Archive for the ‘E-Rate’ category

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 03/10/08

March 11, 2008

Sevierville BOMA among opponents of AT&T proposal
by Derek Hodges
The Mountain Press (TN)

[ comments allowed ]

That vote was conveyed to state lawmakers representing the area and was done immediately following a request from AT&T representative Dennis Wagner that the Board of Mayor and Aldermen support the move.  It was Wagner’s second appearance before BOMA; both times he got a negative reaction. Mayor Bryan Atchley said he expects the board’s opinion won’t change.

“Cities across the state have taken the position that it is not unreasonable to ask AT&T to follow the rules as they have applied to the other companies for 25 or more years,” Atchley said. “It is a little more difficult for them, but it’s not something they can’t do.”  Atchley says the current system does not inhibit competition. To illustrate that, he points out the city itself is studying the idea of offering cable service. The very fact the city can do it shows state laws don’t limit where cable companies can offer their services, Atchley said.  Further, the mayor said city leaders have other concerns. Chief among them: losing franchise fees and local channels…

While Sevierville city leaders may not be pleased with the proposal, AT&T has offered compromises that seem to have appeased established cable companies, which started out as the bill’s biggest opponents.  The sticking point for the cable companies was not that the move will introduce competition, but that the first bill didn’t give cable companies the same statewide franchise license. However, a provision has been added to the bill that would allow for equal treatment.

With that compromise, the cable companies seem resigned to accept what they now see as an inevitability.  “It’s the will of the General Assembly that they’re going to have that law in place after this session,” said Nick Paulis, state director of government relations for Charter Communications. “At the end of the day, what we want is a level playing field.”   —>

County’s legislators support change to help AT&T
by Derek Hodges
The Mountain Press (TN)

[ comments allowed ]

“I’ve gotten more correspondence from voters on this one issue than I have about anything else since I got elected,” State Sen. Raymond Finney, R-Maryville, said. “I’ve been amazed at just how strongly people feel about this.”  State Rep. Richard Montgomery, R-Sevierville, notes Finney wasn’t in Nashville as officials debated the creation of an income tax, an issue that drew response from every corner of the state. Still, Montgomery said he, too, has gotten a lot of response on AT&T’s proposal to allow state-issued cable franchising.

“I have had a lot of citizens call me, write me and talk to me about this,” Montgomery said. “Most of them have been in favor of the change. The way we do cable now, it’s like saying we’re only going to allow one grocery store to operate in Sevier County. It doesn’t really make sense for them to go to every county for licenses when they’ve got the ability to serve the whole state. At the end of the day, we have to listen to both sides of the issue and decide what’s best for the 80,000 people living in Sevier County.”   —>

[ Here’s an article on a community’s cable franchising process that spends more than the usual amount of time on PEG access and related concerns. – rm ]

Town specifies its cable needs
by Donna Boynton
Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA)


GRAFTON— The town has advanced in the cable licensing process with Verizon, issuing a detailed report outlining the town’s needs weeks ahead of schedule.  The Board of Selectmen initiated licensing proceedings with Verizon New England Inc. in October, and Verizon submitted an application for a cable license Nov. 29.

The Issuing Authority Report approved by the Board of Selectmen last week is the town’s response to Verizon’s initial application and is a detailed account of what the town’s needs are, according to Robert Hassinger, chairman of the Cable Advisory Committee. The committee worked to draft the report with Town Administrator Natalie T. Lashmit.

The report was due March 21. Verizon now has 30 days to respond to the report, and then the negotiating period begins. The Board of Selectmen approves and issues the license.  If negotiations are successful, Verizon cable services could be offered in Grafton in the fall, said Mr. Hassinger.

The specifications in the report are based on the existing license with Charter Communications, in keeping with the legal requirement to negotiate “on a level playing field.” The report also recognizes that some of the terms of the Charter contract are outdated, such as the needs of the public access TV channels, and contains additional specifications.  Mr. Hassinger said Verizon’s recently completed negotiations with Westboro will serve as a model for how Verizon and Charter can work together.

