Interview Date: Wednesday, May 03, 2000
Interviewer: Jim Keller
Bill Bradley recalls his first contact in 1967 with the cable industry when permission was sought to install a cable system in Denver. He talks about the petitioners–including Bob Magness and Newton Minow–and the “rented citizens.” He mentions Bill Daniels, describes the roles of the National League of Cities and CTIC, and the award of the permit to Mile Hi Cablevision in 1982. Bradley discusses an antitrust lawsuit, the cable business in Boulder, explains the requirements for companies, and, as director of the Office of Telecommunications, the challenges of regulation. He explores the issue of creating minority representation in local programming. He details the development of customer service standards, problems with public access, and the oversight of cable construction. He talks about working with NCTA, CATA and others to develop technical standards for the industry, the 1984 and 1992 Cable Acts, and concerns about rights of way in home rule cities. He discusses the evolution of NATOA, names Bill Daniels as one of his influences, and concludes with remarks about his international involvement in cable issues.
JIM KELLER: Today’s oral history is with William B. Bradley, Bill Bradley as everyone knows him, a long time Director of the Office of Telecommunications in the City and County of Denver and one of the drafters of the Denver Cable Television Ordinance. This oral history is brought to you by a grant from the Gustave Hauser Foundation and is part of the oral history program of The National Cable Television Center and Museum. The date is May 3, 2000 in Denver, Colorado. Good morning, Bill.
BILL BRADLEY: Morning, Jim.
KELLER: Tell us a little bit about your background before you got involved in the City and County of Denver.
BRADLEY: Well, I was born and raised in Charleston, West Virginia. I attended Stonewall Jackson High School, graduated salutatorian, went on to the University of Notre Dame and graduated cum laude and also was in the naval ROTC at Notre Dame. I took a degree in journalism by the way. Then I had a three-year obligation for the naval ROTC, so I was on a destroyer in the Mediterranean right at the beginning of the Korean War. And so served in the 6th Fleet a couple of years and back and forth between the Mediterranean and Norfolk and then was transferred to the West Coast and they made this journalism major into an electronics repair officer.
KELLER: Makes sense.
BRADLEY: Yes, you know how that works. And so then I served aboard an amphibious cargo ship, an AKA, for my final year in the navy and then left and came back to Denver. Denver was my wife’s home. I had met her at St. Mary’s College when I was going to Notre Dame and so we were married a year after I graduated. And so we came back to Denver and then I started in as a floorwalker at the Denver Dry Goods Company. I put a lot of companies out of business; that one, plus I was later an assistant merchandiser at Montgomery Ward’s mail order house, which later disappeared around here, and various and sundry other jobs. I was also with the Martin Company, when it was still the Martin Company, long before we ever heard of Lockheed. We were building Titan Is in those days and then finally ended up, in 1965, appointed by the City Council as the legislative analyst.
KELLER: How did you manage to get that job?
BRADLEY: Well, it was interesting. I had been Chairman of the Park Hill Action Committee and because of that, because of that civic association, I had had to become very familiar with a great many city activities – the zoning office and the planning office and so on – and made myself familiar with those outfits and so that gave me a leg up when I came to apply for the City Council position.
KELLER: Bill, I’m going to make a parenthetical statement here, not only is Bill noted for his intelligence and straightforwardness, but also for his candor in everything he’s ever done and that will become obvious as we go through this interview. So what did you do in City Council, then, Bill?
BRADLEY: Well, I was their legislative researcher and draftsman, basically, and that was kind of a new thing among city councils across the country. They didn’t have too many places where there was a staff person, aside from council secretary. So I got in finally to the point where we got impatient, I got impatient, with waiting around for the city attorney to draft a proposed legislation that the council wanted to look at, so I started drafting it myself after educating myself on how bills were put together, council bills and ordinances, bills for ordinances, and even got to the point at one stage where in 1972 because of complaints from the Denver Bar Association about the state of the general offenses section of the city ordinances, I went ahead and rewrote the whole thing myself and then sat down with the city attorney and went over the fine points to make sure it was okay. So, I was just the kind of guy who just dove in and did things and when cable came up I dove into that.
KELLER: When did cable come up?
BRADLEY: 1967. The first time we heard about cable was when Councilman Irv Hook had a meeting with Lorry Phipps III and a guy who looked like a Philadelphia lawyer from the Mountain States Telephone Company, which I think is what it was called in those days. So it’s interesting how the things go around that come around, you know, that the first blush we had about cable was from the phone company. And Lorry and the phone company had gotten together on a partnership and they came to City Council to tell, not to ask, but to tell us that they were going to put in a cable system.
KELLER: Well, that’s the way the telephone companies at that time operated.
BRADLEY: Yes, well that’s what they thought they could get away with and so the City Council, in order to put a stop to this nonsense, immediately passed an ordinance requiring a permit from the City Council.
KELLER: Not a franchise, and there’s a distinction in Colorado.
BRADLEY: That’s right. This was a permit that we had required. If we’d required a franchise we would have had to have gone to a vote of the people to change the charter, by the way. We could have done that but – and I say “we”, of course I was just one of the employees, but I was very deeply involved with all this.
KELLER: You were also drafting, then, this permit, the ordinance for the permit?
BRADLEY: Oh yes. Well, at that time all we were doing was drafting an ordinance that said the permit would be required for anybody who wanted to operate a cable system in The City and County of Denver using our rights of way.
KELLER: Where did that concept come from?
BRADLEY: It came, basically, from the council’s control over the police powers of the city.
KELLER: Over the rights of way?
BRADLEY: Yes, rights of way and all of that. So that’s where we started. Now, we thought that would put a quietus on the whole thing because nobody was really that much interested at that point in this jimcrackery that Phipps and the phone company were talking about; that’s the way we looked at it. Instead of quieting things down, it stirred things up. The next guy I met was Bill Daniels and then Gene Schneider and a few other people, who were involved in the cable business at that time in Denver, and Mountain States Video was the name of the organization Bill Daniels was running and they had snapped up franchises from all of the surrounding suburbs, and one big plum hadn’t dropped off the tree yet, and that was us.
KELLER: Of course they fully recognized at that point that without distant signals, which they could not bring into Denver at that time, a franchise wouldn’t have been feasible.
BRADLEY: Well, they were bringing them in. They were starting to bring them in by long distance phone relay…
KELLER: Microwave relay.
BRADLEY: Microwave relay – yes. And so that was how they were getting them here and they were prepared… In fact, we had 19 volumes of proposals from 5 different outfits by the time all of this wound up.
KELLER: This is still back in the late ’60s?
BRADLEY: ’67 and ’68. In fact, the gate was held open for all of this in ’68 to let one latecomer in and guess who the latecomer was? Bob Magness. Long before TCI was called TCI; I can’t even remember what they called it in those days. One of the outfits was a bunch that had, as a board of directors, rented citizens. Every color, stripe imaginable, and political color and racial color as well, on their board of directors of rented citizens.
KELLER: Explain what a rented citizen means to you.
BRADLEY: Well, in those days what it meant was they were asking people, or co-opting them, depending on how you looked at it, to join a board to be a front for the cable company, whatever the cable company was because the cable people were essentially strangers in the area and the whole idea was to get local talent in there who were recognizable to the people and who appealed to the people based on different levels of demography.
KELLER: And politics.
BRADLEY: And politics, absolutely. And culture. Oh, by the way, that one group that I just talked about – the mixed fruit, if you will – the cherry on top was a guy by the name of Newton Minow, who at that time had just retired as Kennedy’s, well, not just retired, but he had been Kennedy’s Chairman of the FCC, the vast wasteland and all that.
KELLER: Was this Heritage that made the application?
KELLER: I don’t remember what company Newt was involved with.
BRADLEY: Can we stop here and….?
KELLER: Let’s start then with the fact that Newt Minow, who was a past chairman of the FCC, was involved with one of the franchisees in the Denver operation in 1967-’68?
BRADLEY: One of the potential franchisees. There were five different outfits who put in a bid, if you will, and they were a front organization, or a front board of directors, a façade, for Foote, Cone and Belding , which at that time was the 6th largest ad agency in the country.
KELLER: And were operating in California at that point, in Newport Beach and some of the places out there.
BRADLEY: Were they?
KELLER: Yes. Who were the other applicants at that time?
BRADLEY: Well, one of them was Channel 7. Hugh Terry, when he was General Manager at Channel 7, was the spearhead for their involvement and they were, at that time, even though they were traded back and forth by McGraw-Hill and Time, Inc. and at that time I think they were owned by Time Inc., so Hugh was badgering us a lot, along with Bill and Bob Magness and Lorry Phipps and the Foote, Cone and Belding people.
KELLER: That’s interesting. At that time, in ’67, ’68, the telephone companies had already been prohibited from operating a cable system within their own exchange areas. That’s interesting the telephone companies would have been asking for a permit.
BRADLEY: That’s right. These guys – probably their lawyers had convinced them they could get around it somehow.
KELLER: The same way with, I think at that point also, that local television stations were prohibited from owning a franchise in the same area.
BRADLEY: That’s right. That’s exactly right.
KELLER: It’s interesting to note that both a local television station and the local telephone company were seeking permits in Denver.
BRADLEY: That’s right. And we pointed this out to Terry, to Hugh Terry, and of course he knew it already, and that didn’t stop him. They had a way, they figured to get around it. By the way, the FCC had come out with a moratorium at that point, of the top 50 markets…
KELLER: The importation of distant signals.
