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Cable Connection: Pai, Abdoulah Get Friendly at the ACA Summit

Is there a budding romance between Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission member, and American Cable Association chairwoman Colleen Abdoulah?

Well, no: The commissioner has a wife and son. But he also has a sense of humor, and so he played along with Abdoulah when she stood to ask a question during his Q&A with ACA president and CEO Matt Polka at the ACA Summit in Washington, D.C., last week. She prefaced that question by noting how “young and handsome” he was.

Abdoulah, who is famously gregarious, added, between waves of laughter from the crowd, that her underlying point was that “we need the new generation to come in and make some changes.”

Pai countered that he was not that young: “I just turned 40,” he said.

“Then I’m not too old for you,” Abdoulah bantered back from the audience.

Pai seemed genuinely tickled, and, when he finally exited the stage, turned to Abdoulah, smiled and quipped that he would see her later. Abdoulah was immediately, theatrically, out of her chair, moving toward where Pai had exited behind a curtain. The crowd loved it.

The next questioner, an Ovation executive with a serious question about access to distribution networks, prefaced his remarks to Pai with the observation, “I also think you’re very handsome.”

As an aside, The Wire told the ACA president after the Q&A that the combination of Polka and Pai made us think of Oktoberfest. He enthusiastically agreed.

Motz Knows the Most Where Gourmet Burger Stands Are Concerned

The Wire doesn’t visit Los Angeles often and tends to associate that city’s hamburger scene with John Goodman’s enjoyment of an In ’N Out burger in The Big Lebowski. Therefore, it came as a surprise to hear Travel Channel host George Motz say that chain produces “corporate” burgers. Apparently gourmet burger fans head to places like Pie ‘N Burger, Marty’s and Charlie’s, within the L.A. Farmer’s Market.

While filming the April 15 debut episode of Motzhosted Burger Land, Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Jeff Garlin stopped in at Charlie’s. “Two days before, he had had his last burger — he went vegan,” Motz related. “He came in to buy grits. He said he was going to pretend it was a cheeseburger.”

Motz said he was most proud that the show’s visit to Irv’s, a family-owned joint in West Hollywood, apparently helped the owners decide to stay in business rather than shut down because of a rent spike. Part of Burger Land’s mission is to raise awareness and drive business to the fi nest burger emporia, he said.

Closer to The Wire’s home, the show also visits Donovan’s in Woodside, N.Y.; Korzo in Brooklyn; and in Manhattan, J.G. Melon and Minetta Tavern, where Travel Channel hosted a tasty reception for Motz and company last Tuesday (March 12).

- Kent Gibbons

 Are You Being Served? Pro-Small Cable Senator ‘OK’ With FCC Chair’s Plan

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who has stood with cable operators against government funding of broadband overbuilders, told The Wire that Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski’s recent answer on that subject was the best he has ever given.

At a Senate Communications Subcommittee hearing on FCC oversight, the chairman assured the senator that Universal Service Fund broadband subsidies would go only to households unserved, not underserved, by existing broadband providers. “Part of the design principle,” Genachowski said, “was that the funding would go to unserved areas and not to fund competitors.”

Following a speech at the ACA Summit, where he reiterated support for funding unserved areas only, Blunt said as long as the chairman defined unserved areas as truly unserved, or helped existing carriers upgrade, he thought he would be “OK with that.”

The “upgrade” reference appeared to be to the FCC’s proposed modifications to the first phase of the Connect America fund, which would make money available to boost speeds to 4 Megabits per second downstream and 1 Mbps upstream, the FCC’s new definition of baseline broadband service, with a proxy of 3 Mbps up and 768 kbps down, since there is currently no 4/1 speed tier offered, according to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

The FCC has yet to vote on modifications, but the chairman’s answer to Blunt last week would suggest he will not be proposing to adopt the higher speed.

- John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.