Grafton’s pact with Charter is seven years old, and the town has initiated the renegotiation process with Charter. That process is different from the licensing process with Verizon.  The town has told both Charter and Verizon that, among other things, it will need a new, larger cable studio and new equipment.

The Issuing Authority Report also states that the town is interested in a 10-year contract, though the town can be flexible on that term. Verizon initially indicated it was interested in a 15-year contract, Mr. Hassinger said  The report states the town will need one-time payments of $375,000 for public access capital for the 10-year license or $562,500 for a 15-year license. The new cable studio is among the capital needs.

The report also asks that Verizon support public, educational and government access programming, also known as PEG access, by providing at least three channels. The report asks Verizon to detail how those channels will work in concert with those already provided by Charter. Additionally, the town asks Verizon to define how digital cable will affect PEG access broadcasts, given that current PEG access programs are broadcast in analog format.

The town also is asking that Verizon keep existing channels at the same channel numbers, making it more convenient for subscribers and the public, as well as a detailed explanation of the packages to be offered to subscribers.

In addition, the town is requesting detailed explanations of the construction, installation and overall subscriber network. Verizon is being asked to offer free service and outlets to the municipal buildings and the schools, and free or discounted Internet service to those buildings.

The report also discusses the town’s need for a fiber-optic institutional network, or I-Net, for high-speed data, video and voice transmission. The existing I-Net was built in 1983 and is outdated and unreliable. That service will be for all town buildings, including the Community Barn on Wheeler Road, which is often used for municipal purposes.  The report notes that the School Department is particularly concerned with having the ability to broadcast from the high school, and having the capability to offer archived, “on demand” educational access programming.   —>

Cable Deals, cont’d
by Jeff
Wormtown Taxi (MA)

[ comments allowed ]

Grafton is not at all like Worcester when it comes to the process of negotiating with a cable company. Today’s article in the T&G describing the current point in that process between Grafton and Verizon certainly illustrates that.

Where the process in Grafton is transparent and easily understood, the so-called process in Worcester is thoroughly opaque and pretty much in the secretive hands of only one person (the city manager). Where the concerns of the public access, educational, and government access channels are an important and openly addressed issue in Grafton, any specific attention on the PEG channels in Worcester appears to have been completely downplayed in any public discussion, and apparently omitted from the contract so that the city can use whatever funding they get for whatever they feel like spending it on… whenever they feel like spending it.

I sincerely hope that the city will, at some point, allay my fears that the community access TV station in Worcester is on the chopping block. I look forward to some point in Worcester’s new cable contract faux process that will reveal what so far has been hidden, …namely, what the community access station has to look forward to over the next five years of this new contract with Charter, as well as what lies beyond.

Quite frankly, the utter lack of any definitive public utterances from City Hall on this particular subject has reached the point where I, for one, find this whole thing mostly (and very offensively) indicative of there being something to hide.    —>

Siouxland Community Media gives students hands-on training
by Earl Horlyk
Sioux City Journal (IA)

[ comments allowed ]

Moments before he was due to go on the air, Tony Ullrich discovered he couldn’t read the TelePrompTer.  “Lemme see your eyeglasses,” he motioned to Tonya Woehler.  “We share everything around here,” Woehler, a volunteer member of the skeletal television crew, joked. “Even eyewear, apparently.”  Welcome to public-access television.  And welcome to Siouxland Community Media.

Started in 2006, Siouxland Community Media produces programming that is either produced or sponsored by local nonprofit organizations or individuals. It can be seen by CableONE subscribers in Sioux City, North Sioux City and Sergeant Bluff daily from 6 a.m. to noon and from 8 p.m. to midnight.  The programming can also be accessed on YouTube.

