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Going Away ‘Mad:’ D.C. Policy Pundits Offer Predictions on AMC Series Finale

With Mad Men preparing to drain its last highball at the end of the month, The Wire asked three Washington policy-shaping fans of the AMC series about 1960s-era advertising executives how it will end (sigh) its eight-year run, and how they would like it to end.

National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Michael Powell:

How he thinks it will end: “It’s got to end tragically. At the end of the day, there is no redemption for Don [Draper]. He somehow has to fail. He’s either going to die in some strange way, or he is going to disappear again. He’s going to take on some other, third identity, and head to Mexico or something, never to be heard from again.”

How he would like it to end: “I used to want to say he is going to marry Peggy [Olson]. I want it to end bittersweet. I like the Breaking Bad kind of ending. I loved Walter White lying there bleeding out. It was just the only way. Don is becoming so dated, and his flaws are really becoming dominant, that it just feels like it is more tragedy. I don’t necessarily want him dead, or those scenarios where he is falling off the building because that is the intro. But, I kind of like the idea that he just goes back in the shadows and finds that woman he hung out with in L.A. in the white picket fence house.”

Federal Communications commissioner Ajit Pai:

How he thinks it will end: “After a dispute with McCann-Erickson, Don and Peggy start their own agency with Peggy as creative director. Roger [Sterling] marries Joan. Ted [Chaough] marries Peggy. After [Don’s ex-wife] Betty divorces Henry [Francis], she and Don get back together.”

How he would like it to end: President Nixon appoints Don to the FCC, beating out Dick Wiley. Sally joins the Symbionese Liberation Army. SC&P lands the account for the Committee to Re-Elect the President; Pete Campbell becomes involved in campaign finance irregularities and ends up in jail.”

FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel:

How she thinks it will and should end: “Don takes the final tumble that the opening sequence ominously featured for all seven seasons. Then Peggy and Joan run it all!”

After Exiting as EVP, TWC’s Kevin Leddy Rides the Next Waves

In 2008, Time Warner Cable promoted three of its key people — Mike Hayashi, Kevin Leddy and Jim Ludington — to executive vice president on the same day. After TWC forged plans to merge with Comcast, Hayashi, who was EVP of architecture, development and engineering, retired after 22 years with the company.

Now Leddy, who was EVP of corporate strategy, has also left, after 35 years, opting to retire as the merger with Comcast was coming closer to being completed (although Comcast has now abandoned the acquisition plan due to government opposition). Of the three, Ludington is the only one still on board.

Leddy told The Wire he hasn’t decided what comes next in his career.

“It is great to have some time to look around the media and telecom industries, see what is changing, and to think about the next waves of products and services,” he said via email. “I’m particularly focused on the enormous amount of Internet capacity in residential neighborhoods that is laying fallow throughout the day. It’s great that we built enough capacity so that Netflix can stream House of Cards to millions of homes during primetime, but surely there is more to the Internet than that!”

If you want to congratulate, recruit or just see Leddy, whose time at TWC included a stint as chief marketing officer, he will be leading an INTX Talk session at the convention in Chicago on Wednesday (May 6) from 4:30-5:30 p.m. (room W474). Fittingly, the topic is “the perils and promise of ultra-fast access networks.”

— Kent Gibbons

Book Recalls Litany of Baby Bell ‘Broken Promises’ And Cable’s ‘Social Contract’

Telecom analyst Bruce Kushnick has published The Book of Broken Promises, chronicling his research into regulatory benefits the Baby Bell phone companies received by vowing to build fiber-optic information superhighways that never quite came about.

In it, he also observes that Time Warner Cable and Comcast had “actual agreements with the FCC called the ‘Social Contract’ ” that enabled a $5 monthly rate increase in order to upgrade networks for broadband and to wire local schools with cable-modem service for free.

“These agreements ended in 2000, but we can’t find any proof that they lowered the cable rates or that the schools were wired,” Kushnick wrote. “We estimate that from 1996 through 2014, cable customers paid approximately $61 billion because of these agreements. Without audits, it is impossible to tell the exact amount. On average, customers paid about $60 a year or about $840 extra from 2001 through 2014.”

Former cable attorney Dan Brenner, co-author of Cable Television: Law and Policy, noted that the social contract arose at a time of cable rate re-regulation that ended up discouraging investments in new programming and system upgrades. Programmers persuaded the Federal Communications Commission to approve new product tiers, a way to add networks and avoid rate restraints. Continental Cablevision, he noted, and other cable firms settled rate disputes by agreeing to a social contract. Brenner also believes all the schools that were promised wiring received it: “After all, schools and other government agencies could then become customers for the cable operator’s service.”

Win-wins all around.

— Kent Gibbons

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.