BRADLEY: That’s right, and Denver was included.
KELLER: That was my reference before about bringing in distant signals into the market.
BRADLEY: Yes, that’s right, and there was a way around that though. The FCC had said the moratorium would exist unless you could bring, to the FCC, evidence of approval by the city of a franchise.
KELLER: As an “underserved” market at that point, and I don’t remember exactly remember how it was defined, but there was an exception to the rule there somewhere. Denver didn’t fall under that exception though.
BRADLEY: Well, but that’s why these guys were so anxious at the time to get a franchise or a permit or whatever we wanted to call it from us because they had to take that back to the FCC for an evidentiary hearing, which the FCC required the operator to have.
KELLER: As I recall, and I’m going to ask you, but wasn’t the FCC required to give their approval to any permit that was issued at that time?
BRADLEY: They required themselves to do it. They weren’t required by anybody else; there wasn’t any congressional law, so the FCC was making this up as it went along and basically at the behest of the television networks, the broadcasters, who were trying to put the kibosh on the cable business. So there was all of kinds of hoop-jumping going on that Bill Daniels and all of his crowd had to do.
KELLER: All of this developed under the Democratic administration in Washington and then after the Nixon administration got in, it started to ease a little bit and the idea of having competition with the broadcasters developed under the early Nixon administration, as I recall.
BRADLEY: That’s right, slowly, slowly.
KELLER: Yes, very slowly.
BRADLEY: They had to get rid of all these proto-socialists in the FCC. Well, anyway, really the sad part was, as far as the cable companies were concerned, there was some requirement they had to bring the central city of a metropolitan area into the mix to present to the FCC before they could turn on the suburbs, as I recall now, there was something like that.
KELLER: I don’t recall that, but that was your thought at that time and that was what you were telling city council? And you were the consultant to city council on this, is that correct?
BRADLEY: Yes, I became the internal guru, if you will.
KELLER: How did you do that?
BRADLEY: Well, by getting in touch with guys like Sol Schildhause. Do you remember Sol?
KELLER: Sure do.
BRADLEY: Well, he was the head of the Mass Comm/Cable Television division of the FCC in those days.
KELLER: Sol Schildhause, Dave Kinley and some of the others.
BRADLEY: Yes.. So I stayed in touch with him. Also went to a lot of National League of Cities’ seminars on this growing issue and subscribed to every cable magazine I could find and just tried to generally keep in touch with all of this. Meanwhile, of course, the council was asking me to research this and to research that – other matters and issues not related to cable.
KELLER: How long did it take the council from the time they got the first request for a permit to the time they finally granted one.
BRADLEY: Well, let’s see. 1967 until 1982.
KELLER: To me that’s 15 years, isn’t it?
BRADLEY: That’s 15 years!
KELLER: What happened over those 15 years?
BRADLEY: Well, the night of epiphany, January the 6th of 1970, after having gone through a whole series of evolutions, including secret meetings with the mayor and all kinds of dog and pony shows, kangaroo court hearings with the various applicants, the council had come down to the point where they were divided between the Newton Minow/Foote, Cone and Belding group and the Bill Daniels group. Those were the two finalists, as far as they were concerned, but they couldn’t come to unanimity.
KELLER: The council couldn’t?
BRADLEY: Yes, the council couldn’t. So they delegated three members of council – Carl DeTemple, Joe Scavo, and Elvin Caldwell – to settle the thing under Joe’s chairmanship and Joe and Elvin, or rather Joe and Carl DeTemple ended up taking the side of Mountain States – Bill Daniels’ group – and Elvin held out for the multi-market outfit under Newton Minow, the Foote, Cone and Belding bidder. So when they made their report that they couldn’t even reach an agreement between the three of them – and I was in the middle of all this of course – and they made the report to council that they were still divided 2 to 1, Paul Hentzell of the city council got up on the night of January the 6th of 1970 and said, “I move that we forget the whole thing and drop all of it.” The council heaved a sigh of relief and said, “Aye.” And that ended it, except it didn’t end it for me because I felt the need to keep in touch with what was going on for the next seven years.
KELLER: You had a permit drafted at that time?
BRADLEY: No, we didn’t. No, we’d never gotten that far. We were still looking at their proposals and their proposals, as I said, occupied 19 volumes. They were huge and mainly they had to do with bringing in additional public television channels, there were a lot of them, and that had our public television channel, Channel 6, up in arms by the way. Plus they were going to bring in bullfights from Tijuana. That was the big deal.
KELLER: Yes, because they couldn’t import any independents in the market; they couldn’t import anything.
BRADLEY: By the way, keep in mind the historical context here, this was before satellites. There was no HBO satellite signal or anything else.
KELLER: That wasn’t until ’72, that’s right.
BRADLEY: This is well before all that happened, so they dropped the whole thing and the most that any of them were proposing was 20 channels, by the way. They dropped the whole thing and that’s the last we heard of it until 1979, and in the meantime I kept in touch.
KELLER: So what happened in 1979?
BRADLEY: In 1979, Bill Daniels came to City Hall, the City and County Building, made his first stop at the mayor’s office and the second stop in my office.
KELLER: Who was the mayor?
BRADLEY: Bill McNichols by that time. Let’s see, who was the head of ATC at that time?
KELLER: Monty Rifkin.
BRADLEY: Monty! Bill brought Monty because Monty didn’t know the boys at city hall, so Bill was going to introduce him to the boys at city hall, so here’s shy old Monty coming around with Bill, you know, and getting his big introduction and Bill brought with him a letter, from him and Monty, announcing to the world that they were forming Mile Hi Cablevision with the express purpose of going after a Denver franchise. So that started the ball rolling.
KELLER: Did they use the term franchise or permit at that time?
BRADLEY: At that time they used the term franchise; we were still using the term permit.
KELLER: Which, if they had had any sense, they would have been doing too.
BRADLEY: Well-taken. So, Elvin was president of the council for the fifth time and he decided it was time to do something because we were beginning to hear from the suburbs, which at that time had mainly been hooked up, mainly at that time by Gene Schneider, who was running United Cable. Elvin, as president of council, formed a cable television committee under Ed Burke and so then the next step was, Ed said, “Bill, let’s get a consultant.” We then advertised for a consultant and finally settled on Harold Horn.
KELLER: At C…?
KELLER: CTIC. That was one of my questions I had for you.
BRADLEY: Yep. Yep.
KELLER: Were they of any value to you?
BRADLEY: Yes, as far as we were concerned they were of value. They were much more in the swim than we were when it came to all this stuff.
KELLER: The National Urban League.
BRADLEY: Well, of course, them, the National League of Cities, all of that. He had been involved especially with the National League of Cities through CTIC and then they spun it off as a private consulting organization and he stayed with them.
KELLER: They were then the consultants all the way through the awarding of the franchise?
BRADLEY: Yes, they sure were.
KELLER: What was the process of finally getting it accomplished? It still took three years or more.
BRADLEY: Well, one of the early things was we sat down and worked out a timetable. I said, “We’ve got to have a timetable.” The first thing we had to do was have something added to the Denver city charter that allowed the council to award a franchise. So, I drafted a charter amendment and the people passed it in September of 1980. Well, then we put together a timetable and we said that by September the 1st of 1981 we would accept proposals for franchising and in the meantime, we sent out RFPs to 50 top cable companies and added three more later, local ones, and awaited the results. We didn’t know what to expect.
KELLER: When you said local, would these be strictly local or were they locals affiliated with a national company.
BRADLEY: Locals affiliated. One of them was TelePrompTer. But we only got three responses. You should have seen the circus that day; it looked like the fair had come to town in the city council offices on that afternoon of September the 1st of 1981 when these guys came in. Of course the press was popping bulbs in all directions and the television guys were there and all that.
KELLER: Why do you think you only got three proposals?
BRADLEY: That still stumps me. Denver was one of the last of the cities of that particular demographic grouping category in the United States of cities of about half a million to even seek a franchise, seek franchise proposals. Most of them had already been wired up. I think the only exception perhaps was Boston. I think they were the only outstanding one at that level of size, at that size gradation. But it still puzzled me that we didn’t get more than we got and the only three we got of course were from Mile Hi Cablevision, which they previously announced they were going after…
KELLER: That was Daniels and ATC, right?
BRADLEY: Daniels and ATC. Daniels and Rifkin. And ATC of course was the largest cable operator at the time. And then the second one of course was Gene Schneider and United Cable and the third one was TelePrompTer and TelePrompTer didn’t have any local connection whatsoever. At least the other two knew their way around town but TelePrompTer had a fellow who had been involved in journalism around here, but they themselves, the company, didn’t have any connection with Denver.
KELLER: Who other than Rifkin and Daniels were involved with Mile Hi?
BRADLEY: Romain Pacheco.
KELLER: That’s right, Romain was.
BRADLEY: Fred Dressler.
KELLER: Fred was the president of Mile Hi at that time; he wasn’t a shareholder, was he?
BRADLEY: No, no. Mile Hi had its own shareholders of course. Now we’re back to the rented citizens again.
KELLER: Who were the local shareholders of Mile Hi Cablevision?
BRADLEY: There were about 22 of them and among them were– I don’t remember all of them by a longshot – Rachel Noel, Paul Sandoval, Hiawatha Davis, Eddie Hirschfeld, Courtland Dietler, I think – I should remember his name but I don’t. Anyway, there were 20-some people of various racial and political shades.
