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Changing times: Arvig may be ‘forced out’ of cable television


Ted Fiskevold

PERHAM — Talk about changing times: David Pratt has been Arvig’s director of video since Arvig Enterprises first ventured into cable television under the name TekStar33 years ago.

Video meant the visual end of communications then and now; not to be confused with video tapes. “I actually started with TekStar putting cable boxes on poles,” he said.

Arvig Enterprises then included Eastern Otter Tail Telephone, TekStar cable, and some other marketing names like Loratel, and morphed into ACS (Arvig Communications Systems) and now simply Arvig.

“The biggest percentage of the company is owned by the Arvig family and employees have a large percentage” of Arvig’s enterprises, Pratt said.

“The escalating costs of television content could force us out of the cable end of the business,” Pratt said matter-of-factly.  “We are always exploring the possibility of selling applications or participating in program content from other sources, specifically through online sources.”

Those opportunities for Arvig to share in online delivery of television or video content (such as Netflix or Amazon or Redbox) have not opened up yet.

That conversation also opens up the whole issue of net neutrality, who owns the internet, and whether the cable provider who might be synonymous with the consumer’s internet provider should get slices of all aspects of a consumer’s annual budget for communications.

Whew! Comcast and Cable One and Viacom and other internet providers are already fighting about just that.

To wit: cable-internet companies darken Viacom stations, Viacom stops the flow of same-station programming from getting to those customers’ internet.

Yep, kind of confusing.

Try this.

AT&T just bought Direct TV, and Century Link is partnered with both.

Once known as Qwest, before it was U.S. West, before it was Northwestern Bell and before it was Bell, Century Link is well on its way to being bigger than Ma Bell ever was.

Lest we forget that the reason Bell was busted up was to avoid monopoly by one telephone company.

And yes, Arvig has a monopoly on cable television in our little area. There are a thousand small- to mid-size cable companies in the entire National Cable Television Cooperative that Arvig belongs to.

There is also an American Cable Association that represents about 900 small cable outfits. But the big outfit, Comcast—the largest cable company in the U.S. and probably in the world—will likely soon succeed in a $45 billion merger with Time-Warner.

Hard to follow all of this, but a safe guess is that Comcast-Time-Warner would be larger than all the other cable outfits in the ACA and the NCTC combined.

Meanwhile all who enjoy television and video, all who are interested in the latest technology and those who provide programming content and online services are waiting to see what’s around the next corner, how it will be delivered and what it’s all going to cost.

From free TV if you hung an antenna to who knows where? Let us hope everybody will be able to afford at least a little piece of this action to come.

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