Community Media: Selected Clippings – 05/03/07

Cable law faulty, advocates say
by Jason Clayworth
Des Moines Register (IA)

Thousands of Iowans could be left without cable service if a bill passed by the Legislature is signed by the governor, cable and city advocates say.   —>

Editorial: Keep an eye out for your local cable-TV station
by Phil Pfuehler
River Falls Journal (WI)

Debate on a state bill that may boost competition among video service providers goes on in Madison. The aim, bill supporters say, is to give consumers more choices — cable, Internet and phone services — at lower prices.  But a big concern is that the change may wipe out or diminish local cable TV, including RFC-TV — River Falls Community Television.   —>

The NYS Telecommunications Reform Act is the Best Thing Since Sliced Bread…
by Pete Sikora
The Albany Project (NY)

(I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not terribly literate in telecom issues, but I’ve been talking lately to folks who certainly are. Topic #1 these days is Assemblyman Brodsky’s Telecommunications bill. It has been described to me by more than one person as the “gold standard” in state telecom legislation. Oddly, very few people seem to be paying much attention to it, including the Governor. I asked Pete to post about the bill so we can all learn about it and to start a conversation about what exactly makes it worthy of our support. Thanks to Pete for posting this. – promoted by lipris)

…And the State Legislature should pass it with the Governor’s support.

Here’s why: the economy, education, civic participation, medical care, emergency services… more and more, it’s all about high speed internet service.  If some can get that service – and others can’t – then society will have built another wall to divide us from one another.

The FCC requires universal service for basic telephone service – and there is lifeline telephone service for poor people.  The power company gets you juice everywhere.  But the development of high speed internet is being left to the tender mercies of the “free” market.  The U.S. is already way behind other advanced nations – and we’re dropping fast.  NYS needs a comprehensive telecom policy that is pro-consumer and pro-worker.  That’s exactly what Assemblymember Brodsky and Senator Leibell have introduced in A.3980B/S.5124.    —>

Views differ on cable franchise negotiations
by Robert Aicardi
Braintree Forum (MA)

Saying that he knows first hand how important local franchise negotiations are to a community, Michael Modestino, a former cable advisory committee chairman, believes that Verizon is attempting to bypass this process and avoid having to deal with communities where they wish to offer cable television services.

Richard Colon, Verizon’s regional director for external affairs, says that although the company continues to negotiate with communities under existing state regulations, on average this process takes anywhere from 12 to 15 months to complete, and consumers should not have to wait that long to receive the benefits of true cable choice.

Modestino and Colon expressed their views to the Forum separately.  According to Modestino, by finding a sponsor in the state House and Senate to file legislation that it wrote, Verizon is making clear its intention to avoid local control.   —>

Cable Service
by Alice Fishman, Chair, Great Neck/North Shore Cable Commission
Manhasset Press (NY)

Since Jan. 2007, the Great Neck/North Shore Cable Commission has had various meetings with Verizon representatives. As recently as April 9, Verizon engineers met with a technical team representing the villages to discuss how the Verizon subscribers will receive community channels. It is the Commission’s responsibility to ensure that community residents receive the same level of basic service that Cablevision provides subscribers. We are awaiting receipt of Verizon’s engineers’ report. The Cable Commission is working to provide the best cable franchise for all residents of not one, but 15 villages.

West Bloomfield board approves AT&T pact
by Kirk Pinho
Spinal Column (MI)

The West Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees has deemed a franchise agreement proposal with AT&T Michigan complete, and approved a resolution stating the company can offer cable and high-speed Internet services in the community.  The board decisions came during a Monday, April 30 meeting.

Last month, the township’s governing body voted to deem a previous agreement proposal incomplete because various percentages — such as those involving the franchise fee and the public, educational and governmental (PEG) broadcasting fees paid by the company to the township — and the service area map provided with the contract were not complete or satisfactory.  The company has, since Tuesday, April 17, addressed those concerns, and the board voted 4-1 earlier this week to approve the agreement.   —>

Beach grants franchise for Web-based TV service
by Carolyn Shapiro
The Virginian-Pilot (VA)

Cavalier Telephone announced Wednesday that the Virginia Beach City Council has granted it a 10-year franchise to sell Internet-based television service in the city.  Cavalier has been selling its Internet Protocol Television in Norfolk, Portsmouth and Chesapeake under temporary franchises allowed by the state while it negotiates permanent agreements with those cities.  The telecom provider, based in Richmond, offers the video option in a “bundle” along with its phone and broadband Internet services for $79.95 a month.

Qwest renews bid for franchise deals
The firm will negotiate to provide television services in 12 Colorado cities to compete with Comcast.
by Kimberly S. Johnson and Steve McMillan
Denver Post (CO)

Qwest plans to relaunch its efforts to reach video-franchise agreements with a dozen Colorado cities in the next couple of months, the company’s state president said Wednesday.  Most of the cities will be in the Denver metro area, but Colorado Springs also will likely be part of Qwest’s renewed effort to provide television services, said Qwest’s Colorado president Chuck Ward.

The move comes on the heels of a new Federal Communications Commission order that goes into effect in July and gives companies such as Denver- based Qwest the right to force cities to make a decision on a video-franchise proposal within 90 days.  “We’ve got an opportunity to negotiate,” Ward said. “But at some point we can formally initiate a clock.”  That order is being appealed in court by six organizations, including the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties.

Comcast, the state’s largest cable provider, said it would not try to stop Qwest from gaining local franchise agreements, but continued to stress the importance of offering services to all parts of a local community. Qwest has said it doesn’t want to be forced into a video buildout schedule by cities.   —>

Cable Access gets new home
by Patrick Anderson
Daily News Transcript (MA)

Dedham –  The town will have three new cable access channels by the end of summer now that a local nonprofit group has taken the job of providing community programming from Comcast.  The Dedham Visionary Access Corp., which has given grants to local artists since 1998, reached an agreement with the Board of Selectmen Tuesday to build a new cable studio and program one public access channel, one educational channel and one government channel.