KELLER: Who were involved with United, do you remember?
BRADLEY: As a board of directors I don’t remember. The main character in those days was Gene himself and he was pretty much larger than life anyway. Everybody else kind of faded behind Gene Schneider. But he didn’t have a board of directors. He didn’t have any local ownership at the time. Our RFP, that we had so carefully written in four different drafts before we got to the finish, had required local representation.
KELLER: Typical CTIC.
BRADLEY: Yes, that’s right. But we were going to go after it anyway. It didn’t matter whether Harold Horn was involved in that particular requirement or not. We would have insisted on some ownership by local citizens.
KELLER: Did you have a percentage?
BRADLEY: No. We didn’t put it that way; we left it up to the cable companies. So, Mile Hi was the only one that came in with the proper response to our fiat, actually.
KELLER: Is that the reason that they were awarded the franchise?
BRADLEY: Well, no, it wasn’t because it was still another five months before we finally made a decision and I, in the meantime, had to make another research survey of cities where these outfits were located already to see what their performance was like and whether they were living up to their promises and that sort of thing.
KELLER: The lead company for Mile-Hi at that time was ATC, right?
BRADLEY: Yes, that’s right.
KELLER: And when were they finally awarded? In ’82 the franchise was finally awarded, right?
BRADLEY: Yes, Washington’s birthday of ’82, that was the final night. Nobody was sure what happened; we had three bills for ordinances before the city council and the idea was for the council to pick one and reject the other two and of course we were going for a city wide franchise not involving more than one cable company. We had already reached that decision and so when the first two franchise ordinances failed, people kind of sat there looking blank, you know, and then the other one passed and they themselves, the winners, didn’t realize what was going on. Bill and Monty kind of sat there with a glassy eyed stare and finally Fred poked them and said, “Hey, we won!”
KELLER: I want to go back to that statement you made that you opted for a single rather than multiple franchises dividing the city up. That was rather at odds with the way many other cities went, including Houston and Dallas and some of the others.
BRADLEY: San Diego.
KELLER: San Diego…
KELLER: …yes, went with multiple franchises. Why was that decision made?
BRADLEY: The decision was made, I think, because we wanted uniformity of service, and primarily we didn’t want the guy on one side of the street with HBO and the guy on the other side of the street without HBO, that kind of thing. That’s the main reason. We wanted uniform service and universal service.
KELLER: I’m going to make a statement, see if you agree with me or not, that any decision made by a political body is going to be a political decision. Do you agree or disagree?
BRADLEY: Well, yes, everything’s a political… I don’t know what you mean by that though. If you’re being pejorative about it than I might say…
KELLER: Not at all. I’m not being pejorative, I’m just saying politics are going to influence any political body when it comes to a decision.
KELLER: What were the politics involved in the decision by the city council toward the franchise to Mile Hi?
BRADLEY: Surprisingly little in the sense of typical politics being played. There wasn’t a lot of holding your finger up to find out which way the wind was blowing when it came to the different organizations involved. As a matter of fact, it finally got to the point, even though there was this intense scrutiny going on, not only by the press but also by the FBI, we had G-men sitting in the front row of every council meeting and that kind of stuff – we even swept the office one time to find out if we were being listened to.
KELLER: I seem to remember that. Why was this?
BRADLEY: Well, there had been some problems elsewhere in the country where guys…
KELLER: Was this at the request of the city?
BRADLEY: You mean the…
KELLER: That the FBI and the Feds got in there?
BRADLEY: No, no, no. They were checking us out to see how crooked we were and they were always looking for somebody who’d been bribed. I guess that was the whole idea. Some guy had been sent to jail over in Johnsville, Pennsylvania.
KELLER: Yes, that was Irv Kahn.
BRADLEY: Yes, Irv Kahn and then…
KELLER: From TelePrompTer.
BRADLEY: …and then there of course there was a mayor up in Michigan who had been thrown in the slammer because he’d taken money from a cable company.
KELLER: I was involved, and this is a side statement again, I was involved in the franchising process for over twenty years and I only know of one situation all of that time where there was any hanky panky going on and I won’t mention where it was. So, it’s amazing that the Feds and the FBI would have been involved in the Denver situation.
BRADLEY: Well, something got their dander up and I’d had no idea what it was, but we were under constant scrutiny all the time we were doing it. We were really living in a goldfish bowl.
KELLER: Well, I knew that. I think that may be one of the reasons also why so very few applicants came out of the 50 that were sent because I think the general consensus in the industry was that Daniels had it wrapped up. He was the hometown boy and there was no sense even in making the application.
BRADLEY: Yes, I agree. In fact, the night in 1982 when they were picked they had a big celebration afterwards and after the council meeting I went over and told Bill and Monty, I said, “You guys were the lowest guys on my totem pole as far as I was concerned because everybody figured you had a lock on it and I was looking for every way under heaven’s blue sky for somebody else.” But it turned out they were the best of the three.
KELLER: Well, they had had a lot of practice in making applications at that time.
BRADLEY: Well, actually, I think it came down, if you really want to know the truth of it from my point of view, I think it came down to me, the politics, and here I am…
KELLER: You made the decision, is that what you’re saying?
BRADLEY: Well, it came down to me; I influenced the decision because it got to the point where the council was starting to lose interest in the whole thing. I don’t know if they were losing interest or if they were just getting scared or if they had just had enough of it because there had been so much pressure.
KELLER: Were they having political pressure put on by the local people involved in the various franchises?
BRADLEY: Oh, six ways from Sunday.
KELLER: This is what I meant by the politics involved.
BRADLEY: Yes, from that point of view. I mean, friends of friends were constantly knocking on their doors and all of that sort of thing and finally it got to the point where they didn’t even want to talk about it around the city council office and finally as they came in I closed the door and said, “Hey, Max, who do you think is the better of the three? We’ve got to pick somebody.” Max said, “Oh, I don’t know, what do you think?”
KELLER: Max who?
BRADLEY: I’m using Max generically. There weren’t any Maxine’s at the time. Well, there were two, Cathy Reynolds and Cathy Donohue were on the city council by then. Finally I just asked them what they thought and then I said, “Do you want to know what I think?” And then I told them. I said, “I think Mile Hi is the best of the three.” Schneider hadn’t met our local representation requirement and didn’t until November and they had to turn in their proposals on September the 1st and he came in in November with a whole list of stockholders. He’d put out a stock offering in the meantime. His IPO was his local ownership and of course it was from all over the place. TelePrompTer got involved going belly up and finally was bought out right in the midst of all this by Westinghouse and so a whole group of strangers came to town that we didn’t know before. So we ended up, almost by default, looking at Daniels and Rifkin.
KELLER: That’s an interesting commentary on the awarding of the franchise here. What was the recommendation from the CTIC?
BRADLEY: Oh, we told Harold not to give us one.
KELLER: I see. That’s interesting too.
BRADLEY: We said, “Take the proposals and take them category by category of public access, breadth of programming,” this, that and the other thing, proposed customer service and that sort of thing, “and give us your opinion piecemeal of each of these proposals, but do not give us an overall opinion. We’ll decide that for ourselves.” And that’s what we did.
KELLER: And so they rated each proposal on the various sections that you indicated?
KELLER: And Mile Hi came out first in each of these?
BRADLEY: It was pretty close in most cases. So we had to make up our own minds anyway. Of course, I officially didn’t have any mind to make up, but I think I helped make up a lot of minds. The funny part was that the three people I didn’t talk to were the three people that voted for Gene Schneider and United.
KELLER: So they did get three votes then?
KELLER: And TelePrompTer didn’t get any?
BRADLEY: Didn’t get any.
KELLER: What happened from the time they finally made the decision to award a franchise now, which included with it a requirement to go to a vote of the people?
BRADLEY: No, not at that point. That came two years later…
KELLER: Wasn’t that Colorado law?
BRADLEY: …because of a Supreme Court opinion, not Colorado law, it was a Supreme Court opinion.
KELLER: But a franchise in Colorado required a vote of the people, did it not?
BRADLEY: No, because we’d gotten the charter changed.
KELLER: Oh, okay.
BRADLEY: The charter change was solely meant to create the power of council.
KELLER: Home rule city.
BRADLEY: Yes, it was the home rule city and the people decided that the city council would have the total authority and that meant the city council, not the mayor, but the city council. So the franchise voting business came along two years later and then we had to do the whole things over again in a sense in a back wheels, rumble seat fashion, I guess you could say.
KELLER: In what respect?
BRADLEY: The Supreme Court came down on a case involving the city of Cortez.
KELLER: That had to do with the requirement for a franchise…
BRADLEY: For a franchise, that’s right.
KELLER: …for a franchise election.
BRADLEY: That’s right, that’s right.
KELLER: I remember the court decision on that.
BRADLEY: The “Feather case” I think it was called, out of Cortez, and by that time, see, we’d already started building the cable system. The building started on February 7th of 1983, if you want to make a note of that, and I’ll tell you where it started, in Ash Grove Park we had a little ceremony where a couple of guys climbed a pole and put a token coax between two telephone poles right alongside of Ash Grove Park.
KELLER: They were putting dual cable at the time, weren’t they?
BRADLEY: Well, they had to because we insisted they had to have dual cable.
KELLER: A number of channels at that time required dual cable.
BRADLEY: We required it, as a matter of fact, they didn’t want to go dual cable and we insisted. Well, you’re right, they were limited as to how many channels they could carry on a single cable.
