Cable Contractors? No Such Thing Everyone has a Dan in their life. A Dan is the guy who can build or fix anything; a guy whose abilities can at times make a man feel significantly less, well… like a man. Oh, and a Dan always has a pick up truck, which makes him the go-to guy when there’s firewood to load or furniture to move. It so happens, my Dan is named Dan, and I called him last week to help me move into my new office. My Dan, despite his degree, has spent his entire adult life as a contractor. Or as he jokes, "I don’t push a pencil. I build America." My Dan is also the most voracious reader I know. He reads like other people breathe; constantly. He doesn’t peruse newspapers, he consumes them. When he was laid up recently he told me he spent his days at Borders, often reading a book a day. I tell you this so that you understand my Dan is no idiot. He knows what he’s talking about. That’s why I was floored when he handed me last Friday’s Chicago Sun Times and said, "Did you hear about the Comcast installer who killed two women?" I took the paper and there on the front page was a tabloid-style photo of a beautiful young woman with her boyfriend, along with a pull quote about how the killer had taken away everything that made life worth living. It was brutal, and as I read the story it detailed how a contract installer for Comcast was about to be charged with an earlier murder and was a prime suspect in this one. I told Dan the suspect really wasn’t a Comcast employee. He was a contract installer. At that point, he looked at me like I had two noses. "What the hell does that mean?," he said. "The guy went to the house to install cable for Comcast. He’s working for Comcast." I knew he was right. I remember back in 1981 working in a system in Alabama that my company had purchased. One of the contractors had, shall we say, relieved himself in a woman’s front yard. She called upset that our employee had urinated in front of her granddaughter. And even as I was trying to convince her he wasn’t our employee, I knew damn well she was right. He might have been trash, but he was our trash, if only because he was installing cable. And we were the cable company. So, my point is, when Dan says this alleged murderer works for Comcast, despite what his paycheck may say, for millions of Chicagoans that’s exactly who he works for. Look, I know what life is like at a system. And I know most contract installers are perceived as an occupational necessity—hired guns brought in because they work quickly and efficiently, and because their financial onus falls not on the MSO but the general contractor that hires them. But the simple fact is once the customer places an order, the next person they often see is a contractor. Many show up in unmarked vehicles, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt; and, as I’ve evidenced first-hand, some can barely speak English. This is reality because most operators feel hiring, training and equipping full-time installers is too costly. That may be, but there’s an old adage among sociologists that says if you think education is expensive, wait ’til you see what ignorance costs. Look, Comcast may not have signed this guy’s paycheck, but he was theirs, however you slice it. And MSOs should come to more fully get their arms around what that means. After all, as Dan explained to me as we unloaded a file cabinet off the back of his truck, "Every time this story gets written for the next few months, this guy will be known as one thing; a cable installer. And in this town, that means Comcast." M.C. Antil can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.