extra deputies in playto tackle any vandals. Either the criminals are football fans, or the public effort by thesheriff paid off, as the Super Bowl telecast went unmolested. Rector said there are noobvious reasons for the vandalism, such as a labor dispute, but he added thatinvestigators have some leads.

The Wire has been wondering why the AT&T entitythat's acquiring or merging with TCI is called "Italy Merger Corp." Thatname appears in the proxy statements sent to shareholders, who will vote on the mergerFeb. 17. Was Alexander Graham Bell an Italian? It turns out that the explanation is rootedin the code names that company executives and investment bankers used while the speedilyconducted merger talks were still secret. The proposed merger was called the ParisProject; AT&T was Italy, and TCI was Brazil. Figured it out yet? The World Cup ofsoccer was being played in France at the time.

PrimeStar Inc.'s recent buyout by DirecTVInc. may be the buzz in industry circles, but there's every indication that thenews hasn't trickled down to the consumer level yet:

PrimeStar's only national retailer, RadioShack, will advertise a new PrimeStar/HBOpromotion in a high-profile ad in a Sunday (Feb. 28) newspaper circular. A spokeswomanfor HBO said the promotion -- which offers one free month of HBO to new PrimeStarsubscribers who sign up for the multiplex-premium service -- had been in the works formonths, long before DirecTV announced its deal with PrimeStar.

The Pawtucket, R.I., City Council is so miffed aboutincreases in cable-programming prices over the past few years that it's actively lookingfor ways to offer residents alternatives to the local cable franchise. One of the waysthat the city is seeking to inform residents of competitive media is to inviterepresentatives of EchoStar and other DBS companies to a meeting Feb. 24 to tout theirwares. Cox will passively give these competitors a hand: Consumers can watch thatcouncil meeting on a PEG-access channel -- a service that, ironically enough, will bemissing for those who switch to DBS.

Neither snow, nor sleet, nor papal visit shall stay thecable operator from its service-guaranteed rounds ... TCI officials saidit was pretty much business as usual in St. Louis, despite the recent visit by the Pope.TCI did put EWTN's coverage of the visit on its local-originationchannel, said local spokeswoman Deb Seidel. The operator also shut down its rebuildof the neighboring town of St. Charles to assure that there would be no holes in thecoverage of His Holiness.


By Linda Haugsted, from bureau reports.

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