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Charter Customers Say Bigger Isn’t Likely to Mean Better

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A Charter Communications van in Town and Country, Mo. (Jeff Roberson/AP Photo)

A Charter Communications van in Town and Country, Mo. (Jeff Roberson/AP Photo)

(New York Times) – “Maybe it will go from an F-minus to an F.”

So predicted Terence Allen of Atlanta, a longtime Charter Communications subscriber, upon hearing that many long-suffering Time Warner Cable customers were crossing their fingers that Charter’s acquisition of their cable provider could lead to better service.

Mr. Allen, who has had no cable option but Charter in his neighborhood for the last 15 years, was echoing (in rather more pronounced terms) a sentiment voiced by a number of analysts, consumer advocates and brand watchers: For Time Warner Cable subscribers, “not quite as bad” may be about as good as they can expect with this deal.

Charter’s announcement on Tuesday that it had agreed to buy its larger rival Time Warner Cable for $56 billion cheered Wall Street, and observers predicted that some of the regulatory hurdles that led to the demise of the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal last month were not as likely to be a problem this time.

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Youth Candle Business Expands to Macy’s

THE AFRO — When three of Celena Gill’s sons asked her to buy them a Nerf gun and more than $500 in video games, she told them to get a job or start a business.  She was only kidding. 

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Young entrepreneurs Ryan Gill, Collin Gill and Austin Gill with their candles. (Courtesy Photo)

By Lenore T. Adkins

When three of Celena Gill’s sons asked her to buy them a Nerf gun and more than $500 in video games, she told them to get a job or start a business.

She was only kidding.

But her sons, Collin, 14, Ryan, 11, and Austin, 8, they took her words to heart and launched Frères Branchiaux Candle Co. in October 2017 to make soy and vegetable wax candles, room sprays, diffusers, soaps and bath bombs out of the home they share with their parents in Prince George’s County.

Frères Branchiaux means “Gill Brothers” in French — Collin is already fluent in the language while his younger brothers are studying it.

“We wanted to do Gill Brothers Candle Company, but there’s Gill Brothers’ Trucking, Gill Brothers Air Support,” Ryan Gill explains.

In the 22 months since they started their company, the boys have sold more than 10,000 units — candles are their top-selling product and range between $18 and $36.

“It’s really all word of mouth,” Celena Gill told the AFRO. “Like, I rarely reach out to people.”

They’re already selling their products in more than 30 stores and they’re looking to expand.

Starting in November, their products will be sold on The Workshop at Macy’s alumni e-commerce site, confirms Katelyn Yannie, Macy’s manager of Northeast Relations.

And the brothers are raising $20,000 on gofundme.com to buy a truck that’ll serve as a mobile store for their business. This will make it easier for them to sell their wares at various events.

“It’s easier than a van and we … don’t have to pack the candle stuff in it,” Ryan Gill explained.

The truck would also double as a mobile training center where the boys could help coordinate job training for homeless trying to get back on their feet or as a hub for the brothers to pass on their entrepreneurial skills to various youth groups and schools.

As it is, they donate 10 percent of their profits to the homeless.

The boys settled on making candles not only because their mother loves burning in the house, but also because her research found candles are the most successful kiddie business, Celena Gill said.

They started out experimenting with candle making using formulas their mother brought back from a candle class that her friend and soror Danita Nikki Brooks, founder of Zen in a Jar, a home and body care line, ran. Then Celena Gill went to a pro candle maker workshop to learn more techniques that helped her boys learn little tweaks.

“Making candles is purely science,” Celena Gill said. “Everything matters, whether your candle cannot burn or (if) it’ll blow up. It’s a very deliberate product because you can burn someone’s house down.”

The boys made candles as a lesson in school — Celena Gill homeschools her younger sons and Collin Gill will soon begin his freshman year at St. John’s College High School in Washington, D.C.

After about two weeks, they were ready to start selling, Celena Gill said. The boys have made more than enough to buy all the things they wanted and then some.

They earned six figures for their work last year and are on pace to double that in 2019, their mother says.

At the time the boys launched their business, their mother was already selling inspirational T-shirts, mugs, lapel pins and pillows through her website, Celena Gill Design and she did pop-ups as well. Meanwhile, her husband, Patrick Gill sells personal care and beard products for men through his company, Black Oak Grooming.

“All of us do something,” she told the AFRO.