KELLER: I would guess that would be a CTIC requirement at that time.
BRADLEY: No, it was one that we insisted… well, Harold and I talked about it and then I think we insisted then. But anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself and backwards and all kinds of ways, but the actual progression was after George Washington’s birthday in 1982, the choice was made. The next step was to sit down and basically it was between Bob Nagel and me, Bob Nagel of Daniels, and I sat there and made up the new franchise.
KELLER: He was their attorney, right?
BRADLEY: The hermit, we called him. He was a real wonderful guy. I hope he’s still alive.
KELLER: I do too. I haven’t seen him in years and years.
BRADLEY: Anyway, we were the guys that actually sat at the table surrounded by television people… we said it, “Come and watch.” We were trying to put everything out in front and the whole deal evolved from there.
KELLER: Was Horn involved in that also?
BRADLEY: He sure was. He was helping me. The guy who paid most attention from city council, at that point, was Ted Hackworth. Ted was sitting in on these things and we were constantly consulting with council anyway to make sure we were on the right track with what they wanted out of this thing.
KELLER: So then once you had an ordinance developed was it for a franchise or a permit?
BRADLEY: A permit. We still called it a permit. And the cable company was just on the point of building the thing. They were going to start on October 25th of 1982. That was going to be the big day. Guess what came along? The Mountain States Legal Foundation. Do you remember them?
KELLER: I do indeed.
BRADLEY: Yep, they socked a lawsuit on both the city and the cable company under two different grounds, one was anti-trust and the other was the First Amendment. We were violating both of them as far as they were concerned. Both of us, both the permitter and the permittee were violating the…
KELLER: Because of only one franchise, right, or one permit?
BRADLEY: Yes, one permit, one franchise, that was the basic thing.
KELLER: They wanted everyone to be able to get one that came in.
BRADLEY: Yes, let’s have a cable system on every block, that kind of nonsense. So that went on until the Preferred Case came up in Los Angeles and then they dropped it.
KELLER: Which then gave the councils the right to only issue one franchise. What date was that, do you remember?
BRADLEY: The Preferred Case? I think that was 1985, wasn’t it?
KELLER: I don’t remember. I would guess it was sometime around then; I don’t remember exactly.
BRADLEY: Well, I’ll have to go back and… but there were many. We had six lawsuits at one point. Sued to death from all directions. The Danks lawsuit, Boulder was going on the Boulder lawsuit, which was one of the funniest of all.
KELLER: As usual.
BRADLEY: Yes, the kingdom of Boulder had its own… at one point, early in the cable world, Boulder was the model for the world when it came to franchises.
KELLER: I got the original franchise in Boulder.
BRADLEY: Did you?
KELLER: For Carl Williams.
BRADLEY: And that was supposed to be the best.
KELLER: Well, this was even before that. This was only for a little isolated area under the Flatirons.
BRADLEY: Under the Flatirons, the hill area.
KELLER: Yes, about 12 square blocks is all it was for.
BRADLEY: Things went to hell from there.
KELLER: Indeed it did. We built that and had a great system until it went on from there.
BRADLEY: Well, until they insisted you had to build it citywide.
KELLER: That’s right and at that time you couldn’t do it economically.
BRADLEY: That’s right, but then when you did start to do it, you finally started to do it, or TCI did, or its predecessor, and TCI was putting it up on one block and Boulder was tearing it down the block behind them.
KELLER: That’s a story in itself and I’d like someday to be able to interview someone who knows the inside.
BRADLEY: Yes, Joe DeRame, I’d pick on.
KELLER: Who would that be? Joe?
BRADLEY: Yes, the city of attorney of… well, he’s still up there as the city attorney. He and Varnes? Those two guys.
KELLER: But here everything came to a halt with the lawsuits.
BRADLEY: No, what happened was it came to a temporary halt because the cable company immediately came back to us and said, “We want a retrenchment in our requirements. We don’t want to do all these things now that we are facing this terrible lawsuit. If we lose we’d be out so much money because of all the capital investment we’d have to put into this plan and then if we lose it just sits there.” So they wanted to get out of all kinds of public access requirements that they had imposed on themselves in their proposal.
KELLER: CTIC had a lot to do with that too.
BRADLEY: Well, no, not as much as you think. The proposals – that was another funny thing. The cable industry for years has accused the cities of this terrible plot to expand the requirements that these poor cable companies could afford to apply to a given city, the features, and the truth is the cities just sat there and took a bid and then expected the cable companies to live up to the bid they’d taken.
KELLER: Did CTIC provide you with the RFP, and with the criteria for the RFP?
BRADLEY: Yes, but we massaged it plenty. I was the guy that ended up writing the RFP.
KELLER: And by that time, almost anything that could have been promised had already been promised and all of it was put into the Denver franchise.
BRADLEY: The RFPs went out in March, no I think it ended up in May, of 1982, or 1981, I mean and then the responses came back in September so we didn’t know what to expect until we saw the responses. They were held under lock and key. So we didn’t know what the cable companies were going to come up with, and they came up with all kinds of stuff.
KELLER: But a lot of it was required in the RFP though, wasn’t it?
BRADLEY: The RFP was very, very modest, my friend. Example, we asked for 35 channels; we got over 110, I think is what the proposal said. So we didn’t ask for all that much.
KELLER: Do you remember what specific requirements that by now Mile Hi had asked you to delete because of the lawsuits.
BRADLEY: Oh boy, there were lots of them. One of the requirements was they had wanted to put in studios all over town for public access, public access studios, I think up to five of them they had committed to. They wanted out of that, or they wanted to reduce them from five to three or something, I don’t remember. Another thing was they wanted to do away with a second cable and cut back the number of channels they were going to transmit. We didn’t agree to that; we forced them to build that second cable. It’s still all over Denver, the second cable. They wanted to cut back on the Institutional Network, or to do away with it. Originally it was going to be a hybrid network that was going to provide for broadcasts or cablecasts from government agencies supported by sponsoring businesses. It was going to be a two-way deal, a commercial and public agency network.
KELLER: Weren’t you also to have had a studio in City Hall?
BRADLEY: We had one. That was preserved, we held on to that. We picked and chose and argued and bargained, if you will, and came up with – it’s in my chronology there – we came up with an ordinance that narrowed down what the company had to do different from what the franchise said it had to do – or the permit.
KELLER: How long after the awarding of the permit did you make these corrections?
BRADLEY: The awarding of the permit of course, the permit itself had been passed in June, or had been signed off in June, June 14th, by the mayor and the auditor and the presidents of the cable companies and all that stuff and then this lawsuit hit us on October 18th, stopping on October 25th the commencement of construction, and then the cable company came in in December with its proposal for retrenchment and we settled that by January, I think, and so our new commencement date, once we had the new amended permit in order, was February the 7th and that’s the day we all went out and made a speech at Ash Grove Park.
KELLER: The lawsuits didn’t require a cessation of construction pending the outcome.
BRADLEY: No, no. Well, the construction hadn’t started yet, see. It was going to start, the lawsuit stopped it and the cable company suspended their plans.
KELLER: No injunction was issued?
BRADLEY: No. I don’t…there were so many injunctions flying around at that time, Jim, and about this and that and the other thing, I couldn’t even begin to tell you whether there was an injunction issued or not. I don’t think there was because I think it was strictly between us and the cable company as to when they were finally going to start this thing.
KELLER: Then when did they finally get going, really, in building? When did they turn it on?
BRADLEY: Oh, from when they turned it on? I think it was in May of ’83. I can check that out; I’ve got that in my chronology. I even have the address of the house where it was first turned on over on East 18th Avenue on the northwest side, over there in the Jefferson Park area. That was the first, a couple named Jaramillo were the first customers.
KELLER: Where was their headend or where was their initiating point for signals?
BRADLEY: The headend was right there, right outside, where it still is, at 17th and Bryant or Clay or whatever.
KELLER: So down by Mile High.
BRADLEY: Yes, down by Mile High.
KELLER: So they brought the signal all the way out there to Park Hill.
BRADLEY: Well, they had hubs. They had a hub on the DU campus, which is still there and they had a hub, which is still there, on the, what at that time, was the CWC, Colorado Women’s College campus. It’s still there, it’s right by the concert hall over on Olive Street and just off Montview.
KELLER: Are those still being used?
BRADLEY: Yes, as far as I know, by AT&T. As a matter of fact, one of my last major duties before I retired was to throw the switch on two super trunks that were comprised of fiber optic in place of coax from the headend to the hubs, to both hubs.
KELLER: Well, we’re getting a little bit ahead of ourselves.
BRADLEY: Yes, way ahead.
KELLER: I want to start with after Mile Hi began building and did turn it on, then you, somehow or other, got involved in the overall supervision and regulation of the franchises, is that correct?
BRADLEY: Well, we created an Office of Telecommunications and spelled out its duties and so forth under the council as the regulator.
KELLER: Wasn’t that somewhat unusual? In most other places it would have been under the executive branch of the government?
BRADLEY: Yes, it was, and there again it was because the mayor wanted to keep hands off. Mayor McNichols didn’t want any part of cable and neither did Mayor Pena or Mayor Webb. None of them have wanted to have anything to do with cable television. They thought it was a bucket of snakes, politically.
KELLER: So they set up an office then, a regulatory office, the Denver Telecommunications Regulatory Council?
