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Comcast turns off Springs


Nobody seems to know exactly what day it happened.

Certainly there was no announcement or news release, courteously informing the Colorado Springs-area public that our cable company doesn't really care about this market anymore.

Instead, with the simple flick of a switch and the layoff of one highly visible person, Comcast Corp. apparently hoped nobody would notice. As if we, the legions of Comcast's 100,000-plus paying customers, never pay attention.

Wrong. We have noticed. We do pay attention. And we aren't happy.

This could have been all about that layoff. As reported in the March 6 Indy, Comcast eliminated the position of Sandra Mann, who handled the company's local public relations and, in reality, did so much more. She put a human face on the cable provider's local presence, smoothing over concerns when Comcast replaced Adelphia in August 2006. She spent nearly eight years going to City Council and committee meetings, providing updates and furthering goodwill there as well as with local civic clubs, nonprofits and countless fundraiser events.

Mann, who spent two decades (1977-96) as a highly popular local TV news anchor before moving into PR work and election to the District 11 school board, had used her expertise in another important way: She developed and organized local programming, first for Adelphia and then Comcast, on the local Channel 2.

Besides her own show and others such as those spotlighting the Better Business Bureau and the Philharmonic, there was the community calendar; Mike Boyle's restaurant show; coverage of parades as well as other civic events; and all kinds of local political forums around elections.

That channel was a big deal from the start in 2000, but Comcast inexplicably decided neither it nor Mann were worth keeping.

Mann, starting her own consulting firm now, doesn't want to talk about Comcast or its changes. But this customer will.

Comcast effectively has blown off any pretense of caring about Colorado Springs, with its actions and the lame excuse given to us last week by executive Cindy Parsons (from Denver, of course): "This was really a decision made so that our market aligned more consistently with other Comcast markets of the same size."

In other words, Denver matters and we don't. Instead, we're supposed to be happy with Comcast Entertainment Television (on cable Channel 4), which has plenty of Denver-based shows but clearly ignores the Springs.

Sure, Comcast did televise the Colorado College-Denver hockey game on March 8 but its announcers so hopelessly favored DU that it was disgusting. They never pronounced CC captain Scott Thauwald's last name correctly, and one referred to Denver at one point as being ahead 3-0 when the score was the opposite. Also, the promos for high school events showed nothing but Denver schools.

Check the Channel 4 schedule, and you won't see room for other fixtures from "our" Channel 2. Philharmonic, gone. Community calendar, gone. Other events and forums, gone. (Apparently, the Better Business Bureau is working out a deal to put its show on the Library Channel.)

From what Comcast folks have said, we're not big enough in Colorado Springs to deserve that anymore. Even with more than 100,000 households on cable.

So now it'll be interesting to see how Comcast represents itself to city government, local nonprofits and charity events. Also, don't be expecting any coverage or replays when the biggest local election races have public forums.

Too bad the extra local channel wasn't part of the local cable franchise agreement with the city. It was separate from the PEG (public, educational and government) channels, but Adelphia made the local channel a high priority back in 2000 as an extra reason to choose cable over satellite TV.

Now that reason is gone. And, by the way, you might want to check the fine print in your next Comcast bill, because as of March 1 it will be about 4 percent higher.

Let's make sure we've got this right: Our rates are going up, we just lost that useful local channel and Comcast has decided it no longer needs anybody in a PR role for a market of more than 500,000 people.

Satellite is suddenly looking better and better.

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