David L. Cohen, executive vice president of cable giant Comcast, comes to Sacramento today, where he will lift a paintbrush as part of "Comcast Cares Day," in which volunteers and the cable company will give Ethel Phillips Elementary a physical and technological makeover. At his side during the camera-ready event will be a handful of local politicians, including state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Sacramento congresswoman Doris Matsui.
Later, Cohen will convene a salon-style private dinner with about 20 community movers and shakers at the Citizen Hotel downtown, where they will discuss technology, the economy, education - and how they all fit together in the Sacramento region. Among the invited guests: Brian King, chancellor of the Los Rios Community College District; Sandy Kirschenmann, executive director of Drexel University Sacramento; and Sunne McPeak, president and CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund.
Not on the agenda is Comcast's pending merger with Time Warner - a multibillion-dollar deal that would create a media empire that commands one-third of the U.S. broadband market, including Sacramento. A Comcast spokesman said Cohen will certainly answer questions on the topic should they arise.
Under all this local attentiveness will no doubt be sown a subtle message meant to soothe concerns about what the massive merger will mean for California subscribers, one-quarter of whom will be affected. The deal still needs approval from federal regulators and from lawmakers, including Matsui, a member of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee.
The Sacramento events give Matsui and other state and local leaders a rare opportunity to bend Cohen's ear at some point to share their own messages on behalf of Californians. Here are a few suggestions: Invest. AT&T recently announced U-Verse, high-speed Internet networks in 21 metropolitan areas, five of them in California - but sadly, not including Sacramento. Expand affordable home broadband, improve customer service and commit to net neutrality.
This is a rare chance for Sacramento's leaders to tell Cohen exactly what Californians need from one of its main broadband providers. They should seize it.