BRADLEY: Yes, under the city council. It’s the only administrative agency the city council has.
KELLER: What is the official name of it, so we get that.
BRADLEY: The Office of Telecommunications.
KELLER: And you were named its director, is that correct?
BRADLEY: Yes, that came along in September of ’82.
KELLER: And so what were your functions?
BRADLEY: To regulate the cable franchise.
KELLER: And what were your major points of regulation?
BRADLEY: My major points of regulation had to do with customer service and Helen McGuire, who was my sidekick at the time, so to speak, she and I were the office, she became the complaint lady for the city. I made it my business to become as good an ombudsman as I could become in trying to keep the cable company straight in its operations with the customers.
KELLER: Was that spelled out in the ordinance creating the office?
BRADLEY: Yes. Well, the city authority to regulate was spelled out, not the hierarchy or the structure.
KELLER: Then, I believe, right around that time, there was some comment whether the Federal Communications Commission would take over the regulation of customer service or whether it would remain…
BRADLEY: That came later. Actually, that came along about 1992.
KELLER: That late?
BRADLEY: 10 years later. That was a late blooming violet and by that time one of the things, I’m really going to jump ahead out of context, but in the context of customer service, one of the things that I was proudest of in my time in this job was that I got together with the cable company and we came up with – Romaine Pacheco and I, basically – came up with a voluntary set of customer service standards agreed to by the company instead of one that was forced down their throat by some ordinance. I was against passing a customer service ordinance; I wanted the company to be on board to be sure that they were as enthusiastic about customer service as I was trying to be.
KELLER: And the head of the local operation of that was Fred Dressler then?
BRADLEY: Fred, at that time, and Steve Kniffen came later. But Romaine was the vice-president of the company.
KELLER: Also in charge of public service and public relations at that time.
KELLER: And you did develop a set of standards, customer service standards then?
BRADLEY: We developed them even before the National Cable Television Association developed its set. If you remember, they developed one because they were under the gun too, as far as the FCC was concerned. And so we developed ours first, and that one came along later, and we were right in line with it primarily. It was interesting how close we came to their standards.
KELLER: What other problems did you confront in the office?
BRADLEY: Well, of course there were endless problems with public access. That was a real pain in the neck, but it was an important pain in the neck, so I thought that had to be handled so that as many citizens could be involved as possible, and of course we formed a coordinating committee of citizens to oversee that primarily, and also we were constantly negotiating with the cable company over equipment of public access and space facilities for public access, so that became a large problem.
KELLER: How did the committee work out?
BRADLEY: It drove me nuts.
KELLER: Did they ever accomplish anything?
BRADLEY: Yes, I think they probably did. I think they certainly gave the people a perception that the people themselves were in charge of this thing and that’s the perception I wanted to create. I didn’t want to be sitting up there as some kind of czar who was going to tell the public what their access was going to be. That was defeating the whole purpose.
KELLER: Did you have any effect on the governmental access?
BRADLEY: Oh, sure. I used to run it. I was guy who hired the Harry Cullis, and De Lollis, Alan De Lollis.
KELLER: And then from your studio in City Hall, you ran the governmental access channel.
BRADLEY: Yes. One of the interesting legends out of the opening up of that, was, this came in ’86 I think it was, we had the first city council meeting on cable, on public access, somehow some wires got crossed at the headend and the first thing the people saw who were tuning in for the city council meeting was a program from Playboy Channel.
KELLER: That’s interesting.
BRADLEY: Yes, that took a while to get straightened out because there were many hee-haws over there.
KELLER: Did you have pretty much carte blanche given to you by council in the way you operated your office?
BRADLEY: Yes, I did, I did. There weren’t that many who cared that much really. If anything, probably the minority members of council cared more because they thought there should be more done with public access in the minority community. And of course, that created a lot of… One of the franchise provisions that drove us all nuts, the so-called Hec-Bec provisions: Hispanic and Black Community Enhancements – I can’t even remember what Hec-Bec stood for now, but anyway the idea was the cable company was to set aside $500,000 to develop, hopefully develop, businesses in each of the communities that would create cable programming, local cable programming. The thing that wrecked it as much as anything, aside from the fact that there wasn’t that much experience out there in these two communities….
KELLER: It’s also rather ethereal, isn’t it, the whole concept?
BRADLEY: Yes, it was very ethereal, but what really wrecked it was Bob Johnson and Univision, the two big minority networks, BET and Univision, they just swallowed everything up and there wasn’t anything left for the local guys to show that would amount to anything except a Spanish lesson or something, a lesson in how to play jazz, that was about it.
KELLER: With a great sigh of relief from the cable companies.
BRADLEY: No, no, it drove them crazy too. They were always trying to find a way to meet this thing, and I was always after…
KELLER: That’s what I meant, but I’m saying with Univision and BET coming in, they were just welcomed with open arms.
BRADLEY: That’s right. They were tickled pink. Well, of course John Malone was a great… Bob Johnson, who created BET, was a protégé of John Malone’s.
KELLER: And Liberty today still owns a piece of Black Entertainment Television.
BRADLEY: Bob Johnson ended up as the formal owner of the Denver cable system. Did you know that?
KELLER: No, I didn’t. Tell us about that.
BRADLEY: When TCI took over from Mile Hi Cablevision, Bob Johnson was appointed by TCI as the CEO of Mile Hi Cable Partners.
KELLER: I wasn’t aware of that. How long did that last?
BRADLEY: Oh, until AT&T came along.
KELLER: It lasted that long? Johnson was always the president of that?
BRADLEY: Yes, as far as I know.
KELLER: That’s a new one on me; I wasn’t aware of that. And he replaced Steve Kniffen?
BRADLEY: Well, no, he didn’t replace him as the local, he was the CEO of the partnership between TCI and what was left of the Daniels involvement and Liberty Media.
KELLER: TCI also then began taking out the local shareholders, right or wrong?
BRADLEY: Well, of course, some of the local shareholders had found some reason or another to resign. Paul Sandoval, when he was elected to the Denver school board quit, Hiawatha Davis quit when he was elected to the city council.
KELLER: Did they sell their shares?
BRADLEY: As far as I know they sold them back to the company.
KELLER: Bill, do you want to touch on any of the other problems in the early days of the cable building operation in Denver? Everything went smooth then, you didn’t have anything to regulate?
BRADLEY: Well, no, I wouldn’t say there was nothing to regulate. There was plenty to concern ourselves with because we had to go through the franchise section by section, and as the time came to do something, well, we had to do it. I was spending a good deal of time out on the street – I used to brag that I covered every street and alley in Denver – with the cable company, making sure it was being built out, that the system was being built out properly, and that took an awful lot of my time.
KELLER: So you were an actual construction foreman back then too?
BRADLEY: Well, I remember one time almost getting my feet blistered. I was standing at 24th and Broadway and there was a big concatenation of cable at that point coming across Broadway and down 24th and Welton or someplace and it was so doggone hot that I thought I was going to have to get my blisters fixed on my feet. So there was an awful lot of that going on too.
KELLER: Underground problems in Denver? Not as much as elsewhere I would think.
BRADLEY: Well, there were underground problems but we finally resolved them with a shotgun marriage between Mile Hi and Teleport. The underground problems were primarily downtown. There were other places – the franchise itself said that the cable company had to build underground where utilities were underground and only about a quarter of Denver in those days was underground, had underground utilities.
KELLER: There was a big problem, wasn’t there, about whether or not they were required to build in the downtown area, whether they would build in the downtown area.
BRADLEY: Yes, there was a big fuss about that and I had many go rounds with them on this subject, but Shorty Coryell and I finally got it all worked out. It took until Shorty came aboard at Mile Hi – you know, he kind of took a leave of absence from ATC and joined Mile Hi – and then things started to shape up as far as downtown was going because he knew enough to go through the basements and the parking garages and avoid all the hard rock mining wherever possible.
KELLER: The old underground railroad system and everything else like that.
BRADLEY: He really knew how to do it, and so we got it done finally.
KELLER: The downtown area, when was it wired?
BRADLEY: Oh man, I can’t even tell you when it was wired. I think we finally got – the cable system was substantially wired, that’s what we said, that’s the terminology we used, in a resolution that I asked council to pass so that we’d have closure so to speak, in September of 1986, I think it was.
KELLER: What was their requirement? To build it in three years, was that it?
BRADLEY: Yes, to get it done in three years.
KELLER: But that excluded the downtown area though, didn’t it?
BRADLEY: No, it didn’t.
KELLER: That included the downtown area? That was built by ’86?
BRADLEY: Yes, I think it was.
KELLER: My mind must be faulty.
BRADLEY: Well, there were parts of it that were built in… we also gave them an out and said do it as quickly as you can, the rest of it, or something like that. So, you’re right, there was some kind of a delay there before we got the downtown area done.
KELLER: How did you get involved in NATOA, which is the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and…
BRADLEY: There’s a big fuss over the term advisor going on in the organization, but it was primarily because of meetings or seminars that were being held on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in Madison by a professor named Barry Orton, and the seminars were on the subject of cable regulation administration, and so I went up there to become better educated about how to be a cable regulator, and a bunch of us got together after one session – one session, by the way, you mentioned the fact that this was sponsored by the Hauser Foundation – one session was particularly characterized by a screaming match between Gus Hauser and Rita Stull, who was a cable regulator from Cincinnati at the time, good old Rita. And anyway, a bunch of us all got together from different cities after one of these seminars or at the end of one and said, “Let’s form an association.”