“Things like this have a way of happening on ‘Series Night,'” production manager Ben Rouse said of the eyeglass snafu. “I see things are just going according to plan.”  “Series Night” is when the production company tapes Ullrich’s weekly “Focus On The Community” as well as the monthly “Extension Connection” (also hosted by Ullrich and sponsored by Woodbury County’s Iowa State University Extension Office), “It’s Someone You Know,” produced by the Council On Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence and “Workers Have Rights Too,” hosted by labor activist Dick Sturgeon.

“This is our marathon night,” noted Deanna Dirks, who’s acting as the evening’s technical director. “This is when we tape the shows back to back to back.”  For not-for-profit organizations such as the domestic violence council, free or reduced-rate exposure on cable public access has proved to be invaluable.  “Our marketing budget is getting tighter all the time,” development director Brooke Goodwin said. “Knowing that our organization has a regular TV presence has been very exciting.”

So has the Internet exposure.  “Knowing that folks from around the world can access our videos on YouTube is a little bit nerve wracking,” Goodwin admitted, “but it certainly helps us to get our message out.”  For Siouxland Community Media, it’s important to give nonprofit organizations the tools they need to produce programming.

Equally important to Rouse is the company’s commitment to providing his all-student crew with the nuts-and-bolts experience of television production.  “We’ve had students from both Morningside College and Western Iowa Tech Community College,” he explained. “We’ve even had kids from East High School seek us out for internships.”   —>

Postal inspectors in Chicago target scams with public-access TV show
by Jeff Coen
Chicago Tribune (IL)


In a bid to counter the growing number of fake-check scams, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Chicago is branching out to a new medium: public-access television.  Inspectors plan to air a new show at least each month offering advice to consumers. “Don’t Fall For It” will be hosted by Tom Brady, the inspector-in-charge for Chicago.  The agency launched its new effort this month on CAN-TV, focusing the first show on what investigators say is the leading scam in Chicago. The scams involve con artists sending out counterfeit checks, trying to persuade victims to wire back part of the money before realizing the checks have bounced.

Postal inspectors are producing the show inexpensively at their Chicago headquarters in a studio they typically use to make in-house training videos. They hope to reach a new audience as they try to educate the public.  “Whatever we can do to put the scammers out of business is what I want to do,” Brady said.   —>,1,1206369.story

Local TV show sheds light on mental illness
UU minister conducts mental health ministry via public access TV (CA)
by Jane Greer

Kathryn Lum was describing what it was like as a person with mental illness to first feel the positive affects of medication. “I remember for the first time lying in bed feeling like I had just been thrown up on the shore,” she told the cameras. “I had been shipwrecked and the waves had been crashing over me and I had been struggling to keep afloat. Then I found myself on the beach and resting. Feeling peace for the first time.”

Lum, who has schizoaffective disorder, was a guest on a new public access cable TV program called “Mental Health Matters—Alameda County,” which debuted last fall. The show is trying to counter the stigma and prejudice often attached to mental illness by talking with people who actually suffer from various conditions as well as with family and loved ones who live with them.

The monthly TV show is the brainchild of the Rev. Barbara Meyers, a UU community minister associated with Mission Peak Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Fremont, Calif. As a community minister, Meyers’ work takes her outside the church and into the community. Her own particular ministry centers on mental health issues. “With as many as 20 percent of the populace living with a mental health problem at any one time, there is a lot of needless suffering that could be alleviated with more information and understanding,” she wrote in a press release for the show.

The series of 30-minute programs is broadcast on Comcast public access channels in Alameda County, Calif. The first show focused on the stigma frequently attached to mental illness. Succeeding programs have been devoted to suicide, schizophrenia, recovery, bipolar disorder, and African American mental health. Each show concludes with a list of resources for people interested in finding out more.   —>

Journalism in the Hands of the Neighborhood (PA)
by Noam Cohen
New York Times

PHILADELPHIA — “We are uncomfortable with the term ‘citizen journalism,’ ” said Todd Wolfson, 35, a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the organizers of the Media Mobilizing Project in Philadelphia. “We prefer the term ‘community journalism.’ ”

Citizen journalism has become the faddish name for the effort to encourage regular folk to use the Internet to report the news directly, but Mr. Wolfson had a point: many of the people whom his organization and an immigrant rights group, Juntos, are teaching to make video reports for streaming on the Internet are not citizens. Many are not even legal residents.  The hope, however, is that they can be journalists.