In those early days, the boys relied on their family members, as well as their parents’ friends, school and business contacts, fraternity brothers and sorority sisters.

Looking to the future, the boys plan to focus more on the retail end of their business and training other kids to become entrepreneurs.

“If they don’t want to do it, you can’t make them if the effort isn’t there,” Celena Gill said of kids thinking about opening their own business. “Some people love working nine to five and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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Committee Chairs Request Information from Consumer Bureau on Efforts to Protect Student Loan Borrowers

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Former Student Loan Ombudsman Seth Frotman asserted in his August 2018 resignation letter that CFPB leadership “has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting.” The position of Student Loan Ombudsman has been vacant since Frotman resigned in August 2018.

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Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee
Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), is the Chairwoman of the House Committee of Financial Services

Chairs Also Request Documents from Education Department, Loan Servicers

WASHINGTON – Today, Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), and Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), sent a letter to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathleen Kraninger requesting information and records concerning the CFPB’s efforts to protect consumers from unlawful student loan servicing practices.

In the letter, the Chairs raise concerns that “…the Consumer Bureau has taken actions that weaken its ability to fulfill its mission to protect student loan borrowers,” and that the agency is “…providing potentially harmful and conflicting advice to student loan borrowers.”  The Chairs request records from the Consumer Bureau by no later than September 9, 2019.

Former Student Loan Ombudsman Seth Frotman asserted in his August 2018 resignation letter that CFPB leadership “has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting.” The position of Student Loan Ombudsman has been vacant since Frotman resigned in August 2018.

The Chairs also sent a letter to Betsy DeVos expressing deep concern over the Education Department’s failure to protect students and families from student loan companies. The letter addresses recent reports that the Department is shielding student loan servicing companies from state law enforcement and undermining the CFPB’s oversight of these companies. In March 2019, an independent watchdog found that the Department failed to establish policies to properly conduct oversight of student loan servicing companies.

“As Chairs of Committees with oversight responsibilities over the student loan industry, we are very concerned by reports that under your leadership, the Department of Education has failed to adequately oversee student loan servicers,” the Chairs wrote. “Reports indicate that improper practices by these servicers—including inaccurate determination of monthly payments, forbearance steering, and other practices—directly impact millions of Americans and have ripple effects on their families, communities, and the economy as a whole.”

In addition, the Chairs sent letters today to federally contracted loan servicers seeking information about their operations, including any strategies or policies that push students into more expensive repayment options.

The full text of the letter to the CFPB is available here.

The full text of the letter to the Education Department is available here.

The full text of the letter to Navient is available here.

The full text of the letter to Nelnet is available here.

The full text of the letter to Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency is available here.

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“Save Energy, Save Dollars” plan asks City Council to pay for energy upgrades for poor

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Your home isn’t as energy efficient as you think it is. And if the City of Memphis and MLGW seriously want to ease the energy burden on low-income families, they should start with fixing leaky faucets, sealing drafty windows and other optimizations outlined in a bold new plan recently unveiled by Friends of The Earth (FOE).

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At a Friends of The Earth event at the Bickford Senior Center, activists paused to explain the “Memphis Save Energy Save Dollars” proposal. (Photo: Lee Eric Smith)

Proposal estimates $247 million to optimize homes while creating 330 jobs over five years.

By Lee Eric Smith, lesmith@tsdmemphis.com

“If Memphis Light Gas & Water’s utility rates are among the lowest in the country, why is my bill so darn high?”

Whether you’ve asked yourself that question after opening your latest MLGW bill or gone a step further to complain to MLGW and/or city officials, it’s a question that seemingly defies logic. Either somebody is lying or . . .

Your home isn’t as energy efficient as you think it is. And if the City of Memphis and MLGW seriously want to ease the energy burden on low-income families, they should start with fixing leaky faucets, sealing drafty windows and other optimizations outlined in a bold new plan recently unveiled by Friends of The Earth (FOE).

“When you talk about the energy burden, you’re talking about poor people who are making decisions between groceries, medicine and for some, even being able to get to work,” said Herman Morris, a former MLGW executive now championing the effort. “And that’s a burden not because of (the utility rate) necessarily, but because their home is energy inefficient.

“They’ve got cracks and leaks that really result in them (cooling outdoors in the summer and heating outdoors in the winter),” Morris added. “All of the energy they buy goes out the door through those cracks.”