KELLER: What cities were initially involved?
BRADLEY: Seattle, Frank Greif was the first president, he was the regulator at that time of Seattle. Baltimore.
KELLER: Brother Emenecker.
BRADLEY: Yes, Brother Richard. Boy, Washington… well, Montgomery County, John Hansman of Montgomery County, Maryland, right outside of Washington.
KELLER: Virginia? Anything in Virginia, Alexandria, that area?
BRADLEY: I can’t… I was just trying to think… Not directly.
KELLER: Nothing in the South?
BRADLEY: Irving, Texas; Patty Landers. Richard Varnes from Boulder.
BRADLEY: Not Detroit at that time. Detroit came in later. Well, the big cities primarily, by and large, came in later. This was made up primarily of cities our size or smaller to begin with.
KELLER: Was Lexington, Kentucky involved in that initially?
BRADLEY: No, nor Frankfort. Louisville wasn’t involved. Boy, I’d have to go back and look.
KELLER: Okay. Who were the main proponents of such an organization?
BRADLEY: Well, Frank Greif was the guy who was trying the hardest as far as… among the… well, we were pretty much unanimous – we, whoever “we” were – that we ought to do this.
KELLER: Do what?
BRADLEY: Form a national association of regulators so that we could speak with one voice and learn from each other and network and that sort of thing and the National League of Cities, Susan McAdams, was the representative from the National League of Cities who sat in on these things and helped catalyze the whole organization and for a long time we were a spin-off of the National League of Cities. Now we’re independent.
KELLER: Did you say you were initially involved with the National League of Cities?
KELLER: Which was the same one that CTIC was involved with, is that correct?
BRADLEY: Yes, the National League of Cities is the largest urban organization that represents mayors and city council members.
KELLER: And so you formed a group – how was the group to be financed?
BRADLEY: Through the National League of Cities primarily and also through membership fees from us.
KELLER: In the early days, and even right up until the time, or all during the time you were involved, especially in these three terms of president, what were the main…
BRADLEY: Two terms.
KELLER: Two terms, okay. What were the main topics of conversation at the meetings?
BRADLEY: Well, the main topic of course centered around all the bad things the cable companies were doing – terrible customer service and this, that, and the other thing in the early days – to the point where I got sick of it and I said, “This is nonsense. We’re not here to be St. George slaying the dragon; we’re here in some kind of an oddball partnership with these people, and let’s start acting like it, and let’s start working together.” That was always my pitch; as president for two terms that was my platform, so to speak. On the one hand, to find ways to cooperate with the cable industry while we were admittedly regulating and on the other hand to make sure that we were becoming the cable television advisor to the National League of Cities so when they came up with recommendations to Congress about telecommunications law we were there helping them.
KELLER: Did you have any direct relationship with the Federal Communications Commission?
BRADLEY: Not in those days. In fact, they avoided us like the plague; they brushed us off, so to speak.
KELLER: And you always had problems with that, didn’t you, the federal versus local regulation?
BRADLEY: I wanted to take them out and shoot them down like dogs is what I wanted to do. I had no use for them whatsoever. I thought they were trying to impose national templates on wildly different areas of the country and you couldn’t do it. You can’t put these guys in a mold. Just because you’ve got a system in Pittsburgh, you’re not going to have the same system in Denver – a different topography, different demography, different culture, different everything.
KELLER: And, of course, different ordinances.
BRADLEY: Yes. Different organization.
KELLER: This finally came to a head, did it not, in the formulation of the ’92 Cable Act, when you so much opposed re-regulation of rates?
BRADLEY: I had always been chronically opposed to FCC regulation by and large because it was microscopic management, micro-management, but when it really started to boil over was in 1987. In May of 1987, I sat down with Jim Mooney, who was at that time the president of the National Cable Television Association, and Trygve Myhren was the chairman, and the NCTA was having one of its annual meetings in Las Vegas, and Mooney invited me to come and meet with him. So, one morning, over ham and eggs in his suite, we sat down and talked, and I said, “There has to be a way for us to find something besides fight each other. There ought to be something we can cooperate on.” He said, “Well, I’m getting tired of paying lawyers for all these lawsuits. What do you have in mind?” I said, “One thing I can think of where we could operate together is technical standards for cable television.” That was just at that point, the year prior to that the FCC had pre-empted cities from having any say about cable television technical standards, instead of having them all in their franchises. So, my Byzantine mind told me that the only way we were going to have any influence over this was to sit down and come to some agreement with the cable companies about technical standards, which is what we did. And I said to Jim, “Why don’t you go back to your board, and I’ll go back to mine and let’s convince them, persuade them that we need to work together on new technical standards.” At that time, the technical standards that the FCC was applying were dated from 1974, preceding the satellite cable service. That was how “Toonerville” it was. So that’s what we did and Wendell Bailey became the chief technical spokesman, he was the technical vice-president I think for the NCTA. And our guy was Jonathan Kramer.
KELLER: Where did he come from?
BRADLEY: The coast, California. Encino.
KELLER: He worked for one of the cities out there?
BRADLEY: No, no. He was actually a consultant, a technical consultant, for cities. Oh, for heaven’s sake, that’s terrible.
KELLER: You may recall it.
BRADLEY: Those two guys sat down and worked it out. This started in 1987; it didn’t come to fruition until 1991. At that time, six organizations signed off on the joint agreement: the National Cable Television Association, CATA…
KELLER: Community Antenna Television Association.
BRADLEY: Yes. The National League of Cities, the National Association of Counties, NATOA, and The U.S. Conference of Mayors. And so we confronted the FCC with this joint agreement and this, of course, really brought things up to date, including, for the first time, standards on color. There wasn’t any standard on carrying color on cable television.
KELLER: Still all analog at that time?
BRADLEY: Nothing digital at that time. That’s one of the things too we wanted, was we recommended that the FCC fall back on us or turn to us when it came to technological advances that might occur subsequently.
KELLER: Did the FCC take your advice?
BRADLEY: Yes. 90% of it. They kind of backed off on the idea that we become their technical advisor, but even so, to this day we still have their ear much more than we used to.
KELLER: And it took you how many years to develop that set of standards?
BRADLEY: Four years.
KELLER: And to get it all…
BRADLEY: And to get it all signed off.
KELLER: They all signed off on it. And it’s still functioning?
BRADLEY: It’s still functioning.
KELLER: Do you consider that to be a major contribution that you made?
BRADLEY: Yes, I’m pretty proud of that.
KELLER: Also, weren’t you able then to influence the FCC in their customer service standards and the NCTA in their customer service standards?
BRADLEY: I don’t know if we influenced them or not. We were just first, and the main influence I tried to carry there, although it didn’t really become very successful in that sense, was to emphasize the importance of voluntary agreement by the cable operator. That you can’t force these things down their throats with laws on technical standards. You can’t throw them in jail if they violate an ordinance on technical standards. That’s what I was trying to say. So it had to be a voluntary agreement, not only because of that, but also I was anxious to stimulate some enthusiasm about the idea of customer service, more than there appeared to be.
KELLER: It finally got done.
BRADLEY: It finally got done.
KELLER: And again, on the same basic principles that you advanced, the agreement between the cities and the cable companies.
BRADLEY: Yes, that’s right. Finally.
KELLER: What other things do you feel were major contributions of your term as president and on the board of NATOA?
BRADLEY: Well, the formation and the passage of the 1984 Cable Act was a major one.
KELLER: Which was greatly, greatly beneficial to the cable industry.
BRADLEY: Yes, I think it was, and to the cities. It defined the power, for the first time, on a national basis, of the cities over cable regulation. So that was an important…
KELLER: And that existed until ’92, until the Vice-President got involved.
BRADLEY: Yes, until Al Gore called John Malone the head of the mafia or some damn thing, but even ’92, even though it was an adverse set of amendments, it was still amendments to the ’84 Act, and the interesting thing about the history of the ’84 Act is that Trygve Myhren and I kind of formed a virtual boiler room on getting the thing passed. We knew which members of Congress were holdouts on various categories, especially in the House of Representatives, but also in the Senate. Jesse Helms was raising all kinds of hell all because of that section in there that Mickey Bryant wanted on civil rights. I told Trygve, I said, “I’ll get to my guy in North Carolina to see if he can get to Helms on reminding Jesse that this isn’t a civil rights statute, it’s a cable television statute and ease up a little.” On the other hand, we also got to the guy in Houston who could get to Mickey Bryant, at that time a Congressman from Houston.
KELLER: It was a great benefit to the entire community, that is the national community.
BRADLEY: I think it was because it did give us some structure, which we had never had before.
KELLER: And it gave the financial capability to the industry.
BRADLEY: Yes, that was a big thing, I think, and I realized that, and many times I argued that in public sessions in NATOA meetings. You can’t strangle these guys financially and expect them to come up with any innovation at all.
KELLER: They’re in business.
BRADLEY: Yes, this is a business. This is a country that is based on capitalism, for crying out loud. And a lot of our youngsters had apparently never met a payroll and didn’t know what the hell we were talking about when we mentioned business. They thought business began and ended with FDR or some damn thing. I don’t know, they had some very strange ideas about how you conduct a business.
KELLER: I’m looking here at a quote that you made, and it doesn’t say exactly when you made it, about the 9th and 10th Amendments, that assumed power is not constitutionally granted through the federal government and remain in state or local control.
