July 2009 Archives

The City of Des Moines is considering adding red-light cameras to intersections and Interstate 235 off-ramps. Clive already has them in six locations, so the horse is already out of the barn around here, in a sense. But that doesn't mean Des Moines should roll over and follow suit. Red-light cameras are not only creepy symptoms of a surveillance state, they're not even especially good at reducing collisions (in fact, they tend to increase rear-end collisions). If you want safer roads, you have engineers design them to be safer -- and you don't complain when those designs seem strange or unusual. Roundabouts, for instance, are remarkably safe: They've been measured to reduce injury crashes by 50% to 75%. But Americans aren't used to them, and that's gotten in the way of their widespread acceptance. Red-light cameras, though, are intrusive and more than a little Big Brother-ish. A civilized society relies on accommodation and judgment, not always-on surveillance. As it's been put elsewhere, if a police officer follows you for 500 miles, you're going to get a ticket. Red-light cameras are like that ultra-persistent cop: They don't blink. That's because red-light cameras aren't really about traffic safety: They're about revenue generation.
Dear Mediacom:

I'm still not happy about that channel lineup change you made last month. I had the most basic cable television package to go along with my high-speed Internet connection, and you took away CNN and Discovery. I understand that you're trying to force me to upgrade my service, but I really don't have that much need for more than a handful of channels. Sure, I'd like Comedy Central and the History Channel, but I just don't watch enough television to justify the added expense. I'd rather spend that money on concert tickets and Cubs games.

But to add insult to injury, you've made your channel lineup so ridiculously elusive that I cannot fathom what you're trying to achieve. Why make it challenging for your subscribers to find the channels you offer? Maybe I'm picky because I used to work in the cable and Internet division of the Cedar Falls Utilities, which makes me more conscious than the average customer about what it really costs to deliver that TV and Internet service to my house (in Cedar Falls, cable Internet is $25 a month with about a hundred channels of TV for $42 a month on top of that). I'm writing a check for $72.19 a month to you folks and getting about 15 TV channels, and that assumes I have the courtesy to count the insipid shop-at-home networks that account for channels 2, 4, and 15.

So now I'm shopping around for other options. Believe me, I'm not out to cut you off for no good reason, but I'm getting tired of paying premium prices for less than I know I could be getting back in my old college town. And when you hide your channel lineups like you do, you only make my aggravation worse.

Please, Mediacom, show a little love. Stop cutting back your service and cranking up my charges. There's a point at which I won't take it any longer. It could be quite soon. And don't think I'm going to fall for silly pricing tricks. I want a flat rate that isn't going to blow up after a 12-month trial period. And, so help me God, if you ever again have someone make a telemarketing call trying to talk me into a higher-priced service package the day after you cut back my channel options, I may not be responsible for my actions.



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