The plan, called “Save Energy, Save Dollars,” calls upon the Memphis City Council to fund a program that would provide energy optimizations and upgrades to up to more than 70,000 lower income homes over five years. The plan estimates that the average participant could save as much as $44 per month – all while enjoying a more comfortable home to boot.

‘Recipes’ for success

The full 36-page plan, available as a downloadable PDF, provides two main “recipes” for achieving those savings.

During the “direct install” phase, trained experts would evaluate and install upgrades like low-flow showerheads, LED lights, duct sealing and insulation for pipes and water heaters. Smart thermostats are also included because they can communicate with MLGW’s smart meters to restrict usage at MLGW’s most expensive times.

Some direct install homes will also be eligible for weatherization – more costly measures like replacing inefficient refrigerators and air conditioners, upgrading insulation and even replacing windows and doors.

All other low-income households would receive a seven percent reduction in their utility bills, according to the plan.

To maximize impact, the plan takes a neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach, focusing on areas of Memphis like Frayser, Orange Mound, Whitehaven, Berclair and North Memphis. A countywide campaign would allow low-income households anywhere in the county to participate by appointment. The plan also has incentives for landlords to make the upgrades in their rental properties.

“The kilowatt hour you save is the cheapest and cleanest kilowatt hour on Earth,” said David Freeman, former chair of the Tennessee Valley Authority. “We can help ourselves in this city by just initiating a major efficiency program.”

At what cost?

Adopted as is, the SESD plan would cost $247 million over five years. They even recommend the city use municipal bonds to fund the effort.

But while Friends of the Earth acknowledge the plan isn’t cheap, they also say that if easing financial stress on the poorest Memphians is a priority, there’s no better way to invest the money.

“There’s been enough talk. People know they’re poor. And they know that their homes are leaking. It’s time that somebody did something about it,” Freeman said. “They borrow money to build a power plant, they can borrow money to invest in the homes of poor people. That will create more energy per dollar than what they’re paying TVA.”

Earlier this year, the Memphis City Council declined an MLGW request to raise rates to pay for needed infrastructure repairs – upgrades that could help prevent power outages during storms.

Morris said that those infrastructure upgrades are absolutely needed, but they don’t have to come at the expense of the proposed SESD plan.

“You’ve got to have an infrastructure that’s capable of delivering the energy to the people,” Morris said. “I also believe that you don’t necessarily need to stop at the door. We’re saying that you take that infrastructure argument into the homes where the energy is going to be consumed, and improve that infrastructure, so that you’re getting a more efficient delivery. You can’t really separate the two.

“(Say) you are a poor person whose lights are off because you couldn’t afford to pay for all the energy that you’re using inefficiently,” Morris continued. “If you’re a poor person in that situation and your lights off, you don’t need to fix the infrastructure. Because it doesn’t matter if the infrastructure works if your lights are off because you couldn’t pay the bill.

“All we’re saying is, let’s be smart. Let’s be responsible,” he added. “Let’s just stop wasting by not having an energy-efficient envelope where that energy is consumed.”

Grassroots approach

Friends of the Earth announced the plan at a community event at Bickford Senior Center, just north of the Pinch District. There were two bounce houses, a deejay and food. The idea is to increase public awareness – not just about the SESD plan, but to promote energy efficiency as a way of life among low-income residents.

“Some of the responsibility is on the customer,” Morris said. “That will require some changing of habits, of personal conduct. But changing habits isn’t going to help until you fix the environment.

“At MLGW, we used to call it ‘conscientious consumption’ – being a better consumer,” he added. “But to get to responsible consumption, you’ve got to make it possible for that to take place. And it cannot take place when half of every kilowatt hour you use goes out the window.”

Several dozen people attended the FOE event. Informational flyers were passed out, and guests were polled on questions like, “Which city has the highest energy burden?” The music stopped to allow event coordinator Sydney Kessler to spread information about the plan.

“We’re trying to build a strong coalition of folks that we believe can really advocate for this,” said Sydney Kessler, who organized the June 29 event. “We’re going to be talking about how it impacts those communities to make sure those communities are represented when we’re advocating for this plan.”

After multiple emails and phone calls, The New Tri-State Defenderwas unable to confirm if MLGW officials or the Mayor’s Office had seen the proposal or reviewed it in detail.  But 10 local civic and religious organizations have already signed onto the effort urging MLGW and the City Council to adopt the plan.

