Now Verizon Wants Cable TV Portability. No Really!

With the clock ticking on FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s tenure, his special friends in the phone business are asking him to give them the moon, the stars and the sun: In other words, a cable TV version of number portability.

Verizon today asked the Federal Communications Commission to require the cable industry to make it as easy for consumers to choose a new video provider as it already is for them to switch voice providers. The process to switch video providers is more cumbersome for consumers…Cable incumbents do not accept disconnect orders from the new provider; instead, they require the customer to contact them directly to cancel service after choosing a new video provider and to return equipment. (press release)

Verizon’s arguments and press release may seem consumer-friendly, but one has to take all of it with a barrel of salt. Now, as you well know, I am no fan of cable companies — who apparently want to watch what you are doing inside your living room — but it’s hard to believe Verizon.

Even despite all the legal and other hassles, the satellite guys have been competing with cable companies for video customers — and they didn’t need a sugar daddy (aka the FCC) to help them out. Verizon should learn to compete in the open market.

Must I remind you that Verizon is the same company that rips out copper cables in favor of its own fiber, thereby taking away your ability to switch your broadband or voice service to another provider? Verizon itself delayed the switching of “broadband” service when customers wanted to buy DSL from another company, thus driving many of them out of business. In fact, incumbent phone companies indulge in such delays even now.

I think both incumbents — the cable and phone operators — are waging a war of words, and none of them, including the newly “open” Verizon, have consumers’ best interests in mind.

The P2P arguments, open networks, and now video portability all seem to be part of a calculated image makeover for Verizon. But as my granddaddy used to say: Just because you paint stripes on a donkey, it doesn’t make it a zebra.