The classes are supported by a $150,000 news challenge grant from the Knight Foundation in Miami, which is donating a total of $25 million over five years “for innovative ideas using digital experiments to transform community news.”   —>

We’re Not All ‘Citizen Journalists’
by Sara Melillo
McCormick Media Matters (MN)

[ comments allowed ]

—>   The Media Mobilizing Project isn’t the only initiative trying to train and disseminate news from community members and ethnic media. Check out Twin Cities Daily Planet (, an MTF grantee, which has been training and disseminating content from ethnic and community media in the Twin Cities for several years. The Daily Planet’s recently re-designed Web site features some new multimedia options and its network of contributors continues to grow.

Report from the Queens hearing of the Broadband Advisory Committee
by Joshua Breitbart
Civil Defense – a weblog (NY)


The NYC Broadband Advisory Committee held its fourth public hearing on Monday, March 3, at LaGuardia Community College in Queens. Much thanks to Joly MacFie of the New York Greater Metropolitan Area chapter of the Internet Society for documenting the hearing. His detailed summary and a full audio recording is available on the ISOC-NY website (scroll to the bottom for the audio).

The highlight for me was when former Senator Larry Pressler, who authored the 1996 Telecommunications Act said, “If it is found that in New York City the spectrum and the broadband is not totally out there, that would be a tale that needs to be told.” Indeed.

Councilmember Brewer asked him a question about E-Rate, the federal program to fund Internet access in schools and libraries, and he agreed that it needs to be revisited. As it is now, the federal government tightly restricts E-Rate funds so they can’t even be used to cover access for administrators; they can’t pay for necessary hardware or training; and they can’t support public access, even though schools pay for bandwidth to be available 100% of the time while school is only in session about 15% of the time. In other words, E-Rate is easy money for the big Internet service providers.

If the BAC, or even just Brewer, is pondering reforms to federal policy, that is an extremely positive development. To date, very few municipal broadband task forces have addressed themselves to this area, even though there are many current regulations that hamstring their efforts to improve local infrastructure and expand high speed Internet access. Any worthwhile municipal broadband plan must include policy reform at the federal level.   —>

FCC chief Martin hasn’t lost focus on cable
by Paul Davidson


WASHINGTON — If Kevin Martin, the Republican chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is smarting from bruising battles last year with fellow commissioners, Congress and the cable industry, he’s showing no signs of it.

Last November, commissioners of both political parties accused him of concealing key information that undercut his push for a finding that could have led to sweeping regulation of the cable TV industry. Following other complaints that Martin doesn’t give commissioners enough time to vote on certain proposals, a House committee launched an investigation into whether the agency conducts its business openly and fairly.

Generally known as a shrewd consensus-builder, Martin seems undaunted by the ruckus. And he still has the cable industry in his sights. In an interview, he said he’s determined as ever to do something about soaring cable TV prices. And he says the agency doesn’t need to pass new rules to crack down on Comcast (CMCSA) if it determines the cable giant unfairly impedes Internet traffic.  “Working with all the commissioners is always difficult and always challenging,” the soft-spoken 41-year-old says of the turmoil as he sips tea. “But you always have to regroup and say, ‘OK, how do we now try to move forward?’ ”

As for criticism about his communication style, Martin, whose tenure could be in its final months with a new president taking office next January, says he’s not “doing anything differently than what any other chairman has done.”  Still, in recent months, Martin has arranged daily meetings between his staff and those of commissioners and started publicizing agenda items three weeks before a meeting. Previously, an agenda came out a week before the meeting.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media