Money to fund the television studio will come from the three commercial cable companies operating in town: Comcast, Verizon and RCN. The companies dedicate 4 percent of their local revenues toward community access as part of license agreements with the town.  Currently, Comcast provides cable access on one channel from a studio on Enterprise Drive. It will continue to run the studio until DVAC takes over.   —>

Public Access Public Access Public Access
DedhamBlog (MA)

>   Now we have word that the Dedham community television plans to completely overhaul community programming with The Dedham Visionary Access Corp. (DVAC) taking over local programming. The DVAC effort will be funded by the three cable services available in Dedham (Comcast, RCN and Verizon). The changes, which include one public access channel, one educational channel and one government channel…

Public access is a beautiful thing and I hope all Dedham residents take full advantage. I’d also like to thank selectman Marie-Louise Kehoe and the cable advisory committee for their efforts on this project…  Maybe someday we’ll get a state legislature channel to go along with Dedham Public Television and C-Span…. I won’t hold my breath.

State Rep. Morin to host TV show
by Scott Whipple
New Britain Herald (CT)

First-term state Rep. Russ Morin, D-Wethersfield, will host a one-hour, call-in talk show on public access Channel 14 in Wethersfield.   —>

Big Media: Good, Bad or Both?
by Pat Walters
Poynter Online (FL)

In Tampa Monday night, the FCC heard from advocates of media consolidation, opponents and a number of people who don’t fit either category.  When Jonathan Adelstein posed the question Monday evening, the response was predictable.  “Are you happy with the media here in Tampa Bay?” he asked.  “No!” the audience responded.  “Well,” the FCC commissioner replied, “we’re going to need a little more detail than that.”

For the next several hours, that’s what he got. The Federal Communications Commission was in Tampa to hear from opponents and advocates of media consolidation, and from others who don’t fit neatly into either category. Since June, the FCC has been reviewing several planned changes to the rules governing media ownership. The commission will hold two more public hearings and plans to come to a decision sometime next year.

Why come to Tampa? The city is part of one of the most highly converged major media markets in the country. Media General owns The Tampa Tribune, one of the largest newspapers in the state, WFLA, one of the largest television stations, and, a Web site produced by the newspaper and television station.

The commission heard from two panels of 10 pre-selected experts — including a wide range of scholars, executives, advocates and journalists — before inviting two-minute statements from members of the audience.   —>

New FCC ruling has community television representatives worried
by Grant Boelter
MN Sun  (MN)

When you pay your cable bill each month, a portion of what you pay goes toward televising local government programming, as well as building and maintaining the technology infrastructure used by your city’s government buildings.

However a recent rule change adopted by the Federal Communications Commission aimed at fostering more competition in the cable market has local cable authorities, like Burnsville-Eagan Community Television (BECT), worried that the money will no longer be there to provide the same level of government programming as we see now.

“We’re all for competition. We want competition because we feel it would be in the best interest of our residents,” said Lakeville Cable Coordinator Jeff Leuders, who also is the president of the Minnesota Association of Community Telecommunications Administrators.

However, Leuders said the FCC ruling could be problematic because cities may not be able to require cable providers to extend services to all residents, as well as to provide enough money for government programming and technology infrastructure. Also, it could set up two different regulatory systems, one for those already in the market and one for those entering the market.

Cities negotiate agreements with cable providers, like Comcast, to determine the amount of money and resources that will be dedicated to community and government programming. These agreements do not pertain to satellite providers, who don’t carry government programming.

Included in the agreements are franchise fees, which cannot exceed more than 5 percent of the amount of money that cable companies take in. Cities may also include stipulations that require the cable companies to provide Internet access to public buildings. Cities can now require cable companies to eventually provide service to all residents and can negotiate an additional public, educational and governmental (PEG) fee, which provides funding for additional capital and operating costs.

With the ruling FCC ruling, local cable authorities, which may also be a cooperative effort among cities or cities by themselves, may not be able to charge that extra fee. There is some debate to whether the cities may have to reimburse cable companies for infrastructure costs, said Eagan Communications Director Tom Garrison.

Each local franchising authority (for example, BECT) has a different agreement with its cable provider. Lakeville Community Television and Apple Valley/Rosemount/Farmington Community Television have agreements with Charter Communications. BECT and Town Square Television, which provides service to West St. Paul, South St. Paul, Mendota Heights and Inver Grove Heights, have agreements with Comcast. There is also a small provider in the Evermore Development in Rosemount called Fiber to the Home.

PEG fees also differ between cities. Lakeville does not charge a PEG fee and operates using franchise fees alone. Apple Valley/Rosemount/Farmington charges a PEG fee of 50 cents per month. Lakeville collaborates with Apple Valley/Rosemount/Farmington in contracting with an individual who provides public access programming equipment and training to interested residents.

Burnsville/Eagan charges a $1.77 monthly PEG fee to customers and Town Square Television charges $1.55 per month. BECT and Town Square have stand-alone studios with equipment and training available for residents. BECT has eight staff members who work at the studio and Town Square has 15, as some work part time. Both also rely heavily on volunteers.

A lawsuit is being brought to district court in Ohio by the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATAO) in partnership with the National League of Cities and the National Association of Counties. If the court does not put the new provisions on hold, Town Square Television Director Jodie Miller said the changes could take effect in 60 days. Leuders said he expected the fight to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Dir., Information & Organizing Services
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: cable vs telco, FCC, IPTV, media ownership, media reform, PEG access TV, public access television, redlining, video franchising

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