And Sijuwola Crawford, the #UPTheVote901 leader who co-organized the recent “People’s Convention,” was among those at the event supporting the effort.

“We’ve heard that people are spending as much as 25 percent of their money on utilities,” Crawford said. “If we can lower that, then I think we’re doing what we can to protect the people who are the most vulnerable.”

If it sounds like Friends of the Earth wants to make this an issue in the upcoming municipal elections and beyond, it’s because they do.

“This is an (awareness) campaign that’s going to take it straight to these people that are running for election in October and ask them: Are you going to just keep talking about helping the poor people? Or are you going to do something about it? And here’s something that can be done by just the vote of the city council, instructing the utility to implement this program.

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Chevy’s all-new Silverado sets the course for the next century of Chevy Trucks

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “Chevrolet’s 2019 Silverado is a grand example of precision production of a truck for this age and time. Having the Silverado at the NNPA convention shows the breadth of the creativity and productivity of General Motors, who produces trucks for our readers across the country,” said NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

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“With the all-new Silverado, we’ve taken the best truck on the road and made it even better,” said Mark Reuss, General Motors executive vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain.
“With the all-new Silverado, we’ve taken the best truck on the road and made it even better,” said Mark Reuss, General Motors executive vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

During the 2019 National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) Annual Convention, member publishers, editors, writers and guests were greeted with the beauty of the 2019 Chevy Silverado stationed inside the Cincinnati Westin Hotel lobby.

The NNPA is the trade association representing African American-owned media companies throughout the country.

“Chevrolet’s 2019 Silverado is a grand example of precision production of a truck for this age and time. Having the Silverado at the NNPA convention shows the breadth of the creativity and productivity of General Motors, who produces trucks for our readers across the country,” said NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

“The NNPA’s reach includes 47 million African Americans, and if any of them are in the market for a truck, there could be no better selection. The Silverado is the gold standard of trucks,” Chavis added.

Chevrolet introduced the next-generation Silverado in 2018, exactly 100 years after the brand delivered its first trucks to customers in January 1918.

Experts said the all-new Silverado sets the course for the next century of Chevy Trucks with the most functional bed of any full-size truck, weighs up to 450 pounds less for increased performance and offers a broad range of trims and engine/transmission combinations to help each customer find their ideal truck.

“With the all-new Silverado, we’ve taken the best truck on the road and made it even better,” Mark Reuss, General Motors executive vice president of Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, said in a news release.

“It has a longer wheelbase, more passenger and cargo volume, and yet, thanks to our mixed materials strategy and mass reduction expertise, the new truck is 450 pounds lighter than the current model,” Reuss said.

The truck also comes with a larger, more functional and capable bed, the automaker said.

The bed is the defining trait of every pickup, and bed construction has long been a strength of Chevy Trucks and to improve upon that strength, the 2019 Silverado 1500 bed features a best-in-class cargo volume and it offers storage bins that fit over the wheel wells, providing for nearly seven cubic feet of lockable cargo space for short-box models, while easily accommodating a 4 x 8 sheet of plywood flat on the cargo floor.

As before, the Silverado has a roll-formed, high-strength steel bed floor.

For 2019, a higher-grade steel is used, with yield strength increased from 340 to 500 megapascals of pressure for optimal strength and mass, officials said in a news release.

The Silverado now has 12 fixed tie-downs, and their strength has doubled to 500 pounds of force before bending and it also has nine moveable tie points for even more cargo flexibility.

“Truck customers value capability and functionality above all else,” said Tim Herrick, executive chief engineer of Full-Size Trucks. “Every truck — including the luxurious High Country — is a work truck with a job to do. As such, we set out to create the best tool for the job at hand, one that makes work more productive and more enjoyable, no matter what they call ‘work,’” Herrick said.

To learn more about the Silverado, visit www.chevrolet.com.

Stacy M. Brown

A Little About Me: I'm the co-author of Blind Faith: The Miraculous Journey of Lula Hardaway and her son, Stevie Wonder (Simon & Schuster) and Michael Jackson: The Man Behind The Mask, An Insider's Account of the King of Pop (Select Books Publishing, Inc.)

