Roger that, Dan. Everything you say is true. Problem is that focusing on safety doesn’t apply any real pressure on Matt’s. TSBA has tried this approach for years, and Matt’s has never budged an inch. In sum, the public safety argument, albeit the goal we’re all after, is a failure. What might work?
Allow me to tell you an applicable “David & Goliath” story.
Once upon a time a $30 billion industry — competitive local broadband & telecom operators — faced a crisis. In order to reach customers they relied on a provision of the 1996 Telecom Act that required Bell Monopolies like Verizon to provide local access connectivity to competitors at wholesale rates. This “last mile” of connectivity to end users is a vital niche that the Bells have dominated for nearly a century. Problem: An obscure provision of the Telecom Act allowed the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to “forbear” from applying the wholesale rate requirement after a set date. No vote by the FCC approving this drastic change would be required. When that date came, the FCC could simply look the other way, and the Bells could begin charging competitors their high retail rates for local access and drive the little guys out of business.
As that dread date loomed, the competitive industry freaked. They hired several of the Top 10 PR and ad agencies to launch campaigns that would save their companies and competition. Their message: FCC “forbearance” would drive a valuable industry broke.
Unfortunately, nobody cared. The media found the story too complex. The public didn’t get it, either. About 2 months before “forbearance” would become law, the little guys hired me. I had a different idea: Don’t focus on the pain to yourselves, focus on the pain to end users. I commissioned an independent study showing that lack of competition would drive up end user broadband & telecom bills by billions of dollars. I gave this story to the Wall Street Journal as an exclusive, and BOOM, suddenly things changed. The media went wild and covered the story nationally: “Verizon Seeks to Raise Rates by $Billions.”
All of a sudden it was the Baby Bells who found themselves on defense. Outraged business and consumer groups went on the attack. One particularly hard piece that appeared in the Washington Post — yeah, I wrote it — compared the FCC Chairman to the Emperor Nero fiddling while Rome burned.
End result: The FCC decided it needed to vote on forbearance, after all. The vote: 5 to 0 (unanimous) against the Bells. Switching the focus to consumer harms worked.
It’s time for TSBA to change it’s Matt’s strategy in similar fashion. Again, Dan, you are absolutely right that public safety is the real issue here. But in the half-decade that TSBA has harped on this theme, nothing has changed. All the dangerous practices Matt’s indulges in persist. In sum, the approach you recommend hasn’t worked yet, and probably never will. Reason: Matt’s doesn’t give a damn, and will never change until we attack on the only front they care about: profit & loss.