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Busy Signal

It's supposed to be the next front in the digital revolution. Only, like most revolutions, this one is a bit messy. We're talking about ISDN, integrated services digital network, the high-speed data line that is supposed to allow users to cruise the Internet at 128Kbps, about nine times faster than a 14.4 modem. That is, when it works. ... Last week, as more than 3,000 high-speed net junkies in Santa Clara County already know, it didn't. The glitch in PacBell's ISDN service, which started bright and early on Monday morning and persisted intermittently at least through last Friday, was the result of software upgrades made by PacBell on one of the switches that route ISDN calls to their destinations. The outage marked the second time in the last few weeks that PacBell's software tinkering has disconnected telecommunications resellers from the local phone network. ... "We are having some problems," confirms PacBell spokesperson Scott Smith, who quickly convened PacBell's ISDN team in a conference call when Eye rang him up. Explaining that PacBell is adding between 4,000 to 5,000 new ISDN customers a month, PacBell's Anita Freeman admitted that keeping up with demand has been difficult. But, reversing the field of dreams metaphor, PacBell has no intention of building the system first and then letting the customers come. "We did see the demand coming," counters PacBell's Freeman, who explained that some PacBell vendors have been unable to supply needed equipment fast enough. At that moment, Fred Chang, head of PacBell's broadband strategy and engineering group, jumped in. "The ISDN technology is inherently reliable. There have been no complaints," he maintained, adding that average ISDN calls last about eight times longer than average voice calls, which places a huge demand on the new network. So, will PacBell freeze new ISDN orders until capacity catches up? "No," Chang says, "I'm an ISDN customer myself and I have never had a problem."

Dead Man Walking

There were three things that caught our Eye about north county supervisorial candidate Barbara Koppel's flier promoting her upcoming Octoberfest fundraiser. First, there is the price, $99 a head, which savvy insiders note will allow donors to remain anonymous. According to state law, if the admission ticket were just $1 more, voters would be able to find out who is buying the tickets. "It's clearly designed to allow people to make contributions without identifying themselves," growls Cliff Staton, an aide to Koppel opponent Joe Simitian, who says the move violates the spirit of campaign finance disclosure rules. Reading over the invitation, though, we also noticed another thing sure to tweak Simitian's goose, the endorsement of Republican Koppel by Silicon Graphics executive and education activist Yvette del Prado, who recently addressed the Demo convention in Chicago at the invitation of the White House. A registered Democrat, del Prado is frequently a high-profile backer of local GOP candidates like Koppel, including Tom Campbell. "I just don't understand why the White House is puffing up someone who endorses our GOP opponents," sniffs a senior member of the donkey party's local committee. However, Simitian won't have to worry about speechmaking by one of the other backers listed on Koppel's invitation: David Packard, who passed away several months ago. The Koppel campaign insists the Packard family has agreed to allow her to continue to use the deceased entrepreneur's name because she won his support before he died. (Meanwhile, insiders tell us that Simitian is busy lining up his own roster of endorsements from dead people. He's reportedly wooing JFK, but no firm commitments have been made as yet.) Meanwhile, Judge Richard Turrone ruled last Friday that Koppel will have to change four parts of her official ballot statement which he judged to be "false and/or misleading," including assertions that Koppel was supported by "most mayors and councilmembers" and the "Santa Clara County Firefighters" when, in fact, those groups are actually backing Simitian.

Party On, Inc.

If you wanted to schmooze after the Democratic Convention in Chicago, you might have attended one of a number of corporate-sponsored galas for delegates, congressional reps and assorted other bigwigs. These parties for the party, Eye notes, were sponsored by corporations like Wyeth-Ayerst, maker of Advil and the controversial Norplant birth-control implant. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, there were a few dozen corporations sponsoring functions during the convention--not to mention sponsoring the convention itself--including Arco, the Chicago Sun Times and TCI Communications. Welcome to "Democracy," sponsored by the fine makers of ibuprofin and petroleum products. ... Amy Goodman, host for Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now program, was in the Windy City to cover the convention. Reached by phone, Goodman reported: "Every single event is sponsored by a corporation. Even if it's an afternoon tea--and reporters are not welcome." Although reporters weren't invited to these events--not to cover them anyway--Goodman said she crashed or attempted to crash "all the parties. I couldn't get into Phillip Morris though." Apparently, Phillip Morris picked up after shindigs in San Diego and hustled to Chicago to host a dinner for Democratic Kentucky and Virginia delegates at Scoozi, a tony Italian restaurant downtown. ... Goodman did receive an invitation to the Wyeth-Ayerst event for female delegates. She went, of course, armed with a microphone and questions about Norplant and congressional influence. More than one Wyeth-Ayerst party-planner asked Goodman to leave for the sake of the "atmosphere." But Goodman made a few people uncomfortable before the night was through. "What do you have to gain from hosting this event?" she asked one WA spokesgal. "To gain? We have nothing to gain," the woman replied indignantly. "We're celebrating women."

Women Need Not Apply

And it looks like those wacky demos are at it again. The information packet that contained official word of the Democratic Party's decision to oppose Proposition 209, CCRI, which would prohibit racial or gender preferences or discrimination in state education or contracting, also carried word that veteran local Democratic National Committee member Madge Overhouse, the godmother of the local Demos, had lost her bid to be re-seated as a member of the influential Demo committee. The reason: her gender. Democratic Party quota rules require the DNC to be equally balanced between men and women. The quota meant that Overhouse, who garnered more votes than the eighth- and ninth-placed males, had to to vacate her seat in favor of one of the male candidates who won fewer votes.

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From the September 5-11, 1996 issue of Metro

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