BRADLEY: Right! John C. Calhoun was known as a states-righter and I’ve always been a cities-righter, that by God, if it doesn’t say in the Constitution that Congress can do these things, then they better not try to do them. Now, of course, the Supreme Court, over the last few decades, has made a total hash and in effect has amended the United States Constitution and repealed the 9th and 10th Amendments. The only two guys that I know of who paid any attention at all lately to the importance of these two reservations of power, withholdings of power from federal government, are Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas.
BRADLEY: Thomas, Clarence Thomas.
KELLER: Scalia, I understand.
BRADLEY: Oh, Thomas is just as conservative as Scalia on this one and it’s been a constant battle as far as I’m concerned to retain some form of federalism in this country. For a long time I had begged for a sit-down meeting between national representatives, if you will, representatives picked from the nation, at the local level, the state level, and the federal level, to sit down and talk sensibly about delineating the limitations of powers between the three levels of government, vis-à-vis the cable or telecommunications industry. Now that was shrugged off or was ignored, but I still think that it should be done.
KELLER: You still attend the NATOA meetings, don’t you?
BRADLEY: I haven’t lately. They made me a life member and then I dropped out, but not really. I still keep in touch, and I am still active in the Rocky Mountain Colorado chapter of NATOA. I haven’t gone to national meetings lately, frankly because I don’t have the deep pockets I used to have when I worked for city government and could go on trips like that.
KELLER: What are they talking about primarily, today?
BRADLEY: Rights of way is a big thing, externally, and powers…
KELLER: With the new Internet networks?
BRADLEY: Yes. Well, that’s something they haven’t even begun to face yet, I don’t think.
KELLER: They’re digging up all the neighborhoods around town.
BRADLEY: Yes, re-digging the neighborhoods. But rights of way has become a real sore subject with NATOA because of the attempts, and successful in Colorado’s case, where the state took away the power of the city over its own rights of way.
KELLER: Even home rule cities?
BRADLEY: Even home rule cities. They made a joke out of home rule in Colorado, frankly. All the legislature has to do is say, “As a matter of state-wide concern…” and the home rule article 20 disappears out of the state constitution. So any statute they tack that phrase onto overrides the city charter. It’s ridiculous. So that’s the kind of thing I’m talking about when I’m saying there really needs to be a sit-down meeting. I suggested we go to the Greenbrier and decide these things, from my old native state, where you sit down and actually make sense out of the hash we now have of federal powers versus state powers versus local powers, especially vis-à-vis telecommunications.
KELLER: Where you fight the civil war.
BRADLEY: Yes, well, in a sense I’ve been fighting it ever since I was… of course I was always a Civil War buff anyway.
KELLER: From West Virginia.
BRADLEY: Yes, right in the middle of it.
KELLER: Will it ever, do you think, get resolved? Or will the Feds just step in and take it over?
BRADLEY: Well, thank God we still have enough people with spine in this country who stand up and scream and are ready to pick up their muskets off the mantel every time the Feds act too arrogant. The one outfit to really watch out for is not the FCC so much as it is the Supreme Court.
KELLER: And the next President is going to be so important to that.
BRADLEY: You bet your life.
KELLER: Well, that’s getting a little bit off the subject. While you were the regulator in Denver, you also became associated with the regulators or with city councils of neighboring communities to form some sort of organization here in the metro area.
BRADLEY: Yes. The Greater Metro Cable Consortium. It’s now been renamed. It’s now the Greater Metro Telecommunications Consortium.
KELLER: And what are they doing now? What did they do?
BRADLEY: Well, what they’ve tried to do is either… well, we really don’t have a system in this state where cities can act together on a single regulation, but what we can do is try to get ourselves in tandem and in sync, if you will, so that our regulations look as near identical as possible given the facts that there are different conditions here and there from somewhere else. After all, Denver is the big town, well, it used to be the big town anyway.
KELLER: Well, it’s got a single company now.
BRADLEY: But think about this: Denver is now in the middle of an area of 1 ½ million people and we’ve got less than 500,000 so we’re not the big town any longer. The big town is all around us.
KELLER: What issues did you initially decide you wanted to take on?
BRADLEY: The initial thing was to attempt to come up with a metro-wide franchise, really. That was the idea because we figured that the company was metro-wide, so we should be metro-wide too, in our response to the company.
KELLER: Did you ever consult with or work with the Denver regional governmental operation, DRCOG, or whatever?
BRADLEY: DRCOG, no. This was outside of DRCOG.
KELLER: But you never got involved with them?
BRADLEY: Well, I wouldn’t say never. We did have some minor involvement in the area of trying to work out something when it came to emergency broadcasting, tornado broadcast, and that kind of stuff.
KELLER: Denver Regional Council of Governments, is that right?
KELLER: It seemed to be a natural. They’ve always been interested in putting together a metropolitan government, haven’t they?
BRADLEY: Well, Yes, and so was I. Way back in the early days, in 1966, a year after I was appointed by council I was involved in the attempts at metropolitan government and later on in the ’70s as well, with Bill McNichols.
KELLER: Will it ever happen?
BRADLEY: No. I think there are too many local jealousies. Now the way we have been able to do something about it at least was to form specific metro service authorities like urban drainage and flood control and metropolitan sewage disposal. I used to be a sewer commissioner. Me and Roy Romer. Roy and I were both sewer commissioners together. He doesn’t like to be reminded of that. And DRCOG itself. So those are the ways you can get at it on specific services but it’s very hard to do on a general governmental basis.
KELLER: Do you still, even today, believe that local governments should have the primary authority for regulation of telecommunications?
BRADLEY: That’s a tough one. Yes, I’d say primary authority. I’d say in the sense that they still ought to be able to issue franchises, specifically governing customer service.
KELLER: The telephone company still operates state-wide on a certificate of convenience and necessity, don’t they?
BRADLEY: Well, based on a 1967 Colorado Supreme Court decision, which in effect gave them a state-wide franchise, but there are some things… when you get into things like public access, it looks to me like there is plenty of room for local maneuver and there ought to be plenty of leeway made for it.
KELLER: Do you think that’s going to be a continuing problem between the community and the cable company in really providing the programming in public access?
BRADLEY: Well, we can see it right now with the big fuss that’s going on between Disney and Time Warner and here again I don’t know how much the community should have the say about these things. I don’t have the answer on that because so much of this programming has now become national and even international in scope, so it’s tough, tough to give an answer on that. But that’s one more reason why we all ought to meet at Greenbrier.
KELLER: If we were to initiate a bill, let’s say the city and county of Denver right now, to say that the cable company can either provide an additional five channels of television or public access, what do you think the vote would be?
BRADLEY: It would be a very light turnout.
KELLER: But who do you think would win that?
BRADLEY: Probably the pros would win it, but people really don’t care that much about public access. In fact, I, myself, had the power under the franchise to return under-utilized channels, and I returned about four of them. We originally set aside thirteen.
KELLER: That was in the day that it was absolutely essential that everybody have access to the cable system because they didn’t have access to broadcast television.
BRADLEY: That’s right. But at the same time, we didn’t have any experience in local production either. One thing got in the way of the other.
KELLER: Bill, we were talking about the continuing involvement of the National Organization of Cable Administrators and Advisors in the affairs of the cable industry. Would you please elaborate on that just a little bit?
BRADLEY: Yes, sure. It’s having its own internal problems right now over the word “advisors”. NATOA is short for National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors. Advisors consists of citizens who are commissions, cable television commissions, and boards, and they’re also construed to be consultants who work for the cities and advise the cities on telecommunications policy, and it’s become a great struggle between the city appointed regulators and these independent consultants, and of course the consultants, by and large, are people that I have struggled with over the years because they’ve always tried to paint the cable industry in as dark a set of colors as possible and stimulated more lawsuits than they were worth, and I think they’re a pain in the neck. We need the experience and the know-how and all that, but we don’t need all these policy recommendations about how to make an enemy out of somebody. So I’ve fought them for years on that basis. Now it’s come down to a structural struggle over whether we can make these people presidents and officers of our association or not, and just this week I received a proposed amendment to our bylaws that would exclude them from being officers of NATOA, and I think that’s quite proper, and I’m tickled pink to see that result.
KELLER: So only community employees, then, would be members of the organization.
BRADLEY: Well, not members, but officers, the leaders of the organization and not just community employees but community appointees. You know, citizens who were appointed to boards and commissions.
KELLER: Is your successor on the board of NATOA here in Denver?
BRADLEY: Well, Byron West was president up until two years ago; she had a couple of terms as president of NATOA. She was an employee of the city and county of Denver.
KELLER: So that appears to be the way things are going right now, that they will exclude then these community rabble rousers.
BRADLEY: Well, it wouldn’t exclude them so much as limit them. They could still be members but on a certain limited basis.
KELLER: Their organizations or individuals?
BRADLEY: As individuals.
KELLER: So if I were a member of a citizen’s commission here in Denver, I could become a member of NATOA but I couldn’t become an officer?
BRADLEY: No, no, you’ve got the wrong slant on that. If you’re a member of a citizen’s commission appointed by the city council, then you can become anything you want in NATOA. If you are a consultant, you can become anything you want except you cannot be an officer.
KELLER: A paid consultant type of thing?
KELLER: A consultant to whom?
BRADLEY: To a city or to any organization the city belongs to. So, a paid consultant could no longer be an officer of NATOA. That’s the point.
