Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.


Comcast ‘drip pricing’: higher rates — again

Revolutionary antenna system coming; frac mining to get hearing; W2 health info; utility bills scam; I-35W bottleneck fix; and more.

Comcast, a company even more beloved than Delta, is … raising its prices, again. Leslie Brooks Suzukamo of the PiPress writes: “Another year. Another Comcast rate increase. Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, raised the price of cable television service in the Twin Cities for 2013 by an average of about 3.3 percent for all its packages. While the increase was not unexpected, the more interesting story may be the reaction it got when January’s bills were mailed. In short, there wasn’t much of one. George John, an expert on marketing and consumer behavior at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, thinks he knows why. ‘In marketing, we call this ‘drip pricing,’  John said. ‘The bill gets larger, but it’s hard to see the pieces. As in, ‘drip, drip, drip.’ “

With that somewhere in mind, Julio Ojeda-Zapata of the PiPress writes, “When you think of a TV antenna, you probably imagine the kind that sits on top of your house, or perhaps an indoor model jacked directly into your family-room HDTV. You probably don’t visualize an antenna far away from your residence, tuning in shows as usual but transferring them over the Internet for viewing on a PC, smartphone or tablet. Yet that’s the service debuting in the Twin Cities later this year. … The best way to describe this newcomer is a personal-antenna service with Netflix-style video streaming and DVR-like recording features — all for a modest monthly fee.” The antenna is … the size of a dime.

Silica sand/frac mining critics want the state to put the brakes on the booming industries. The AP says: “Critics of a booming silica sand mining industry will ask lawmakers to hit the pause button Tuesday when the Minnesota Legislature holds its first-ever hearing on a subject that has so far been left up to local governments. Activists chartered two buses from southeastern Minnesota to the Capitol for a joint hearing of the Senate and House environment committees. They hope to convince legislators that sand mining is a regional issue that needs broader regulation than it now gets in Minnesota or neighboring Wisconsin, where the ‘sand rush’ has been roaring for several years.”

Elizabeth Stawicki of MPR files a piece on new W2 info for some workers: “Under the federal health care law, W2 forms now must include the cost of employer-sponsored health insurance. The form includes both how much the employee paid and what the employer contributes. The new information is designed to show consumers the true cost of their health insurance, said Larry Levitt of the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. ‘Their employer typically pays most of the premium,’ Levitt said. ‘So what people actually see, in terms of coming out of their own pocket, is only a small piece of the total cost of health insurance.’ Levitt added: ‘There’s this idea that if people understood more about how much health insurance costs, it might change their behavior or certainly change their perspective.‘ ”  Ignore the cost. It’s still got to be better than one of those socialist hellholes.

Article continues after advertisement

The Alexandria Echo Press has a piece up, saying: “The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is warning consumers and businesses to be on alert for phone calls or visits from people going door to door trying to collect money fraudulently by claiming utility bills are overdue and must be paid with reloadable debit cards, such as Green Dot MoneyPak cards. The BBB reminds consumers and business owners not to be pressured into making payments on the spot and to contact their utility companies directly if the status of their account is called into question or if they suspect the possibility of fraud. ‘This is a particularly bold scam,’ said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of the BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota.” … because as I understand the Castle Doctrine …

The GleanMnDOT is looking at ways to ease up the bottleneck on I-35W between I-694 and Hwy. 10.  The Strib’s Tim Harlow says: “[I]f 35W is left in its current configuration, things are only going to get worse. An additional 14,500 to 23,000 vehicles each day are expected to be on the freeway between downtown Minneapolis and Forest Lake by 2030, according to projections by the Minnesota Department of Transportation. With that ominous forecast, MnDOT commissioned a study to look at ways to reduce congestion … the study does envision MnDOT building a High Occupancy Toll Lane (also called a MnPASS lane) running in both directions along the 27-mile stretch.”

The Strib editorial board has some thoughts about transparency in the affairs of doctors, medical device manufacturers and drug companies: “Three years ago, as part of the Affordable Care Act, the U.S. Congress passed the Physician Payment Sunshine Act. This important legislation requires public disclosure of the large sums sometimes paid to providers by drugmakers and device manufacturers — such as those deals in which doctors research a new drug or device. … Device and drug manufacturers will start collecting data in August, meaning some 2013 payment information will be reported. That information is slated to be made public via a searchable database in fall 2014, although the website has yet to be built. Federal officials shouldn’t delay the database’s debut after dragging their feet on so many other milestones in this law’s rollout.” Which feds, exactly?

Another paper mill may be heading for extinction. The AP says: “Rhinelander could be the next Wisconsin community to lose its paper mill. The sprawling Wausau Paper plant on Boom Lake has provided Richard Johns and thousands of other workers with solid wages over the years and is a centerpiece of Rhinelander’s industrial base. … Johns is keeping a positive attitude … but there’s concern that the northern Wisconsin city of 7,800 could go the way of Port Edwards, Kimberly, Neenah, Ashland and most recently, in 2012, Brokaw. All of those Wisconsin communities have lost their paper mills as the industry contracts under market pressures that include cheaper products from China.”

The latest face of our angry, aged, white-male crisis is apparently out of a job … for a while. In the aftermath of that toddler-slapping incident aboard a Minneapolis-to-Atlanta flight, the AP says: “[Joe Rickey] Hundley was suspended from his job as president of Unitech Composites and Structures, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Al Haase, president and chief executive of AGC Aerospace and Defense, Composites Group — Unitech’s parent company — said the firm was taking the matter seriously. ‘In accordance with our company’s personal conduct policy, we have suspended the employee pending investigation,’ Haase said in a statement.”