Subs Angry Over Cox Polling on HD Versus Public Access

Cox cable subscribers in Tucson, Ariz., appear to be howling mad over a recent phone survey conducted on behalf of the cable giant--not only over the calls themselves (coming on the heals of seemingly endless political calls prior to the Nov. 7 elections)--but about the tactics of the survey, as well.

Cox has been polling its HD tier customers in a way, according to some criticism, that is designed to demonstrate that subscribers prefer to see some public cable access channels eliminated to make room for additional HD and VOD channels (which would be potentially more lucrative for the cable firm, say critics).

According to the Arizona Daily Star, the phone survey asked residents about a series of seven options, which begins with a scenario of eight public access channels and little or no HD and VOD. Subsequent queries continue to offer scenarios for a dwindling number of access channels and more of HD/VOD outlets.

One subscriber was quoted as saying, "All the questions were setting up a trade of either you get high-definition channels or you get community-access channels. The way the questions were set up, that was the choice." The subscriber also said she was unaware who was conducting the survey until later.

Cox, which chose not to respond specifically to local media about the issue, did generally acknowledge to the Star that surveys were ongoing in the region most of the time. Cox has pushed on a statewide basis to cut the number of local cable access channels it is required to provide, and helped pass a state law (effective July 1) limiting the required number of public access outlets to four. Tucson currently has nine.