KELLER: And it would be paid and that’s the…
BRADLEY: Well, yes, of course that’s what we’re talking about are professional consultants. So that issue is still in doubt. We have to have a vote on it, we haven’t had the vote yet. The way I hope it comes out is we’ll pass that.
KELLER: Now has the organization gone more into developing sources of telecommunications rather than just cable?
BRADLEY: Yes. More and more the telecommunications officers are the first guys that the mayor and the councils look to who might know anything about this. So that’s what’s begun to happen. More and more concerned with the Internet and that business.
KELLER: If Cisco wants to build a system within the city and county of Denver, do they need a franchise?
KELLER: Do they have one?
BRADLEY: No. The franchise has become a kind of a twisted situation. Western Union, or the old Western Union, Sprint, Jones Lightwave, these all have franchises or permits in varying degrees, Teleport. So it’s a mixed bag nowadays as to what’s a franchise and what’s a permit, and of course the difference between the two as far as Denver is concerned, under our city government structure of laws, is that franchises must be voted on by the people, and permits can be approved either by the city council or by the appropriate agency of the city, like the Department of Public Works.
KELLER: Does Qwest have a permit or a franchise for Denver?
BRADLEY: I don’t know. I imagine they have a permit, a revocable permit. I hope they do.
KELLER: I just didn’t know how it was working out or whether your former organization would regulate them in any way.
BRADLEY: No, I don’t think they have much of a role in regulating them but I see optical fiber being rolled out all over town and I think Qwest must be laying a lot of it.
KELLER: Qwest or Nexus or one of them, but there is an awful lot of it being buried.
BRADLEY: Yes, all over the place, which tickles me pink by the way.
KELLER: Again, I’m just wondering what the regulatory aspects of that from someone who’d been involved in it. If you were still the head of that office, would you try to take control over that?
BRADLEY: I would like to have some voice in the regulation. The problem here becomes one of city government organization and how you split this out between the public works department and the zoning department and the planning department and the Office of Telecommunications.
KELLER: Wouldn’t you have had the same problem with cable?
BRADLEY: Well, it turned out we didn’t have the same problem with cable because there it was very important to have a focal point. Well, actually though, we had foreseen this problem in one sense because we didn’t name my office the Office of Cable Television, we named it the Office of Telecommunications. We saw this coming, and so we were originally designed to be a focal point, but I think it’s been diffused quite a bit.
KELLER: How did it become diffused?
BRADLEY: Well, because different authorities have different controls over rights of way and land uses.
KELLER: Again no different than cable.
BRADLEY: Well, but we managed to make a difference, that’s all I can tell you.
BRADLEY: Some of these things just grow like Topsy, you know, and this has gotten away from the city.
KELLER: Is there today a need for your office?
BRADLEY: I hope there is. We still have a franchise, so I imagine there’s some role they have to play in that franchise, and I think it’s a pretty good franchise.
KELLER: I’ve got to assume that the company, AT&T, today is meeting all the conditions of that franchise.
BRADLEY: I hope so.
KELLER: Do you think it’s necessary now for somebody to stand on top of them and oversee them and be sure that they are meeting those standards.
BRADLEY: Well, yes, because I don’t know what’s going to come on next. One of the functions I didn’t explain of my job, as I saw it, was being not just a representative of the city to the cable company, but also being a guide for the cable company to the city. Many times I sponsored activities the cable company wanted to initiate or maybe just constructions and went with them to the police department, to the public works department, to the traffic department to show them where the gears were, how they worked. So that’s still around. That kind of need is always going to be there.
KELLER: That’s one of the reasons you were considered to be a very good cable regulator by the industry as well as by the city.
BRADLEY: I can only hope.
KELLER: As this thing is going to continue to develop, do you feel that this office that you headed for so many years is going to stick around, is going to be around?
BRADLEY: I don’t know what to expect there. It could easily become, as it has in many cities, a branch or division of a larger traditional agency, such as public works or general services or something like that, one of the big departments.
KELLER: Bill, we’ve been going for well over an hour and a half at this point. I want to ask a couple of general questions.
KELLER: The first one that comes to mind and I try to answer this is that in looking back over your career in the cable television industry, what would you have done differently, or what would you have liked to have done that you didn’t do?
BRADLEY: I’d liked to have had a clearer vision at the time of the development of public access. I think we took an awful lot of wrong turns and spent a lot of money that we could have saved or spent in smarter ways, wiser ways, than we spent and might have gotten it done faster than it ended up getting done. I think that’s one little piece of guilt that’s always gnawed away at me.
KELLER: What was your biggest mistake?
BRADLEY: I don’t admit to many, you know.
KELLER: We only know one person who never made one. Maybe back in 1972 or something back then.
BRADLEY: I’ll have to work on that.
KELLER: Maybe you didn’t make any; that’s great.
BRADLEY: I don’t know. I can’t readily come up with one. I imagine that people like Romaine Pacheco could probably tell you about a few corkers that I pulled, I don’t know.
KELLER: Well, like anybody, I like to be self-critical in this area.
BRADLEY: Yes, me too.
KELLER: In the years now, and that’s been over 26, 27 years now that you’ve been involved in the industry, who are the people that are most recognizable to you and have made the biggest impact on you and on the industry.
BRADLEY: Well, I think the biggest impact on me was made by Bill Daniels. I had known Bill for so long and we had kind of a… I told him one time that we had formed kind of a mutual admiration society, and I just admired the man so much for all the things he did and all the things he stood for. So I always had a great feeling for Bill and John Saeman, of course, right there with him. So those two guys especially would stand out. I think Romaine Pacheco deserves an awful lot of credit for what’s happened to the cable system here in Denver and certainly want to give her all the credit possible.
KELLER: Is she still working for the city?
BRADLEY: No, she’s working for US West. In fact, I think she’s looking for the broadband developments that US West is trying to put together.
KELLER: Is she working with or for Steve Durham?
BRADLEY: I don’t know whether she’s working for Steve or not. That’s a good question, I don’t know.
KELLER: It’s interesting how those of us that one time or another were with telephone companies and then got into the cable industry and now are getting involved with telephone companies again.
BRADLEY: Yes, that’s going around and coming around like I said, earlier about the first rush we had in Denver about cable.
KELLER: As far back as ’66 I thought the telephone companies were going to play a major impact and they would have if they hadn’t botched it so badly.
BRADLEY: Yes, they let it get away from them.
KELLER: Well, they could have done it right after the war if they’d had the money to do it, right after the Second World War.
BRADLEY: And had the imagination.
KELLER: Well, they sure tried to stop it though, in the ’60s, that’s for sure.
KELLER: Bill, I think we’ve covered everything that we could cover unless you can think of anything else that we haven’t.
BRADLEY: Well, I wanted to mention one thing, and that is the involvement I’ve had internationally is very interesting, I think. Many, many people have stopped and kind of punched their ticket in my office, if you will, over the years. Even before I was Director of Telecommunications they were doing this and asking about local developments in cable television from all over the world, even as far away as South Africa and Finland and very heavy development, almost annually, with the Japanese and is still going on. I was invited to Japan in 1991 by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation to take part in a seminar among 80 different participants in a little town up in the mountains northwest of Tokyo called Suwa, on the subject of the globalization of cable television. We were talking, for example, about how we could exchange programs about our cultures and that sort of thing. So that has gone on since then through many, many visits to America and to cable shows in America and to Denver, the cable capital, as we used to say. As a matter of fact, next week I’ve got two journalists coming from Tokyo, from two of the Tokyo daily newspapers along with a businessman who had gotten my name from the head of the Japanese Cable Television Research Bureau, and they’re coming over here to talk about cable television.
KELLER: They haven’t expanded that to include all of telecommunications?
BRADLEY: Now they’re interested primarily in what the role of cable television will be within the larger picture of telecommunications.
KELLER: What do you feel about that?
BRADLEY: I think it will be literally swallowed up in the broadband and we’ll see a total convergence eventually and one wire to the home, probably controlled, in this country, by the telephone industry.
KELLER: AT&T is betting on it.
BRADLEY: Yes, that’s for sure. They’re the biggest cable company now.
KELLER: They’re betting on it big.
BRADLEY: So all the other countries of the world are following this with great interest, you know. I’ve had delegations from Africa, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, England, you name it. People want to know what we’re doing.
KELLER: I hope you’re making some money on it.
BRADLEY: Oh, once in a while I make a buck, not always. One time I really felt flattered when I was told that this cable television research group was coming to San Francisco and wanted me to fly out there and meet with them and I said, “I’m sorry, I’m going to be in Cincinnati on vacation.” The next thing I see is a round-trip first class plane ticket to San Francisco from Cincinnati. So I went out there overnight, made a few bucks making a talk, then coming back. So that made me feel good and I’ve had many contacts over the years with especially those people.
KELLER: Bill, I think we’re going to wrap it up just about this time.
BRADLEY: I’ll have to get back to you – I must have blown it badly somewhere and I’m just not tuned in today to my mistakes.
KELLER: To your mistakes, well you don’t have to admit to them. There’s no requirement for it at this point.
KELLER: This oral history of William B. (Bill) Bradley, the former Director of the Denver Office of Telecommunications and former president of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors was brought to you through the auspices of the Gus Hauser Foundation and through a grant by The Hauser Foundation as part of the oral history program of The Cable Center. Your interviewer was Jim Keller. Bill, thanks much. We really appreciate it.
BRADLEY: Thank you, Jim. Delighted.