My work can often be found in the Washington Informer, Baltimore Times, Philadelphia Tribune, Pocono Record, the New York Post, and Black Press USA.
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Gucci Names Diversity Chief after Blackface Flap

WASHINGTON INFORMER — Renee Tirado has been appointed director of Gucci’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion division. In her new capacity, Tirado will be tasked with developing and implementing a global strategy to make Gucci’s workplace more inclusive through by its hiring process and developing its diversity, equity and inclusion team.

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Renee Tirado (Courtesy Photo)
Renee Tirado (Courtesy Photo)

By WI Web Staff

Renee Tirado has been appointed director of Gucci’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion division.

In her new capacity, Tirado will be tasked with developing and implementing a global strategy to make Gucci’s workplace more inclusive through by its hiring process and developing its diversity, equity and inclusion team.

“I am in the business of making human connections that start with the foundations of inclusivity, respect, and diversity to ensure Gucci remains culturally relevant and economically competitive,” Tirado, who is an attorney, said in a statement. “I am honored to join a company that puts these non-negotiable values at the forefront of their business model, not as a ‘nice to have’ but as a key component of its business strategy.”

Tirado, a graduate of the University of Rochester where she joined the Pi Beta chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, will also lead Gucci’s Cultural Awareness Learning Program, Global Multicultural Design Fellowship Program, the Internal Global Exchange Program, and other programming.

Over the last year, multiple fashion brands have faced backlash for what many in the public considered culturally insensitive or racist products. Gucci, in particular received backlash for what has been referred to as its “blackface” balaclava sweaters which were pulled from shelves in February.

Chanel, Prada and Burberry have all introduced diversity initiatives as well.

This post originally appeared in The Washington Informer.

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Hope Scott Named to 2019 List of Most Influential Women in Corporate America

OAKLAND POST — Excelling as Blue Shield of California’s Vice Presi­dent, Chief Risk & Compli­ance Officer and having fun along the way, Hope Scott has recently been named as one of Savoy’s 2019 Most Influential Women in Corpo­rate America, a list of African American women achievers impacting corporate America with expertise in a range of industries.

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Hope Scott (Photo by: postnewsgroup.com)
Hope Scott (Photo by: postnewsgroup.com)

By The Oakland Post

Excelling as Blue Shield of California’s Vice Presi­dent, Chief Risk & Compli­ance Officer and having fun along the way, Hope Scott has recently been named as one of Savoy’s 2019 Most Influential Women in Corpo­rate America, a list of African American women achievers impacting corporate America with expertise in a range of industries.

Savoy Magazine is a na­tional publication covering the power, substance and style of African American lifestyle. From entertainment to sports, business to politics, design to style, Savoy is a cultural catalyst for the Af­rican-American community that showcases and drives positive dialogue on and about Black culture. Savoy is published quarterly and dis­tributed via subscriptions and newsstands worldwide.

Scott was one of dozens se­lected from an original field of 500 nominees. The selec­tion committee included the Savoy editorial board and community leaders with rep­resentatives from the academ­ic and business arenas. The committee reviewed informa­tion on executives in human resources, information, real estate, finance, investment banking, diversity, founda­tions, procurement, business development, marketing, sales, health care, manufac­turing and legal.

“I put in the time and hard work to earn a seat at the table,” Scott said. “When it wasn’t offered or wasn’t available to me, I took my­self to another table where my experience, talent, and vision were not only welcomed, but celebrated.” This mindset has aided in helping her garnish 30 years of legal practice ex­perience in the fields of health care and privacy law.

A highlight in Scott’s ca­reer is mentoring people and watching them succeed in their chosen fields. “I never do anything I don’t want to do, and I never stop having fun,” said Scott who encourages ev­eryone to enjoy life.

Scott joined Blue Shield of California in 2012 as the company’s Chief Privacy Of­ficer & Privacy Counsel. To­day, she leads and oversees the operations of Blue Shield of California’s corporate in­tegrity & risk management organization. Under her leadership, Blue Shield of California has been named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies six times.

Scott’s impressive career in healthcare includes leading privacy compliance in 27 countries and 53 U.S. states and jurisdictions.

Prior to joining Blue Shield, Scott was the Global Chief Privacy Officer and Senior Privacy Counsel for Cigna.  She was also the principal of her own private law practice, focusing on providing legal and compliance counsel to health care providers and consumers, and she was senior counsel for Independence Blue Cross for 11 years.

Scott earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Bryn Mawr College and her Juris Doctor from Boston University School of Law.

This article originally appeared in the Oakland Post

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